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Why Attic Fans Are Important During Delaware Valley Winters

Written by Michele DuCoin and Samantha Brumbaugh

Many homeowners install attic fans in the summer because they are designed to vent out accumulated hot air in the attic. However, too few homeowners know that attic fans have year-round value.

In the wintertime, the role of an attic fan is reversed — this is arguably the most important time of year to have one. This is especially the case in New Jersey’s Delaware Valley. With Northeast winter temperatures ranging from bone-chilling cold to almost spring-like sunny days, an attic fan is essential to prevent damage to your home and to help you save money on your energy bills. 

What do attic fans do?

Attic fans work to equalize the temperature inside and outside of your home. The New Jersey Field Guide for Energy Auditors and Inspectors explains the importance of a properly ventilated attic, stating that “Attic ventilation is supposed to remove moisture from the attic during the heating season and to remove solar heat from the attic during the cooling season.”

Attic ventilation impacts a home’s energy efficiency and attics are often one of the most poorly ventilated areas of a home. Ventilation is essentially what allows a home to breathe and this is vital for a healthier living environment, a stronger and longer lasting home, and reduced energy costs. The main function of proper home ventilation is to retain cool, clean air and remove heat, moisture, and pollution.

There are three different types of ventilation that each uniquely works to improve the state of your home and the life of its inhabitants. The first type of ventilation is natural ventilation. Examples of natural ventilation include windows, screen doors, and pet doors. Natural ventilation is present in all homes to some degree. The second type of ventilation is whole-home ventilation and this is the most common form of ventilation found in modern housing. Whole-home ventilation includes exhaust ducts and vents throughout the home that work to circulate airflow and provide deliberate ventilation. The third type of ventilation is spot ventilation. Spot ventilation provides ventilation to a specific area of the home such as attics and basements.

An attic fan is a type of spot ventilation and its primary function is to remove moisture and hot air from the attic. They work simply by pushing out hot air from the attic and pulling in cooler air from outside. The constant exchange of moist, warm air from the attic with dry, cool air from outside prevents condensation. This same process also helps to prevent ice dams from forming by keeping the attic at an even temperature. Having an attic fan in the cooler months prevents the likelihood of costly home repairs and structural damage.

A look at one of Attics And More’s technicians installing a solar attic fan.

What could happen without an attic fan?

Condensation. In the winter, heat rises through a home and takes moisture and humidity along with it. The moisture and humidity originate from spaces like the kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom showers in addition to the heat that is constantly running in your home. When the humidity rises and increases in a space such as an attic, moisture condenses out of the trapped air and drips onto insulation and the building structure itself. 

The Department of Energy states that proper ventilation is one important piece of having a moisture control strategy. Without a strong moisture control strategy, your home is at risk for a whole host of problems.

If the insulation absorbs too much water, it becomes less effective and ultimately leads to heat loss in the home. If the structure of the home begins to absorb water it can result in wood rot, mold and fungus growth, and the breakdown of roofing materials altogether.

Water damage due to water leaking through a roof. [source]

Ice dams. When warm indoor air rises to the peak of an attic, snow on the heated part of the roof melts and flows down to a part of the roof that is below 32°F. The process of snow thawing and refreezing causes an ice dam.

Ice dams prevent proper drainage through gutters and downspouts and can wreak havoc on your home’s eaves, gutters, and roofing. Eventually, the water pushes its way into the attic through cracks in the roof and could then seep into your ceiling and interior walls. A solar attic fan prevents the attic from becoming warm enough to cause ice dams. 

Concentrated hot air in the attic could also heat up space under roof shingles. Over time, this will cause the shingles to become brittle and ineffective, ultimately shortening the lifespan of your roof.

Photo of ice damming on a roof. [source]

Why choose a solar attic fan?

According to the State of New Jersey Construction Code Communicator, “adequate attic ventilation is a long-standing requirement in building codes for moisture control.” It is imperative to have a properly ventilated attic at all times of the year.  All it takes to prevent attic-related winter woes is to install a solar attic fan on your home. Solar attic fans draw their power from the energy of the sun, cost nothing to run, and are an excellent way to improve a home’s energy efficiency all year long. Compared to solar attic fans, the increased costs to run electric-powered attic fans offset the cooling benefit they provide. Solar attic fans save energy and help you save money in the long run.

Choose Delaware Valley’s Best

Call us at 856-809-2744 or click here to schedule a free attic inspection and to learn how to prevent condensation and ice damming from causing your home the winter blues.