Why Should I Consider a Solar Attic Fan for my Home?
As the Midwest weather turns from frigid cold to our beautiful 70-degree spring days, and we look forward to fun in the sun this summer, we also start to think about our wallet-stealing utility bills the summer brings us as we try to battle for our indoor comfort. Every summer here in Kansas City we battle the hot, humid days and strive for efficient comfort in our homes. Local average Air Conditioning costs are between $0.06 and $0.88 PER HOUR in KC, depending on the unit and how low you set your thermostat. This might not seem too crazy, but when the temps don’t drop below 85 degrees and your AC is running day and night, we all know this will add up. We are constantly having discussions with customers about how to heat and cool their homes most effectively and efficiently. One consideration that often gets overlooked in the fight for in home comfort, especially in 2 story homes, is the ventilation of one’s attic. In this conversation we will be discussing how a solar attic fan might be able to help your home more effectively cool your home in the summer.
As summer temperatures begin to climb, our homes become less effective at defending us against the elements. A big cause for this is the climbing temperatures in our attics. Be it poor design, not enough insulation, or improper ventilation, our attics begin to heat up and create a more difficult environment for conditioning our homes. Most folks just think it is normal for an attic to be extremely hot in the summer. It is not uncharacteristic of a Kansas City Metro attic to reach upwards of 150 degrees. This causes an increased heat load on one’s home, reduces the capacity of the Air Conditioner to maintain set point, and drastically increasing your energy bills. While this happens to most of our homes, it is especially impactful on 2 story homes because it creates a thermal blanket in the attic with the rising heat from the rest of the home. This creates a bit of a thermal sandwich of discomfort. Aside from less in-home comfort and higher utility bills, excess heat can lead to dried out trusses or condensation buildup which could lead to mold creation. It is well within reason that an attic should be within 10 degrees of the outside temperature. All these factors are caused by poor ventilation.
What is a Solar Attic Vent and what does it do?
In the most basic terms a Solar, or Photovoltaic (PV), Attic Vent absorbs the sun’s energy and uses it to run a fan that pulls superheated air out of your attic and replaces it with cooler air from outside. This reduces the temperatures inside of your attic which lowers the demand on your Air Conditioner, reducing your energy bills, and increasing your in-home comfort. Because it is solar powered, it uses no electricity and costs nothing to operate.
It sounds odd that the hot outside air is the cooler air, but on 100-degree day temperatures in an attic can be 150 degrees. By moving outside air into the attic, you can lower the temperature in the attic by as much as 40 degrees, making your attic 110 degrees on that sweltering 100-degree day. There are two main methods of ventilation, passive and active.
Installing vents and exhausts in your attic, gable, soffit, or roof is one popular way of allowing hot air to circulate in and out of your attic naturally. Code requires some type of ventilation in an attic and these types are the most standard, least expensive, but also the least effective. If this is your method, you can add additional vents to allow more air to flow through, but it will not solve the problem. Having several soffit vents and roof exhaust will allow hot air to pass through the attic. It’s a good idea to check and make sure that your soffit vents are not blocked by insulation, storage items, or other materials that are not allowing air to flow through correctly.
Active ventilation is generally automated and actively forces air out of and into your attic. These can be directly powered or solar powered attic vents. If you do choose a powered attic vent to exhaust hot air, make sure you have enough incoming vents to accommodate the extra airflow. By pushing superheated air out, you let cooler and fresher outside air in and improve the overall heat load on your home, requiring less work for your HVAC system and lowering electric bills.
o Since these are solar powered, there is no utility bill increase to operate the fan.
Reduction of Temperature in the Attic
o When it comes to heat management, especially during summer when temperatures can reach upwards of 150°, they have the potential to reduce measured peak summer attic air temperatures by over 40 degrees.
o The reduction of temperature in the attic means reduced demand put on your Air Conditioner
Lowers your Electric Demand
o Lower temperatures in your attic, means less heat in your home, leading to less usage of your Air Conditioner, and a lower electric bill.
Noise Is Not an Issue
o Solar attic vents are whisper quiet, especially when compared to wired power vents.
No Electrician Needed
o There is no need to hire an electrician to wire a solar attic fan into your home since a solar attic fan’s power comes from the sun. Electric fans are hard wired, which usually requires an electrician.
Provide Active Ventilation Instead of Passive
o Active ventilation creates more movement of air and more air changes per hour.
Keep Adjacent Areas Cooler
o Rooms closer to a solar attic fan have lower temperatures on their adjacent walls therefore feel cooler.
Visually More Appealing
o Solar attic fans have a lower profile than powered attic fans. They are closer to the roof and less visible.
Can Potentially Qualify for Federal Tax Credit
While the team at Summit Heating and Cooling are incredible knowledgeable in all aspects of the HVAC business, we are not tax advisors. However, we do know that Solar Packages qualify under the 30% Solar Federal Tax Credit. There are certain solar packages that have included parts in the bundle that are outside of normal scopes of solar like roofs or insulation. Ask your comfort advisor for information on these packages. Please vet your particular situation with your tax professional; we are great at heating and cooling, not experts on taxes.
The Cost of Solar Vents
For all the benefits that you get with a solar attic vent, they are not all that expensive. Solar panel systems are typically very expensive, invasive, and time consuming (paperwork, ugh). However, solar attic vents are cost effective and relatively quick to install (if you like heights)! Overall, the cost effectiveness outweighs the cost of the installation long term, especially considering that their life expectancy is 15-20 years, which will give you years of improved in-home comfort and efficiency.
Cool Your Attic with Solar Power!
Instead of letting the sweltering summer sun heat your attic, you can harness the sun’s energy to help cool your attic space. Solar roof vents can help to reduce the heat load in your attic and run time on your HVAC equipment. Feel free to give us a call and have one of our Comfort Experts come to your home and show you what options are available to you. We are trained in all aspects of indoor comfort, and we would be happy to help. Remember, if you are looking for the top REACH for the SUMMIT, Summit Heating and Cooling. 816-832-7770 or www.summitHCKC.com.