The 8 Best Solar Attic Fans
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in December of 2016. If your energy bills keep rising in the summer — and your house doesn't seem to be getting any more comfortable — then high heat and humidity in your attic may be to blame. These solar fans can circulate the air in that space, cooling your home effectively without increasing your utility costs. They even help reduce ice formation in the winter, potentially saving you thousands on repairs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
January 30, 2021:
Since installation requirements vary, we have included both attached units, where the panel mounts to the same structure that houses the fan, such as the Natural Light SAF36B-FL and iLiving SF301A, as well as standalone models where the panel and fan are mounted separately, like the Natural Light SAFG24 and Amtrak Solar SAFD30. In this latter kind, the fan is generally intended for gable placement, whereas the former is intended for in-roof placement. The QuietCool SLR-40 is available in both configurations. The Eco-Worthy AM-SV-1 is notably different than all of our other recommendations as it wouldn't be suitable on its own to handle the attic cooling needs of a home. Instead, it is a good add-on unit that can increase the airflow in problem areas. Alternatively, you could use a few of them together and place them sporadically to achieve equal circulation across an entire attic space.
June 22, 2019:
A solar attic fan can really come in handy when you have an upstairs bedroom or bonus room that gets uncomfortably hot during summer months. They’re free to operate and can remove the hot air and replace it with cooler air from outside. Factors to consider when choosing the one that’s right for you include design, noise level, build material, ease of installation, and price. Our selection features a variety of models ranked for these factors.
Joining the list is the Natural Light SAFG24, which includes a heavy-duty aluminum housing, powerful and quiet motor, and a standalone, 24-watt panel that can be installed on all roof surfaces. The fan is designed for use on a home’s gable vent. Its benefits include easy installation with helpful online tutorials, and it qualifies for solar tax credits.
Another new addition is the Amtrak Solar 70-Watt, which measures a foot in diameter and operates quietly when powered by sunlight or a deep cycle battery. It’s simple to install and comes with the necessary hardware, although note that some homeowners ultimately decide to go with sturdier brackets.
In this update, the Durabuild 527S-DUB and the Brightwatts Ultra Premium left the list, due to issues with availability.
Solaro Aire Energy Embedded Designed by experts in aerodynamic engineering, this choice features an efficient, brushless DC motor and can move up to 900 cubic feet of air per minute. Its powder-coated, aircraft grade aluminum housing is made for both durability and curb appeal. The panel is embedded in the housing, and it comes in your choice of a round or square mounting base. Also available are models with stand-alone panels, those designed for gable vents, and those with panels that tilt for optimal Sun exposure. They’re all designed an assembled in the U.S. and come with a lifetime warranty and 30% tax credit eligibility. solaroenergy.com
U.S. Sunlight 20 Watt This professional-grade selection is made of 20-gauge steel housing and a heavy-duty ABS fan shroud to cool your home in the summer and remove harmful moisture in the winter. It will ventilate spaces up to 2,400 square feet in size. When used with the included controller, it can operate at night or whenever no sunlight is available by drawing from your home’s electricity. ussunlight.com
Benefits Of A Solar Attic Fan
Plus, using less energy to keep your house cool is better for the environment.
If you've noticed your utility bills skyrocketing without noticing a corresponding increase in the comfort of your home, then you may be losing a lot of cold air — and hot cash — out of your attic. A steamy attic can affect the whole house, causing your air conditioner to have to work harder to keep your home cool.
In that case, a solar-powered attic fan could be just what the doctor ordered. However, before you spend money on a fan, it's important to first check your insulation. If your house isn't properly insulated, then anything else you do will be nearly useless, as all the treated air will literally fly out the window.
Once you've made sure that your house is sealed up tight, however, installing an attic fan is a useful next step.
Of course, you may be asking yourself, "How will a solar-powered fan work inside my attic? You will have to attach a solar panel to your roof, but that should require minimal work, as these fans leave a small footprint.
The most obvious benefit of the fan is that it will drastically lower the temperature in your attic. This keeps the heat from spilling out into the rest of the house and forcing your cooling system to work overtime. Not only will this save you money on your electric bill, but it will also prolong the life of your HVAC unit.
Plus, using less energy to keep your house cool is better for the environment. Since the fan will take all of its juice from the sun, it won't use electricity, which is notoriously bad for the planet.
Your roof will also be grateful for the help, as fans can prevent moisture from building up and damaging your roofing materials. This is especially important when the mercury drops, as many roofs suffer water damage during snowstorms. This is due to the fact that heat from the house gets trapped in the attic, causing the snow on the roof to melt. The water can then get trapped and re-freeze in your eaves. Even if it's not snowing, mold can still easily form if moist air in the attic has nowhere to go.
What To Look For In Your Fan
While buying a solar attic fan is a smart move, that doesn't mean you should get the first one you come across. There are a number of factors to consider before pulling the trigger.
The first thing is your climate. If you live in a place that's hot most of the year, you'll naturally put more of a strain on your fan than living in a cooler climate would. This means that finding one with a long lifespan is paramount, so you might have to shell out more up front, but you should make it back in the long run.
While buying a solar attic fan is a smart move, that doesn't mean you should get the first one you come across.
The next factor is the size of your attic. The larger the room, the bigger and more powerful you'll want the fan to be. If you've got a smaller attic, you can still get a strong fan (and you'll likely reap the benefits from it), but you could probably pay less and still get the job done almost as well.
You also need to consider the size of the solar panel, and whether you'll be able to place it in direct sunlight. Some units have to be mounted directly under the panel, while others allow you to run wires from the panel to the fan, giving you more flexibility in placement. The important thing is to make sure the panel is getting enough light.
This may require consulting a contractor to see how feasible the installation will be. Installing a solar fan isn't the most difficult job in the world, but it will still require moderate carpentry and electrical skills, so you may feel more comfortable handing the job off to a professional if you're not experienced yourself.
Other Ways To Cut Cooling Costs
One of the easiest ways to keep your cooling system running effectively is to be sure to change your air filters regularly, preferably once a month. This is especially crucial if you have pets, as hair, dirt, and dander can all clog up a filter quickly, forcing your air conditioner to work much harder to do its job.
A programmable thermostat can also save you some dough, as you can be set it to work more when you're home and awake, and less when you're not.
Also, the more sunlight that hits your home, the hotter your home will be. You can mitigate some of this heat by installing trees and other landscaping to shade your home — without blocking any solar panels, of course. Investing in some heavy curtains and keeping them closed is another easy way to beat the heat.
A programmable thermostat can also save you some dough, as you can be set it to work more when you're home and awake, and less when you're not. These can also prevent you from accidentally using too much electricity, especially if you're the type who immediately turns the thermostat down every time you get hot.
Of course, putting fans in more rooms than just the attic can also help. This can help circulate the cooled air that the AC is putting out, while also keeping you refreshed at a lower cost. It's much cheaper to run a fan than the air conditioner, so use the AC as a last resort.