Roof Guys

Solar Attic Fans Vs. Electric Attic Fans – More Hype With No Hope?

Matthew Snyder - Monday, November 09, 2015

Solar Attic Fans Vs. Electric Attic Fans – More Hype With No Hope?

Much of what is labeled “product advancement” nowadays should fall into the category of “one step forward, two steps back.”  One need only remember the “New Coke” debacle that hit the soft drink giant between the eyes a few years ago to see a case in point.  So when a “new, improved” product is touted as a better solution that what you are familiar with, a small dose of cynicism and suspicion is natural, even healthy in some cases.  Once in a while, though, technology does make a giant leap that gives us a better choice on all fronts, hands down.  The solar attic fan vs. electric fan is one of just such occasions.

Most of us are well aware that a hot, moist attic is not good for our home.  Higher A/C bills, a shorter roof shingle life, plywood roof decking damage, and mold and mildew issues can often be traced back to a poorly ventilated attic space.  Up until a few decades ago, the only option to help to address these problems was installing an electric attic ventilation fan.  On the plus side, these fans would do a great job of quickly lowering the temperature and humidity in the attic, while they were running.  Unfortunately, the heavy electric load of these units cut into any savings you were accruing through use.  So to keep the operating cost down, most homeowners would install a thermostat cutoff to limit the fan’s operating window.  While this did help to keep running costs down, it also created a cycle of “heat rises, fan turns on – heat lowers, and fan turns off.”  This constant fluctuation of temperature did not give homeowners the best protection possible since it allowed the attic to get too hot and then this adverse condition would finally turn the fan on, but at that point some damage had already been done.  Also, the major electric drain and motor wear came from turning the fan on from a stationary position, so the on/off method, while providing limited benefits, created problems of its own in the way of costly repairs and maintenance. 

Enter the age of the Solar Attic Fan!  Some savant in a think tank finally realized that a while the sun is the culprit behind most of the attic issues we all have, it is also the best solution!  Solar attic ventilation fans allow you the satisfaction of turning the sun against itself! Anybody up for a cup of delicious irony?  Say goodbye to operating costs, because the sun is free!  Forget about a limited operating window allowing for accumulated damage, since the fans run as long as the sun is out.  What about the wear and tear on the fan motor running all day long, you ask?  Well, this is a valid concern, if we are only talking about traditional motor design.  Fortunately, another technological breakthrough in recent years that can be found in high-quality solar fans is the “brushless” or inductive motor.  Since these motors do not have brushes that wear out and have to be replaced, they can easily handle a much greater length of operating time as compared to traditional motors with no fear of burning up your investment.  By the way, did I mention that brushless motors are whisper quiet?  So unless you are living directly above a seismic fault line or have inner ear issues, distracting vibration or humming should be a thing of the past!

So if you are looking for a healthier, cooler, and dryer home, consider the benefits of solar attic ventilation.  I know that you have been burned in the past by empty promises of better things to come (it is an election year after all) but check your suspicion and cynicism at the door!  Solar fans are the wave of the future, and if they are any indication of where the solar industry is headed, I would say that it certainly looks brighter to me.

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