☀ How to Choose the Best Solar Powered Attic Fan (2019 Update)

How to Choose the Best Solar Powered Attic Fan

Best Solar Powered Attic Fan

Keeping the temperature of your attic regulated is an essential part of an energy efficient, well built home. Solar gable fans or solar roof mounted attic fans can prevent ice damming in the winter and protect your shingles from super-heated attic air in the summer. Choosing a solar powered attic fan can be a simple attic ventilation solution.

My top choice for solar powered attic fan is the 24 watt gable mounted exhaust fan by Natural Light. This company produces a range of quality solar powered attic ventilators worth looking at but the gable mounted option is my favorite for its simple installation and long warranty. The fan is very quiet and can provide ventilation to attics of up to 2,100 sq. ft. It is a top choice of many contractors.

This flush mounted solar attic ventilator by Broan is hurricane rated to winds up to 140 miles per hour making it a good choice for people living in Florida and along the gulf coast. Weatherproof solar panels are constructed of tempered glass and can withstand hail and extreme weather. The only downside is the shorter 5 year warranty compared to some other options offering up to 25 years. This unit can provide ventilation to attics up to 1,600 sq. ft and is an aesthetically pleasing option.

This solar fan by ESM Imports is  the cheapest model I looked at but is also the most powerful. The 30 watt solar panel provides enough power to ventilate attics up to 2,800 sq. ft. The solar panel is adjustable allowing you to fine tune alignment. The company offers a five year warranty on the motor and 25 years on the housing. This unit is not as attractive as some of the other fans I looked at but is a great budget option.

How to Choose a Solar Powered Attic Fan

Adding solar attic fans to your home can protect it from seasonal damage and can provide modest energy savings. Running wiring to the attic can be a pain, solar can simplify the problem. Depending on your municipality you may also qualify for an additional tax credit incentive. In this guide we will discuss the importance of a properly ventilated attic and what to look for while choosing your solar attic fan.

Keeping Cool

Attic air gets extremely hot in the summer as the shingles absorb heat from the sun. This super-heated air can damage roofing tiles by cooking them from the underside. Attic fans in combination with proper soffit ventilation reduce heat and moisture in the attic protecting it from damage. In the winter this moisture can cause condensation, potentially damaging attic materials or causing mold growth.

Ice Damming

Proper attic ventilation is essential in snowy climates to prevent ice damming. Ice dams occur when melt water from snow on a warm roof collects in the gutters and on the eaves. This water refreezes and the process continues until melt water has nowhere to go, collecting on your roof. This can cause damage to your home if water starts leaking through the roof.

Soffit and Gable Ventilation

Proper soffit and/or gable ventilation is needed to prevent pressure differences from building up in the attic when using solar attic fans.. In the summer, hot air is pushed out of gable vents or roof vents by the fans and relatively cooler air from the outside is in turn drawn into the attic through the soffit or gable vents. This air movement cools the attic temperature and protects shingles from being damaged. This process is the same in the winter, with the goal being temperature equalization with the outside to prevent melting snow on the roof from causing ice dams.

Insulation

If your attic is not properly insulated you should invest in that before installing any kind of attic ventilation. Proper insulation prevents heat transfer between attic air and the conditioned air inside your home. Improper insulation in combination with attic fans will cause energy loss in both summer and winter. 

Types of Fans

There are two main types of attic fans to choose from. Roof mounted fans are found on flat and pitched roofs. These fans are installed in a circular hole cut in the roof and  may require expert installation if you lack the necessary carpentry skills. Gable mounted fans are generally placed behind existing gable vents. If you don’t have existing vents the installation is made considerably more difficult.

Fan Size

Most attics are around the same square footage as your home. Multiplying the sq. ft of your home by 0.7 will give you an approximate minimum cubic feet of air a fan should be able to move per minute. A steep roof will increase internal attic volume and a dark roof will increase energy absorption from the sun. Both cases would require a fan that is capable of moving more air.

No Electrician Necessary

Without basic electrical knowledge, installing wiring in your attic can require a professional electrician. A clear benefit of solar fans over wired fans are their simplicity. Gable fans can be installed behind existing vents and roof mounted models are easily installed with a little carpentry work.

Adjustable Solar Panel

An adjustable solar panel will allow you to move the unit into alignment with the sun. This is important because your solar fan will only operate when receiving direct sunlight. Placement is important to ensure the fan is running throughout the day and providing its intended benefits.

Construction Quality

Durable materials must be used in the construction of solar roof ventilators. Your fan will be exposed to UV radiation, rain, hail, and depending on where you live, snow, tornadoes, and hurricanes. It is important the fan housing is durable and includes a quality screen to prevent rodents, birds, and insects from entering through the vent. A thermostat can also be a useful feature. Thermostats turn the fan on and off dependent on ambient temperature prolonging the life of the fan motor.

Installation

Installation of your solar powered attic fan is a project of moderate difficulty. A few hours of sweating it out in the attic should finish the job if planned properly. Many houses are constructed with 14.5” between rafters allowing room for the fans. Be sure not to cut or damage any rafters during installation as it will compromise structural integrity of your roof. Read instructions carefully and consult a professional if you are unsure about any aspect of installation.

Best Solar Powered Attic Fan Reviews

Many homes with pitched roofs already have existing gable vents installed. The easiest way to add powered ventilation to your attic is to install fans behind these existing vents. The 24 watt gable mounted fan by Natural Lights allows you to do just that, with installation taking little more than one hour.  It is hidden from the outside so it doesn’t affect the aesthetic value of your home and will not allow water to seep in through holes cut in your roof, as is required for roof mounted options.

Solar Powered Attic Fan - 24 Watt Gable Exhaust Vent - Natural Light

The independent solar panel and 15 foot connecting cable allow you to place the panel in an optimal location to receive maximum sunlight. It moves 1,339 cubic feet of air per minute providing ventilation for attics up to 2,100 sq. ft. The product is made in the USA of commercial grade materials and is built to last. Natural Lights also offers an outstanding 25 year warranty on the motor, housing, and solar panel, it is one of the best warranty periods in the industry. This unit also qualifies for tax credits in eligible municipalities. This fan is available in 12, 36, or 60 watt versions for your specific needs.

Pros
  • Made in USA
  • 25 Year Warranty
  • A top choice of contractors
  • Independent solar panel
Cons
  • Must have pitched roof with gables

I like this durable solar attic fan made by Broan. The unit comes with a durable 20 watt tempered glass solar panel able to survive hail strikes and a design capable of withstanding 140 mile per hour hurricane force winds. The unit is flush mounted and attractive so it doesn’t look bulky or out of place on your home. The steel motor housing, sealed ball bearings, and a hardened shaft protect the motor from wear. The 1/8 inch heavy gauge bird and rodent screen protect against uninvited house guests while still allowing adequate air flow. The one piece aluminum five blade fan moves air effectively without excessive noise.

Broan 355SOWW Surface Mount Solar Powered Attic Ventilator, Weather Wood

This fan is relatively easy to install with a little knowledge of carpentry and roofing. It is not the most powerful option, venting attics up to 1,600 sq. ft, but is built of quality materials and made to outlast other  products. This is a good option for homeowners along the gulf coast or in the tornado prone Midwest due to its sturdy and wind resistant construction. Broan makes a range of attic ventilators that can suit a variety of attic sizes.

Pros
  • Can withstand hurricane force winds
  • Florida building code certified
  • USA made
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Not adjustable

A great value option to consider is the ESM Products solar attic fan. The 30 watt unit is capable of moving up to 1,550 cubic feet of air per minute in direct sunlight, allowing it to properly ventilate attics up to 2,800 sq. ft. The solar panel angle is adjustable with two included brackets allowing you to place the panel at an optimum angle to the sun. The seamless aluminum housing is warrantied for a full 25 years while the motor is covered for five years. The fan is an aluminum five blade design 12” in diameter.

ESM Products Solar attic Fan 30 Watt

It has a protective #304 stainless steel mesh animal screen to keep the critters out of your attic. Installation is easy if you have some basic carpentry knowledge. Use caution when installing the unit in locales that have frequent driving rain as prolonged water exposure can cause leaking around the roof mounted unit if proper sealing is not ensured. This solar fan is not as visually pleasing or compact as other options but makes up for it in venting power. This is a good value option for homes with flat or pitched roofs.

Pros
  • Powerful
  • Adjustable solar panel angle
Cons
  • Imported
  • Bulky

Conclusion

Solar powered attic fans are a simple and effective way to protect your attic from weather related damage. I prefer the simplicity of the gable mounted fan by Natural Light when compared to other options. The fan can be easily mounted behind existing gable vents in your attic making them a breeze to install. They are hidden from the outside so they don’t affect the aesthetics of your home but still provide enough power to ventilate your attic.

Additional fans can easily be placed in other gable vents you already have. You could also consider a roof mounted option in addition to the gable fan. Natural Light provides a best in class 25 year warranty on the motor, housing, and solar panel. Providing ventilation to your attic is essential to protect your home from extreme weather. Solar attic fans can be a simple solution and provide years of energy-free attic protection.