Solar attic fans are powered by sunlight (solar energy, to be more accurate), we all know that. They are basically attic fans connected to solar panels. As you guessed they don’t need any electricity from the mains for working.
These fans also do not have any batteries to store the electric current. So their performances depend entirely on the amount of sunlight available at the time.
Where to install a solar attic fan?
Depending on where they are mount there are two types of solar attic fans; roof mount and gable mount. As you guessed the roof mount ones are installed on the roof while the others are installed on the gable of the house.
Unlike regular attic fans a gable mount solar fan cannot be installed in on the roof and vice versa. This is because in the case of the latter the solar panel comes fixed on the roof dome. In the other case, it is just too much work, and not worth it.
How much do they cost?
A solar attic fan can cost anywhere between $160 to $420.
Basically, it is simply a fan connected to a solar panel. You can buy an ordinary attic fan and a solar panel separately and connect them together, it will work. And it may be cheaper too.
Then why are solar fans pricier than the ordinary ones? This is because most of them are mounted on the roof, and for that, some accessories like a dome are included. So the total cost of the fan you see is the cost of the solar panel + attic fan + accessories.
In the case of a gable mount fan no dome is required, that’s why they are much cheaper than the roof mounted ones.
Is a solar attic fan worth it?
The cost-effectiveness of solar powered attic fans is a much-debated topic. According to a study conducted by Florida Solar Energy Center it takes at least 15 years to get the ROI from a solar attic fan.
Most popular companies offer 20-25 year warranty for their solar powered attic fans. That means you get to run them for at least 5-10 years after getting your investment back. Also, solar energy is green energy, so they are better for the environment as well.
Also, depending on where you live, you may get a 30% waiver on your federal tax.
So, over the long term, getting a solar attic fan is definitely worth it.
Which are the best solar attic fans you can buy?
When it comes to picking a solar attic fan, there aren’t many choices as some other products.
I went through 28 products before finally making a few best choices.
Here they are;
Best roof mount solar attic fans
1. Natural Light 36 Watt solar attic fan
Natural Light Energy Systems is a trusted brand in the USA which specializes in making solar attic fans.
Their attic fans come with an adjustable solar panel, a roof dome, and a quiet attic fan.
At its peak it can deliver 1628 CFM; this can cool an attic of size 2625 sq.ft.
The Natural Light attic fan has a DC motor. Therefore it is speed adjustable, you can connect it to a thermostat via a speed controller to automatically control the fan speed to suit the temperature setting.
This fan runs quiet, partially due to the high number of blades (it has 5) and also due to the DC motor.
Its blades are made of corrosion resistant aluminum. It comes with a heavy duty roof flashing, heavy duty housing, a stainless steel protective wire mesh, and an adjustable mounting bracket. The bracket can be adjusted from anywhere between 0 to 45-degree angles to get maximum exposure to sunlight.
The Natural Light solar attic fan comes with a 25-year warranty on the housing, solar panel, and motor.
2. Broan 28 Watt solar powered attic ventillator
Without a doubt, this is a good looking unit.
Broan products have been in the market since 1932. They specialize in ventilation and heating systems.
This solar attic fan moves 537 CFM of air at its peak power. This is not exactly a heavy-duty fan, it can cool only an area up to 768 sq.ft.
It is connected to a 28 Watt solar panel which comes fixed on a rectangular shaped dome. So this can be mounted only on the roof, not on the gable.
I like the design of its dome. It is low-profile and looks great on any roof. The height of the dome is only 9″ so it looks like part of the roof. Moreover, its base footprint is only 14″ in diameter so you don’t have to cut a big hole on the roof.
It comes with a 12″, blade fan. The blades are made of one-piece Aluminum. It is light in weight and resistant to corrosion. Its housing is made of ABS plastic which is resistant to UV rays, and also is proved to be durable.
Like all solar powered attic fans, this one too runs with a variable speed DC motor. This means you can connect a thermostat to it and achieve the ‘smart fan’ status.
The Broan solar attic fan comes with a 6-year warranty but the motor is covered only for 2-years.
3. iLiving smart solar roof attic exhaust fan
The iLiving solar attic fan is much similar in design to its competition from Natural Light.
It comes with a 20 Watt solar panel which can be adjusted to 0, 15, 30 and 45 degrees to get maximum exposure to sunlight.
It can move 1750 CFM of air and can cool attic areas up to 2000 sq.ft.
The attic fan is 14″ in size and is made of Aluminium. Aluminum is light in weight, which is perfect for low powered fans, and it is resistant to corrosion.
The iLiving solar attic fan comes with a DC motor which is capable of running at variable speeds. It can also be connected to an AC supply through an optional ON/OFF switch accessory. This means you can run the fan even at night.
This unit comes with a manufacturer warranty of 15-years.
Remington 20 Watt smart solar attic fan
- CFM: 1280
- Capable of cooling up to 1800 sq.ft of attic space
- preinstalled thermostat/humidifier which turns on at 75% humidity, 80 degrees F.
- Stainless steel construction with poly-vinyl blades for quiet operation.
- Texas windstorm certified
Rand 8 Watt solar powered fan
- Can cool up to 700 sq.ft of attic space
- 9″ blades
- heavy duty ABS plastic housing
- 20-year warranty for parts
- Quiet operation
- automatic speed control included
Best gable mount solar attic fans
1.Armtrak 40 Watt solar attic gable fan
This is an excellent solar attic fan for installing on the gable of your house. It comes with a 40 Watt remote solar panel with 25′ extra wire.
It doesn’t have any ON/Off switch so the fan will start immediately as soon as ot is connected with the solar panel.
It can move up to 1500 CFM of air and can effortlessly cool an attic area of 2250 sq.ft.
This Amtrak fan has a 14″ housing and a bigger, 5 blade fan made of Aluminum. It comes with 4 mounting brackets for the solar panel.
Like all other fans mentioned here this too works with a thermostat but that needs to be purchased seperately.
This attic fan is covered under a manufacturers warranty of 25 years. I should say this is a really good option if you are looking for a powerful and reliable gable mount solar attic fan.
2. Rand 30-Watt gable attic fan
This is another solar attic fan from Rand. I briefly mentioned about its 8-watt version above.
This one produces 1911 CFM and is enough to cool an attic area of 2720 sq.ft.
It comes with a pre-installed thermostat which controls the speed of the fan depending on the ambient temperature. According to the manufacturer, it can reduce up to 50 degrees of temperature in the attic.
This fan is surprisingly whisper quiet thanks to its brushless motor.
It comes with an adjustable bracket so it is easy to angle the solar panel in the direction of sunlight. It has heavy duty stainless steel construction.
The Rand gable mount solar attic fan is covered under a manufacturer warranty of 20 years.
Benefits of using solar attic fans
Zero electric bill
This is considered to be the biggest advantage of a solar attic fan. It is true that you will save the electric bill but don’t have super high expectation. It often takes 10-15 years to get the return of your investment. However, if you buy the gable mount version they are cheaper and so you should make up for the investment faster.
In addition, solar energy is renewable, you will be doing your environment a big favor by using a solar-powered fan.
All solar attic fans use DC brushless motors. These motors are super efficient and whisper quiet. Whisper quiet may be an exaggeration but yes they are really quiet.
In case you are looking for some quiet attic fans but not solar powered ones feel free to check this post.
What are its major cons?
Solar attic fans are not perfect. They have some cons;
Performance depends on sun light
Since solar energy is the only source of power for these fans even a shadow can reduce its performance. So when it comes to consistent performance the solar fans are far behind regular models. It is also very important where you install these attic fans. Roof-mounted fans tend to perform better than gable mounted ones since they get more exposure to sunlight.
Also these fans won’t work at night.
There are some ‘hybrid’ fans which you can connect with external power, like the iLiving solar fan reviewed above. You can consider them if you want to work the fan for extra hours.
There is a common argment that solar attic fans cost more than they save, this is wrong. Definitely they are not as cost effective as ‘hyped’ by manufacturers. But they do provide return of your investment in the long run, and may work for 5 to 10 years more after that.