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 complete 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
In this article, we’re going to 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 for yourself “Do attic fans make a difference?”
What Are Attic Fans?
Before we tell you all about these fans, let’s talk about what they actually 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 at the top of your house.
The fan takes the hot and humid air that sits 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 will require their own installation which varies widely depending on the type of attic fan, labor, and other associated work required.
So you may be wondering why you should bother installing these fans if it’s not required. What people love about these fans is the pressure they take off of your HVAC system. By keeping the top of your house cooler in the summer and your insulation dry in the winter, it can reduce your need for an AC or heating to go into overdrive.
But do attic fans really work? Let’s talk more about what exactly they do and how they could possibly help your home.
How Do Attic Fans Work?
There are many big claims about fans for the top of your home. 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 true 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 that means the fans push hot, humid air out in the summer. As attics reach 150-160 degrees, much hotter than it even is outside, this can warm your house overall. You can even take your own 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 find yourself constantly increasing the amount of presses you put on your air conditioner.
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.
This could lead to excessive moisture and possibly some damage to 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 talk about what they don’t do.
Many people may get caught up in the promises of a fan for the top of the house. Maybe you’ve been told that an attic’s fan is going to cool your home in the hottest months, so much that you can turn off your air conditioner.
But do attic fans really cool down a house? This is probably not the case.
An attic’s fan cools and ventilates the space, bringing attics to outside temperatures instead of allowing them to warm to extreme temperatures. Therefore, your air conditioning will not need to work as hard. However, an attic fan will not cool an entire house.
Now, what about the cost? Because attic fans take away some of the work that your air conditioning would be doing, you will spend less on running your air conditioning.
However, running an electric fan in attics could mean the cost just goes towards the attics rather than the air conditioner.
So are attic fans good or bad? Well, there is thankfully an alternative to choosing between no attic fan or paying for an electric attic fan.
How Solar Attic Fans Are Different
Solar attic fans work just like electric fans and have all the same benefits. The difference is that after you pay to install them, you never pay for them again. They run on solar energy. So the only thing powering your attic fan is the sun rather than your electric bill.
This means that with a solar fan in your attic, you can take the pressure of your air conditioning without paying for it in your attic. Unlike electric attic fans, this can actually end up saving 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 that you would want your electric unit to do. It will push out hot air in the summer. In extremely warm climates it has been scientifically proved to cool the attic by an average of 20 degrees. 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 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?
To give you the best idea of whether they would be a good fit for your home, we’ve laid out the pros and cons. Knowing the benefits as well as the 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 that is 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 just is never as cool as your first story, 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 just under your roof and 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 depleting your attic’s insulation. An attic fan removes hot, humid air from the attic, taking pressure off of 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, you can forget it’s there and simply 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 just see that money in your electric bill for the fans.
- Poor installation can lead to roof leaks, which can result in more expensive issues.
- For maximum financial benefit and comfort, you’ll need to make sure that your attic is properly air sealed and insulated.
- Won’t cool your entire house. These fans serve to 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.
Conclusion — Do Attic Fans Really Work?
Now that you have all the information about attic fans, it’s time to decide: Do attic fans really work?
Based on our industry experience, the answer is, yes. Attic fans do really work. They will help to circulate air in your attic and ventilate the space so that it stays closer to the outside temperature. Attics can reach extremely high temperatures in hot, summer months and gather an excessive amount of moisture in the winter. Attic fans will help fight these problems.
Do they really 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 air sealed properly.
For those who live in cold or temperate climates that never touch 80 degrees, an attic fan may not be worth the price of installation (if you’re only concerned about energy savings). Passive roof vents may be sufficient and if you’re goal is to obtain energy savings, you may want to 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 longer warranties.
So do attic fans really work? Yes! But 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 simply looking to add ventilation to help with comfort and to protect your roof, just installing an attic fan will definitely help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do attic fans make a difference?
Attic fans can make a difference in a number of ways. In the summer, a properly installed attic fan can remove excessive heat build up, providing cooling to 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 also alleviating the work that your air conditioning system needs to put forth. 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?
Attic fans can help your house feel cooler on hot days. With that being said, they are not going to cool your entire house. To maximize the cooling benefit of an attic fan, make sure 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.
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 and installation. There is also a fundamental misunderstanding of the benefits that they provide. This has led to debate on their overall effectiveness. In general, a high-quality attic fan can provide ongoing active ventilation to protect your, support insulation systems, and help provide 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 not want it to run all 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 as long as there is sunlight to keep it running. This is a great solution to getting the most benefit from a fan without having to worry about operating costs.