As the weather gets warmer, an even hotter topic always gets brought up: is an attic fan worth it? Some people swear by them, while others call them a waste of money.
But do attic fans make a difference? Should you get them in your home?
We’re here to settle the debate once and for all. But the truth isn’t super cut and dry.
Your satisfaction with attic fans will depend on several factors, such as:
- The climate you live in
- The kind of attic fan you install
- Your goal (energy savings vs. comfort vs. ventilation)
- Air sealing
This article will tell you everything you need to know about attic fans and what kind of attic fan may work right for your home. That way, you can decide: “Do attic fans make a difference?”
What Are Attic Fans?
Before we tell you about these fans, let’s talk about what they are.
Attic fans are perfectly named and give you a vivid picture of what they are: fans for attics. They are one of the more popular types of attic vents. When installed on the ceiling of your attic, they circulate the air in your attic.
The fan takes the hot and humid air in your attic, circulates it, and pushes it out of the house’s upper space. This way, hot, stale air under your roof isn’t sitting over your home. This is known as air exchange.
While a fan in a home’s attic works hand in hand with any roof or HVAC system, it is not a required component of an HVAC installation. They need separate installation, which varies widely depending on the type of attic fan, labor, and other required work.
You may wonder why you should bother installing these fans if it’s not required. What people love about these fans is the pressure they take off HVAC systems. Keeping hot and humid out of your attic before it radiates down into the living space is good for several reasons.
But do attic fans work? Let’s talk more about what they do and how they could help your home.
How Do Attic Fans Work?
There are many big claims about attic fans. You’ll hear how they can cool your house in the summer and keep your home nice and dry during the darkest, snowiest winters.
But how accurate are these claims, and do attic fans really help? Let’s get into the specifics of how these fans work.
We mentioned the air exchange, which means the fans push hot, humid air out in the summer. As attics reach 150-160 degrees, much hotter than outside, this can warm your house overall. You can even take your attic’s temperature to see how hot yours is. Alternatively, you can schedule an attic inspection to get more detailed insights from thermal imaging tools.
The hotter an attic is, the warmer the home will be during the summer. This means you’ll constantly increase how frequently you use your air conditioning.
However, by expelling the hot air, an attic fan brings your attic closer to the outside temperature. Your air conditioner can work on cooling your house rather than working against the air coming from your attic.
These fans also have some benefits in the winter. Often during colder months, the warm air from your home meets the cold air just under your roof. Check out our detailed post for more information on when to use an attic fan.
This could lead to excessive moisture and damage your roof from mold or ice damming. The fan will circulate the air, which could prevent any of this excessive moisture and potential damage.
How Attic Fans Don’t Work
Now that we’ve shown how these fans work let’s discuss what they don’t do.
Many people may get caught up in the promises of a fan, especially when it comes to energy savings. Maybe you’ve been told that an attic fan will cool your home in the hottest months, so much so that you can turn off your air conditioner.
But do attic fans cool down a house all on their own?
An attic fan cools and ventilates the attic, bringing the space closer to outside temperatures. This helps keep that hot air from passing into your primary living space. Because of this, you will feel more comfortable during the summer and likely not need to run your air conditioning as much. This can provide some energy savings relief.
However, running an electric fan in your attic means you still have to pay for the electricity so it can operate.
So, are attic fans good or bad? Will the costs to power the fan outweigh the benefit of energy savings? For electric-powered fans, possibly.
Fortunately, there are modern alternatives to get the benefits of active ventilation without paying for electricity.
How Solar Attic Fans Are Different
Solar attic fans work like electric fans and have all the same benefits. The difference is that you only pay for them after you pay to install them. They run on solar energy. So the only thing powering your attic fan is the sun rather than your electrical system.
With a solar fan in your attic, you can take the pressure off your air conditioning without paying for it in your attic. Unlike electric attic fans, this saves you money every month, especially in the hottest weeks of summer.
If you’ve been promised lots of savings with an electric attic fan, it’s understandable that you would be skeptical. But a solar attic fan will do everything you want your electric unit to do. It will push out hot air in the summer. It has been scientifically proven to cool the attic by an average of 20 degrees in hot climates. And it will keep your attic dry in the winter, preventing future costly roofing and maintenance issues.
Solar works all year round, so you won’t need to worry about your electric bill going up because you’re powering your fan in the hottest months. Your fan will run for 12 months of the year without costing you a dime after installation.
Read our review on the best solar attic fans.
The Pros and Cons of an Attic Fan
Now you know everything there is to know about how attic fans work, and you may be getting a good idea of whether it may be right for your home. But are attic fans good or bad?
We’ve laid out the pros and cons to give you the best idea of whether they would be a good fit for your home. Knowing the benefits and disadvantages will help you decide if fans in your attic would work in your home.
The Benefits of an Attic Fan
- Increase energy efficiency. By cooling down your attic, you can decrease your air conditioning. Your air conditioner is currently having to work against the sauna sitting on top of your living space. Give it a hand by cooling your home’s upper space to outdoor temperatures before your turn up the AC.
- Cool down a second story in your home. If you often find the second story is never as cool as your first one, this could be due to heat radiating down from the attic into your living space. With proper air sealing techniques and sufficient insulation, an attic fan helps prevent that heat from entering your home, keeping your upstairs more cool and comfortable.
- Decrease the possibility of damage to your roof. In colder months, the moist, warm air from your home interacts with the cold air under your roof, creating moisture and condensation that sits under your roof. Moisture is the enemy of a strong roof and could lead to expensive damage.
- Supports your attic insulation. Excessive heat and humidity can lead to the depletion of your attic’s insulation. An attic fan removes hot, humid air from the attic, taking pressure off your insulation materials.
- Solar fans are free to run. Get your power from the sun, and don’t pay after installation. The day after you install it, you can forget it’s there and reap the benefits.
The Disadvantages of an Attic Fan
- Electric fans can be costly to operate, depending on what you pay for power. Any savings you get from reducing your use of your air conditioning, you may see that money in your electric bill for operating the fan.
- Poor installation can lead to roof leaks, resulting in more expensive issues.
- For maximum financial benefit and comfort, you’ll need to ensure that your attic is properly air sealed and insulated.
- Won’t cool your entire house. These fans circulate air and push out hot air from your attic. While this helps to cool the top of the house and can reduce the hot air entering your home, it will not actively cool your house in the hottest months.
When Should You Use an Attic Fan?
An attic fan can be a beneficial addition to your home.
In general, attic fans can be used all year round to remove heat and moisture from the attic. However, they’re used primarily in the summer to eliminate extra heat and cool the attic, which can help cool your home by preventing heat from radiating into the living area.
During summer, attics can get as hot as 150 degrees. Preferably, they should be at most 100 degrees to prevent damage and issues with cooling down the rest of your home, but ideally, you want your attic to be as close as possible to the outside temperature.
Knowing when to use an attic fan can help you keep your home cooler, extend the life of your roof, and save you money on your energy bills.
If your attic is not ventilated well, the heat can build up in your attic and cause damage to your roof. An attic fan can help circulate the air and keep the temperature down.
If the humidity is high, the air in your attic can become moist and cause mold and mildew to grow. Running an attic fan can help remove moisture from the air and prevent this from happening.
Remember, you want your attic temperature to be close to the outside air temperature. You should consider running a fan to remove excess heat and moisture if it is.
Conclusion — Do Attic Fans Really Work?
Now that you have all the information about attic fans, it’s time to decide: Do they really work?
Based on our industry experience, the answer is yes. Attic fans do work. They will help circulate air in your attic and ventilate the space, so it stays closer to the outside temperature. Attics can reach incredibly high temperatures in the hot summer months and gather excessive moisture in the winter. Attic fans will help fight these problems.
Do they deliver a ton of energy savings? That answer will ultimately depend on where you live, the type of fan you install, and whether or not your attic is air sealed.
For those who live in cold or temperate climates that never touch 80 degrees, an attic fan may not be worth the installation price (if you’re only concerned about energy savings). Passive roof vents may be sufficient, and if your goal is to obtain energy savings, consider air sealing or adding insulation.
There is also the debate over electric vs. solar fans. Electric fans do what they’re supposed to, but you need to factor in the average cost to power them. Many electric-powered attic fans also only come with a 1-3 year warranty on materials, so you’ll likely need to replace them at some point. Solar fans will work year-round without costing you any money and also come with more extended warranties.
So, do attic fans really work? Yes! But it ultimately depends on what your goals are. If you’re looking for significant energy savings, you’ll need to leverage a fan with other practices like adding insulation and air sealing the attic. If you’re looking to add ventilation to help improve comfort and protect your roof, just installing an attic fan will help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do attic fans make a difference?
Yes, attic fans can make a difference in several ways.
A properly installed attic fan can remove the excessive heat build-up in the summer, cooling an attic space. This helps reduce the pressure on your insulation systems, preventing unwanted heat transfer into your living space. This ultimately makes your home feel cooler while alleviating the work that your air conditioning system needs to do.
In the winter, attic fans can also make a big difference by removing heat and moisture that escapes from the home. This helps prevent things like mold growth and ice damming.
Do attic fans really cool down a house?
Yes, attic fans can help your house feel cooler on hot days. With that being said, they are not going to cool your entire home.
To maximize an attic fan’s cooling benefit, ensure you have enough insulation in your attic and air seal all of the cracks and gaps. Other cooling techniques such as running ceiling fans, switching light bulbs over to LED, installing energy-efficient windows, and using smart thermostats are also good ways to help keep your home cool.
Do attic fans help AC?
Yes, attic fans can help with air conditioning (AC) by reducing the burden on the AC system. By removing hot and humid air from the attic space, attic fans can help to keep the attic cooler, reducing the amount of work required from the AC system to cool the home. This, in turn, can result in lower energy bills and reduced wear and tear on the AC system, potentially extending its lifespan.
Do attic fans help prevent mold?
Yes, attic fans can help prevent mold growth by removing moisture from the attic space. Mold thrives in moist and humid environments, and by removing humidity, attic fans can reduce the risk of mold growth. However, it is important to note that attic fans are not a cure-all for mold prevention and that proper insulation, ventilation, and moisture control are also important factors in preventing mold growth in the home.
Are attic fans good or bad?
Attic fans are good at what they do: removing unwanted heat and moisture from an attic.
They have earned a bad reputation because of poor quality products, installation, and education. There also needs to be a fundamental understanding of their benefits. Generally, a high-quality attic fan can provide ongoing active ventilation to protect your roof, support insulation systems, and help give some cooling benefits in certain climates.
Should an attic fan run all the time?
Running an attic fan all the time, in theory, is a good idea. You want your attic to be close to the outside temperature. However, if you have a powered attic fan, you may want it to run only some of the time because of the electric costs. In this case, setting a timer or thermostat might be worth consideration. Alternatively, a solar-powered attic fan can provide constant air flow if there is sunlight to keep it running. This is an excellent solution to getting the most benefit from a fan without worrying about operating costs.