Energy Efficiency

Save money this summer by following this great energy efficient tip.

Summer Energy Efficiency: Solar Attic Fan Installation

The sun is a wonderful source of energy, but too much solar gain is not always a good thing. For instance, did you know that an unventilated attic can reach temperatures as high as 150˚F?

Natural convection ventilation from ridge and soffit vents is often not enough to ensure sufficient airflow to prevent excessive attic heating. Home energy experts recommend installing a power attic ventilator (PAV), or attic fan, to keep summer energy costs down.

Fortunately, it’s possible to fight the sun with the sun. Installing a solar attic fan can help you stay cooler in the summer and save on your air conditioning bills. Solar attic fans offer other benefits to the homeowner as well. Here are some of the top benefits of installing a solar attic fan in your home:

Solar attic fans save energy and money

Solar Attic Fan Saves MoneyInstalling a solar attic fan can reduce your air conditioning costs by up to 35 percent. It can also help your air-conditioning unit last longer because the reduced heat load results in less frequent cycling. Solar fans also save energy in colder months by preserving the integrity of your attic insulation. In the winter, heat lost through the ceiling meets cold outside air in your attic, which can result in significant condensation under the roof. Dampened insulation can be less effective, especially fiberglass or cellulose insulation. An attic fan helps keep attic air — and your insulation — dry.

Roof and attic structure protection

In the same vein, installing a solar attic fan can help keep your roof structure intact by preventing timber rot and damaged plaster caused by condensed moisture.

Ice dams are another wintertime hazard of an unventilated attic. When warm air melts rooftop snow, it often refreezes at the edge of the roof and lets melting snow pool up behind it. This can leak into the home and cause serious water damage.

Health & safety benefits

Unwanted moisture presents health and safety hazards as well. When condensation in the attic goes unchecked, it can lead to the growth of mold and mildew in the home. This can lead to serious health concerns, according to the EPA.

While icicles are pretty to look at, they too are a safety hazard. People have been seriously injured by falling icicles and ice dams. Proper ventilation keeps these in check.

A well-ventilated attic also reduces the risk of carbon monoxide buildup in your home.

Why choose a solar attic fan over a conventional PAV?

Even a conventional attic fan can bring significant benefits and energy savings. However, there are plenty of reasons to go solar when choosing a PAV.

First of all, solar PAVs perform better than their conventional electric counterparts. This is because they turn on automatically as soon as the sun starts to shine. If you invest in a quality unit, you will get one with a panel sensitive enough to start running the fan even in the very early morning. By starting early, the solar fan virtually eliminates heat gain. Conventional electric fans rely on a thermostat to turn on. This means that the heat build-up has already started, and your air conditioner is already working harder than it needs to by the time your attic fan kicks on. By contrast, a solar attic fan keeps the attic close to the ambient outside air temperature virtually all the time.

Another advantage of solar fans for the homeowner is that they are wonderfully easy to install. There are no wires to connect, and a homeowner with average do-it-yourself skill can install one in less than an hour. A professional can typically install one in just half an hour.

Solar attic fans are quieter than conventional fans. A conventional PAV runs on AC power, and can emit noisy “harmonic noise” when it turns on. Solar PAVs run on DC and are typically whisper-quiet.

Also, in the event of a power outage, a solar fan will continue to run, quietly and steadily whisking away unwanted attic heat and helping keep the home from turning into an unbearable inferno in the absence of air conditioning.

One more excellent reason to install a solar attic fan: they qualify for a 30 percent federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit through 2016!

Solar attic fans are measured in watts, with 10- and 20-watt sizes being common for household use. Some manufacturers offer larger sizes for large homes and/or commercial use. Most manufacturers indicate the capacity of the fan in terms of square feet of attic space. If you need more ventilation on your roof than one small fan will provide, it is recommended to install one larger fan rather than multiple small ones. This will minimize roof penetrations and labor costs.

A solar attic fan is relatively inexpensive and environmentally responsible. Why not invest in one this summer and enjoy its many benefits for years to come?

Ryan McNeill is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, one of the Mid-Atlantic’s largest residential solar energy companies – committed to installing quality, American-made solar panels and energy products for homeowners. 

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