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Our house's attic retains a great deal of heat during summer. While we now have a good layer of insulation between the attic and the rest of the house I wonder if it would be worth it to add some kind of exhaust fan. We live in a mid-Atlantic state so we have to contend with both 100°F summer days and 0°F winter nights.

The house still has the original slate roof so adding a typical roof-based system isn't an option. There are three small circular windows that provide some air flow, but not much. My thought was to install a fan in one of those windows to force a cross breeze during warm days.

Is this likely to save us any energy (given that the fan will have to draw some power)? Are there options for solar-powered small window exhaust fans out there?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are solar-powered gable fans - an Air Vent-brand fan can be picked up at Lowe's for just over $200:

fan

The solar panel is on a cord, so it can be installed in the most sunny area while the fan sits in the gable.

From the Air Vent website:

The Gable-Mount Solar Vent is an exciting alternative to traditional attic ventilation. That's because it is powered by a solar panel that collects energy directly from the sun and converts it into electricity -- naturally -- to power a durable, high efficiency 24-volt DC motor. As a totally solar-powered solution, it's also environmentally friendly.

Painless Installation
The best installation feature is that the fan requires no electrical hook-up. That means no electrician and no complicated wiring is required, making the installation of your attic fan fast and easy.

It mounts in the gable end of the home, behind a decorative shutter (not provided, see below). The solar panel comes with brackets that allow for mounting on the roof.

Smooth Operation
The solar panel collects energy throughout the day under direct sunlight and converts it into "free" power to operate the fan -- providing ventilation during daylight hours, when it's needed most.

It creates up to 800 cubic feet of air movement per minute to remove uncomfortable heat in the summer and damaging moisture in the winter. And, the solar panel is wind-, hail- and impact-resistant to stand up to the elements.

Specifications

  • Moves up to 800 cubic feet of air per minute
  • Solar panel collects and delivers power under direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day without electrical cost
  • Wind-, hail- and impact-resistant solar panel
  • High efficiency, durable 24-volt DC motor
  • 5-year limited warranty

shutter

Model #SHT15W

  • Plastic
  • Sold in the color white only but it can be painted to match a home’s exterior
  • Automatically opens when the power fan is running and then closes when the fan is not running
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neighbor just installed this in his house.. works great –  staticx Aug 5 '10 at 2:56
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There are powered gable vents you can install (cut a hole thru the side of the attic, or use the already provided gable vent) and they're fairly inexpensive. The best way to remove heat would be to use those small windows for makeup air and use a separate powered vent to exhaust the hot air.

The previous poster has a good suggestion about setting up a PV panel to run the fan, but in order to get sufficient airflow through the attic you'll probably need a pretty large sized PV setup which can get prohibitively expensive. I've been researching them for my motorhome - the rough thumb rule seems to be ~1000 dollars per 100 watts of solar power (I added in costs for batteries and inverter since your home doesn't already come equipped)

Even a smallish AC powered gable vent fan is going to pull 400 watts - so you can see how this gets expensive. There is a combination solar panel/attic vent kits which uses a DC motor but I'm not sure about the effectiveness. It seems to be rated fairly low in terms of air volume moved (800 CFM vs 1200-1600 for a 110v powered vent fan).

Exhausting your attic will definitely save you energy as you're removing a huge heatload from your air conditioning - the superheated air in your attic.

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This won't answer all of your questions but it may be something to think about:

Consider using a solar panel to power the fan. If you only need it running when it's hot (the sun is out) then it makes sense to use solar panel. It can run all day long without incurring energy costs.

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This only works if the fan will see the sun. It sounds like he's talking about a gable attic fan instead of a roof fan. –  Scott P Jul 21 '10 at 23:49
    
Yeah, I've only found those for the roof. If there is one that can sit in a window, I'd love to hear about it. I even though about rigging one up myself, but never got that far. –  acrosman Jul 22 '10 at 1:51
    
Depending on the design of the roof, he should be able to mount one facing the street (if the house faces the street) if he has a roof of this design ^ . Just make a hole, mount the fan and run the wire to the solar panel. –  staticx Aug 5 '10 at 13:08
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