Attic ventilation is often considered insufficient since it uses up to 180 kWh per moth which ends up on your household bill. But here comes our knight in shiny armor – solar energy! Yet if you purchase the wrong device, you might end up with a frozen or incredibly heated attic that also drives fresh air out of the whole house.
To avoid that, we’ve tested 17 options to show you 5 best solar attic fans with top pick Natural Light 36-watt Solar Attic Fan . Each fan was chosen by the amount of power needed to support its work, so you could opt for less solar panels. Also, we have fans with various air flow capacities that fit for different attic sizes. Read on to find the right model for your needs!
Users rave about this solar attic fan from Natural Light, which boasts a large solar panel and a significant amount of air flow. The fan is capable of moving 1,628 CFM of air in your attic, which provides coverage for a roughly 2,625-sqaure-foot attic space. However, it is worth noting that this fan also has the largest power draw of any solar attic fan we reviewed, at 36 watts. That means the solar panel is relatively large and will require a roof with a large daily dose of direct sunlight. Users noted that the fan will not run at capacity if there are any clouds, even if the air temperature outside is as hot as on a fully sunny day. Some users opted to connect this fan to their electric grid so that it would continue cooling into the evenings and overnight when the solar panel is not active.
Despite its size, this fan is relatively light at under 30 pounds and is able to install on a wide variety of roofs – from 3/12 to 12/12 pitch roofs. Users found that it lowers the temperature in the attic by five degrees or more during the summer and almost everyone who installed the fan noticed an immediate difference in the temperature in upstairs bedrooms.
One of the things that users loved about this fan was how easy it is to install. The instructions that come with the fan are clear and easy to follow, even for those without roofing experience. The fan comes with an impressive 25-year warranty that covers both the fan and the solar panels, so you can be sure that you’ll recoup your original investment in the fan over more than two decades of use.
More features: mounts on pitched fiberglass-asphalt shingle roofs, covers up to 2,100 sq ft of attic space
For users with smaller attic spaces, there are few choices better than this solar attic fan from Natural Light. The 1,339 CFM fan provides plenty of air flow for attics up to 2,100 square feet, while the fan motor itself draws only 24 watts of power. That allows the solar panels on this fan to be relatively compact, with the whole unit weighing only 27 pounds. Plus, the fan will work even when there are some passing clouds in the sky and gives you more freedom in deciding where on your roof you would like to mount the fan. The effects of the fan are immediate, with cooling of several degrees noted by most users in upstairs rooms while there is almost no detectable noise emanating from the fan itself.
Users loved the low-profile design of the solar panels on this fan, which mount nearly flush with the roof. Users have found that the solar fan is unaffected by strong winds from either hurricanes or tornadoes. They also appreciate how durable the mount is since it is made from solid steel rather than a lighter, less sturdy material.
This solar fan is able to be installed on a wide variety of roofs, including pitched fiberglass and asphalt shingled roofs. Users note that it takes only a few hours to install when using the very complete instructions provided by Natural Light, and that the company’s customer service is very helpful when it comes to answering questions that come up during installation. The solar fan also comes with Natural Light’s 25-year warranty on the fan motor and solar panels, so you can be assured that this fan will pay for itself in electric bill savings over its lifetime.
More features: 14-inch diameter roof opening width, designed for spaces of 1,000 cu ft
This small solar attic fan from Broan is perfect for people with small attic spaces or a second compartment in their attic that needs its own ventilation system. The fan has an air flow capacity of 537 CFM, which corresponds to an attic space roughly 1,000 square feet in area. Although the fan draws a surprisingly high 28 watts of power, this system weighs a minimal 22 pounds and has a significantly smaller footprint on your roof than any of the other solar attic fans we reviewed – the cut on your roof only needs to be 14 inches in diameter. The fan itself is mounted just underneath the solar panel, so there is no need to worry about exposed blades that could catch on something in your attic space.
The mount is made of ABS plastic rather than steel, although users found that this was plenty durable during storms. The solar panel also mounts low to the roof, which helps to prevent damage when high winds roll through. However, this low-profile design can also limit the number of suitable places you can put it on your roof since there is no adjustability in the panel to angle it upwards to capture sunlight. Therefore, the fan can have difficulty running at full power in the late afternoon when the sun is low in the sky.
Users loved Broan’s customer service whenever issues came up during installation, although most users were able to follow the installation instructions with no problem. However, it is worth noting that Broan only offers a one-year warranty. Although users report this fan working for many years, the lack of protection compared to other fans can be a significant drawback.
This inexpensive solar attic fan from Brightwatts makes it easy to recoup your investment, which is also great for users whose homes are just on the edge of using enough air conditioning to the point where a solar attic fan is economically beneficial. The fan is relatively small, with a 1,280 CFM air flow capacity that is capable of cooling attics up to 1,800 square feet. On the other hand, it also has a relatively reasonable 25-watt power draw that means you will have plenty of leeway in determining where to place the panels on your roof and won’t have issues if some clouds pass by. However, some users were annoyed by the built-in thermostat, which prevents the fan from turning on when the temperature in the attic is below 80 degrees – still hot enough to add heat to upstairs bedrooms.
Most users who purchased this solar fan opted to have a contractor install it since the installation is more difficult than on more expensive models. There is some wiring that need to be completed between the solar panel and the fan motor, although this also allows you to place the panels separately from the fan itself so you can collect the most sunlight. The solar panel mounts low enough to the roof that users report it surviving multiple hurricanes without damage. In addition, users found that it is almost impossible to detect any noise from the fan when it is running at full power.
Brightwatts offers a 10-year warranty on this solar attic fan, which is long enough to ensure that you will recoup your investment and is somewhat impressive given the low price point of this fan.
More features: for normally sloped, asphalt shingle or wood shake roofs, we all as flat concrete tile or slate roofs; can be adjusted 15° / 30° / 45° / 90°
This large, 1,750 CFM solar attic fan is best for users who have a large attic, up to 2,800 square feet, with stagnant hot air that could get trapped in the corners with a smaller fan. Despite its large coverage area, this fan draws an impressively low 20 watts, which gives you plenty of freedom in placing the solar panels on the roof. Plus, GBGS designed their panel bracket so that it can rotate up to 90 degrees horizontally and the solar panels can be angled in increments of 15 degrees up to 45 degrees from the bottom bracket. That allows you to take advantage of the late afternoon sun and adjust the way the panel is facing if you wish to keep the fan running at full panel as the seasons shift from spring to summer to fall. This is also an advantage since you can fold the panel down in case of high winds during a storm.
This fan can be installed on a wide variety of roofs, including asphalt, shingled, or wood frame roofs, as well as any flat roof. Users found the installation process to be relatively straightforward, although they noted that the bottom bracket screws are hidden by the solar panels themselves, which can make it extremely difficult to get a screwdriver into the assembly. The fan itself is relatively quiet for its size, but some users reported a scratching sound as if the bearings are rubbing on the motor.
GBGS provides a 10-year warranty on the fan motor and a 20-year warranty on the solar panel so that you will be certain to recoup your initial investment in the fan. The motor is also protected by a thermal shutoff that prevents it from overheating, which helps to extend its lifespan far beyond the 10-year warranty period.
Now that you’ve learned more about our five favorite solar fans on the market today, how do you decide which solar fan is right to add to your home before the coming summer? In our buying guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about solar attic fans, with special attention to the features you need to consider when choosing a fan to install in your home.
A solar attic fan is simply a mechanical fan, similar to those you likely have elsewhere in your house, that is installed in your attic and powered by solar panels on the roof. Most attic fans don’t even need to be connected to your home’s electrical circuitry for backup power since you only need the cooling effect of the fan on hot, sunny days when the solar panels are working at maximum capacity.
These fans might seem like a small addition to your home, but they can provide a significant cost savings on your electric bill by reducing the amount you need to run your air conditioner. By circulating hot air in the attic, these fans are able to remove heat from one of the places it tends to pool inside your house and pull in fresh, cooler air. The result is that your attic won’t overheat, keeping the rooms below from heating up in turn and extending the life of your shingle roof by preventing the shingles from heating from below.
One thing to note about solar attic fans is that they can be somewhat expensive to purchase and install – which means that you’ll need to get at least several years of use out of the fan to recoup your initial investment.
How do you know which solar attic fan is right for you? In this section, we’ll cover the most important features that differentiate solar attic fans to help you choose the fan you need.
Since solar attic fans don’t cost anything to power, the amount of power that they draw only affects the size of the solar panels that will be needed on your roof. If you have a roof that does not have much sun exposure or much space to install solar panels, then power can matter quite a bit – your panels will need to capture enough sun to consistently meet the power requirements of your fan. However, for roofs that have plenty of direct sunlight, the power of your fan is likely not an important consideration when choosing a fan.
If power is not a concern, you can base your decision of which solar attic fan to buy based largely on the square footage of your attic. A larger fan will be able to circulate more air, which is important if you have a large attic with lots of hot air that needs to be recirculated. Typically, attic fans’ abilities to move air is measured as airflow capacity in cubic feet per minute (CFM), and a 1,000 CFM fan should be able to provide enough air flow to circulate air over a 1,600-square foot or greater square foot attic. Thus, a 1,000 CFM fan is considered to have a coverage area of 1,600 square feet, while the 1,750 CFM fan from GBGS will have a coverage area of up to 2,800 square feet.
A bigger fan, with a larger coverage area, will almost always be larger and heavier, although this also depends on the design materials – for example, the small 1,280 CFM fan from Brightwatts weighs 28 pounds compared to the 34.5-pound 1,750 CFM fan from GBGS. Size can be important if you have limited space in your attic or a small entryway, since you need to be able to get the unassembled fan into the attic and have the blades rotate without obstructions.
Weight is a consideration for where exactly you can install the fan, since a heavier fan will require more support from your roof.
It will take more than a few years’ worth of use to recoup the initial investment into your solar attic fan with savings on your electric bill from using less air conditioning. Therefore, it is essential that your fan will last for many years to come. You can ensure that this will be the case by choosing a fan with a long warranty – for example, both Natural Light fans come with 25-year warranties. Remember to ensure also that the warranty covers both the fan motor and the solar panels, since either of these components can be expensive to replace.
Although many people opt for professional installation of their new solar attic fan, you can save money by tackling this project yourself. You will need to first install the roof brackets and fall-arrest system for the solar panels to the desired location on the roof. Then you will need to use a reciprocating saw to cut the shingles on the roof to the shape of the circular base of the fan, and mount the fan to the roofing brackets. You can secure this with caulk and then use a roofing nail to replace shingles in the area immediately around the brackets.
Our three overall favorite solar attic fans on the market today are the 36-watt and 24-watt fans from Natural Light and the 28-watt fan from Broan. The Broan fan is a lightweight and small solar attic fan with a durable construction, perfect for smaller attic spaces. The 24-watt Natural Light fan has the advantage of Natural Light’s easy installation and 25-year warranty, plus a flush-mounted solar panel design that users loved for its durability in storms and relatively high air flow capacity. However, we feel the 36-watt fan from Natural Light is the best solar attic fan for most homes thanks to its air flow capacity nearly on par with the fan from GBGS paired with easier installation and a ridiculously long 25-year warranty that covers both the fan motor and solar panel.