Attics are great places to store things, play, or just hang out in a cozy space. But attics are also great places for heat and moisture, and heat and moisture are a perfect combination to create mold and mildew. In some areas, the temperature in an attic can rise to over 150 degrees.
Luckily most homes are built with vents that encourage airflow throughout the attic space so that heat and moisture are less likely to build up.
According to Gina Richardson, Manager of Brighter Concepts of Madison, “… a newer home which is tightly sealed traps moisture in a damp basement so excess moisture rises to your attic.” Improper ventilation of the attic is the prime cause of heat and moisture creation in your attic. What do you do, then, when you have a high heat and moisture problem in your attic? Fortunately there are easy cost-effective solutions so that this won’t be a problem.
Electric Attic Ventilators
An attic ventilator measures the temperature and/or humidity in the attic. Some ventilators only measure the temperature, others measure only the humidity, and some do both. Electric powered attic ventilators have a down side in that the temperature and/or humidity level has already reached a high point before it is engaged. This means that the ventilator is working over time to reduce heat and moisture down to a safe level.
In addition, attic ventilators run via electricity are very inefficient. To work, this type of attic ventilator draws in air from anywhere, including from inside your house. If you are running your air conditioner and the equipment is drawing in this air, then essentially you are cooling your attic in a very expensive manner. Not only will you be paying for electricity to run your air conditioning, but you will also be paying to have the electric attic ventilator run, too.
Plus, there is a good possibility that the air-conditioned air re-circulating in your attic has a high humidity content that, unfortunately, provides a perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow.
Solar Attic Ventilators
In comparison, a solar powered attic ventilator is constantly in use. This mean that it is measuring temperature and humidity levels around the clock and engages before these levels get too high. Solar attic ventilators are design to pull air in from the outside and not from inside your home. With this type of system in place, your air conditioner will not work as hard to keep the interior of your home at a comfortable temperature.
The power to run the attic ventilator is provided by the sun, so your electric bill is not impacted. Plus, you may be eligible to reduce the cost of the solar powered unit and installation (up to 30%) by applying for a federal tax credit.
Selecting a Solar Attic Ventilator
There are a few important things that you want to look for when purchasing a solar attic ventilator. The unit:
- Should be made entirely of steel and metal without plastic parts. (Plastic parts can melt in the sun.)
- Should have stainless steel brackets, rodent guards, and hardware.
- Should be able to withstand winds up to 170 miles per hour.
- Should have a highly efficient variable speed motor.
- Should be corrosion resistant to withstand rain, snow, and heat.
- Should have a powder-coated finish.
The solar panel itself should be commercial grade that is impact resistant and be made with mono-crystalline solar cells that are more efficient that polycrystalline cells.
You should find a variety of mounting styles for a solar attic ventilator. Different mounting styles give you the option of mounting the ventilator on a gable, wall, curb-mounted, or flash-mounted.
Advantages to Proper Ventilation
Not only does a properly ventilated attic keep heat and humidity levels low, it also results in the following:
- Insulation in your attic and throughout your home will be less likely to absorb water, thus making mold growth difficult to get started.
- Reduce the possibility of condensation forming throughout your home. Condensation can also contribute to mold growth and mildew smell.
- Help to make sure that your roof is in top shape for a long time.
- Potentially lower your energy bills for heating and cooling.
Solar Attic Ventilator Installation
Installing a solar attic ventilator is not too difficult, however it is probably best to have a professional installer do the job. Most times the ventilator is installed at the highest point of your roof. This enables the unit to perform at its best in reducing heat and humidity build-up while circulating air throughout the attic.
According to DIYNetwork.com, if you want to try and install a solar attic ventilator, you will need:
- A saw
- A tape measure
- A drill
- Wire stripper pliers
- And a pencil.
You will also need:
- DC-powered thermostat
- 40-watt solar panel
- 12-volt DC attic fan
- 2 x 4 lumber
- standard electrical box
- water tight connector
- wire connector nuts
- rubber butyl sealant
- Z-shaped bracket mounts
- Preassembled solar-powered attic fan kit
These steps are to install a solar powered attic ventilation unit on a flat-pitched roof.
Place your unit facing due south. You will be installing a flush mount unit.
Following the writing diagram on the unit, connect the writing to the terminal box.
Add the watertight connector to the outside of the terminal box to keep it dry.
Strip the 14-guage wire, and then thread it through the terminal box opening.
Connect the positive (red) wire to the positive terminal and the negative (black) wire to the negative terminal.
Add the watertight lid to the box. Tighten all connections and the lid.
Locate the rafters on your roof. Attach the unit to the roof using Z-bracket mounts. Apply butyl sealant under each of the Z-brackets prior to drilling the brackets into the roof.
Run the electrical cable from the unit along the roofline, securing it to the roof approximately every 18-inches.
Next, install the fan in the attic by measuring and cutting a 2 x 4 brace. Drill the necessary holes and attach the brace with screws.
Connect 14-gauge cable to the fan with positive (red) wires to the positive, and negative (black) wires to the negative. If everything is working correctly, the fan should start moving.
You may have an additional step if you are installing a thermal switch/temperature controller.