Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
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Last updated: May 09, 2021
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If you’re tired of paying extravagant electricity bills to cool your home during the hot summer months, a solar-powered attic fan can help save you money and keep you from burning up. These fans are designed to circulate air within your attic, which normally traps hot air. And since they run on solar energy, you won’t pay anything to run the fan and you’ll be able to use your air conditioner less and save money on your energy bill and carbon emissions in the process.
In order to help you find the best solar attic fan, we looked at a number of features that differentiate these fans. First, we looked at the air flow capacity and coverage, which need to match up with the size of your home and attic. We also looked at the fans’ power draws, which affect the size of solar panel you’ll need, and the dimensions and weight of different fans.
We spent tens of hours researching solar attic fans, poring through technical specifications and customer reviews, to come up with our list of the five best solar attic fans in the table below. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each fan, complete with pros and cons. Our buying guide covers everything you need to know about solar fans, from how they can help cool your home and save you money to what features to consider when choosing a fan. Finally, we sum up our three overall favorite solar attic fans for your home.
Users rave about this solar attic fan from Natural Light, which boasts a large solar panel and a significant amount of air flow. The fan is capable of moving 1,628 CFM of air in your attic, which provides coverage for a roughly 2,625-sqaure-foot attic space. However, it is worth noting that this fan also has the largest power draw of any solar attic fan we reviewed, at 36 watts. That means the solar panel is relatively large and will require a roof with a large daily dose of direct sunlight. Users noted that the fan will not run at capacity if there are any clouds, even if the air temperature outside is as hot as on a fully sunny day. Some users opted to connect this fan to their electric grid so that it would continue cooling into the evenings and overnight when the solar panel is not active.
Despite its size, this fan is relatively light at under 30 pounds and is able to install on a wide variety of roofs – from 3/12 to 12/12 pitch roofs. Users found that it lowers the temperature in the attic by five degrees or more during the summer and almost everyone who installed the fan noticed an immediate difference in the temperature in upstairs bedrooms.
One of the things that users loved about this fan was how easy it is to install. The instructions that come with the fan are clear and easy to follow, even for those without roofing experience. The fan comes with an impressive 25-year warranty that covers both the fan and the solar panels, so you can be sure that you’ll recoup your original investment in the fan over more than two decades of use.
Why are we impressed?
1,628 CFM for large coverage area
Easy to install by yourself
What negatives must you be aware of?
36 watts requires full sun to run at full capacity
For users with smaller attic spaces, there are few choices better than this solar attic fan from Natural Light. The 1,339 CFM fan provides plenty of air flow for attics up to 2,100 square feet, while the fan motor itself draws only 24 watts of power. That allows the solar panels on this fan to be relatively compact, with the whole unit weighing only 27 pounds. Plus, the fan will work even when there are some passing clouds in the sky and gives you more freedom in deciding where on your roof you would like to mount the fan. The effects of the fan are immediate, with cooling of several degrees noted by most users in upstairs rooms while there is almost no detectable noise emanating from the fan itself.
Users loved the low-profile design of the solar panels on this fan, which mount nearly flush with the roof. Users have found that the solar fan is unaffected by strong winds from either hurricanes or tornadoes. They also appreciate how durable the mount is since it is made from solid steel rather than a lighter, less sturdy material.
This solar fan is able to be installed on a wide variety of roofs, including pitched fiberglass and asphalt shingled roofs. Users note that it takes only a few hours to install when using the very complete instructions provided by Natural Light, and that the company’s customer service is very helpful when it comes to answering questions that come up during installation. The solar fan also comes with Natural Light’s 25-year warranty on the fan motor and solar panels, so you can be assured that this fan will pay for itself in electric bill savings over its lifetime.
Why did it make our list?
Only draws 24 watts of solar power
Mounts flush with roof for durability in strong winds
This large, 1,750 CFM solar attic fan is best for users who have a large attic, up to 2,800 square feet, with stagnant hot air that could get trapped in the corners with a smaller fan. Despite its large coverage area, this fan draws an impressively low 20 watts, which gives you plenty of freedom in placing the solar panels on the roof. Plus, GBGS designed their panel bracket so that it can rotate up to 90 degrees horizontally and the solar panels can be angled in increments of 15 degrees up to 45 degrees from the bottom bracket. That allows you to take advantage of the late afternoon sun and adjust the way the panel is facing if you wish to keep the fan running at full panel as the seasons shift from spring to summer to fall. This is also an advantage since you can fold the panel down in case of high winds during a storm.
This fan can be installed on a wide variety of roofs, including asphalt, shingled, or wood frame roofs, as well as any flat roof. Users found the installation process to be relatively straightforward, although they noted that the bottom bracket screws are hidden by the solar panels themselves, which can make it extremely difficult to get a screwdriver into the assembly. The fan itself is relatively quiet for its size, but some users reported a scratching sound as if the bearings are rubbing on the motor.
GBGS provides a 10-year warranty on the fan motor and a 20-year warranty on the solar panel so that you will be certain to recoup your initial investment in the fan. The motor is also protected by a thermal shutoff that prevents it from overheating, which helps to extend its lifespan far beyond the 10-year warranty period.
What stands out?
Solar panel is easily adjustable with seasons
Fan motor comes with thermal shutoff
10-year warranty on fan motor, 20-year warranty on solar panel
What cons did we manage to find?
Bottom bracket screws are difficult to access
Some fans have scratching sound from bearings rubbing
This inexpensive solar attic fan from Brightwatts makes it easy to recoup your investment, which is also great for users whose homes are just on the edge of using enough air conditioning to the point where a solar attic fan is economically beneficial. The fan is relatively small, with a 1,280 CFM air flow capacity that is capable of cooling attics up to 1,800 square feet. On the other hand, it also has a relatively reasonable 25-watt power draw that means you will have plenty of leeway in determining where to place the panels on your roof and won’t have issues if some clouds pass by. However, some users were annoyed by the built-in thermostat, which prevents the fan from turning on when the temperature in the attic is below 80 degrees – still hot enough to add heat to upstairs bedrooms.
Most users who purchased this solar fan opted to have a contractor install it since the installation is more difficult than on more expensive models. There is some wiring that need to be completed between the solar panel and the fan motor, although this also allows you to place the panels separately from the fan itself so you can collect the most sunlight. The solar panel mounts low enough to the roof that users report it surviving multiple hurricanes without damage. In addition, users found that it is almost impossible to detect any noise from the fan when it is running at full power.
Brightwatts offers a 10-year warranty on this solar attic fan, which is long enough to ensure that you will recoup your investment and is somewhat impressive given the low price point of this fan.
What do we love it for?
Solar panel is durable during storms
What were we disappointed with?
Thermostat prevents motor from turning on below 80 degrees
This small solar attic fan from Broan is perfect for people with small attic spaces or a second compartment in their attic that needs its own ventilation system. The fan has an air flow capacity of 537 CFM, which corresponds to an attic space roughly 1,000 square feet in area. Although the fan draws a surprisingly high 28 watts of power, this system weighs a minimal 22 pounds and has a significantly smaller footprint on your roof than any of the other solar attic fans we reviewed – the cut on your roof only needs to be 14 inches in diameter. The fan itself is mounted just underneath the solar panel, so there is no need to worry about exposed blades that could catch on something in your attic space.
The mount is made of ABS plastic rather than steel, although users found that this was plenty durable during storms. The solar panel also mounts low to the roof, which helps to prevent damage when high winds roll through. However, this low-profile design can also limit the number of suitable places you can put it on your roof since there is no adjustability in the panel to angle it upwards to capture sunlight. Therefore, the fan can have difficulty running at full power in the late afternoon when the sun is low in the sky.
Users loved Broan’s customer service whenever issues came up during installation, although most users were able to follow the installation instructions with no problem. However, it is worth noting that Broan only offers a one-year warranty. Although users report this fan working for many years, the lack of protection compared to other fans can be a significant drawback.
Why did it make our list?
Small and lightweight with no exposed fan blades
Durable ABS plastic construction
Good customer service
What is not ideal about it?
Only one-year warranty
Low-profile solar panel can make it hard to capture sunlight
Things to Consider
Now that you’ve learned more about our five favorite solar fans on the market today, how do you decide which solar fan is right to add to your home before the coming summer? In our buying guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about solar attic fans, with special attention to the features you need to consider when choosing a fan to install in your home.
What is a solar attic fan and how does it work?
A solar attic fan is simply a mechanical fan, similar to those you likely have elsewhere in your house, that is installed in your attic and powered by solar panels on the roof. Most attic fans don’t even need to be connected to your home’s electrical circuitry for backup power since you only need the cooling effect of the fan on hot, sunny days when the solar panels are working at maximum capacity.
These fans might seem like a small addition to your home, but they can provide a significant cost savings on your electric bill by reducing the amount you need to run your air conditioner. By circulating hot air in the attic, these fans are able to remove heat from one of the places it tends to pool inside your house and pull in fresh, cooler air. The result is that your attic won’t overheat, keeping the rooms below from heating up in turn and extending the life of your shingle roof by preventing the shingles from heating from below.
One thing to note about solar attic fans is that they can be somewhat expensive to purchase and install – which means that you’ll need to get at least several years of use out of the fan to recoup your initial investment.
However, unlike traditional powered attic fans, solar fans do not cost anything to run once they’re installed. They also don’t draw nearly as much power as traditional fans, so there are no concerns about generating negative air pressure that can pull conditioned air or unwanted gases like carbon monoxide from your oven into the attic.
Features to consider while choosing a solar attic fan
How do you know which solar attic fan is right for you? In this section, we’ll cover the most important features that differentiate solar attic fans to help you choose the fan you need.
Does power matter?
Since solar attic fans don’t cost anything to power, the amount of power that they draw only affects the size of the solar panels that will be needed on your roof. If you have a roof that does not have much sun exposure or much space to install solar panels, then power can matter quite a bit – your panels will need to capture enough sun to consistently meet the power requirements of your fan. However, for roofs that have plenty of direct sunlight, the power of your fan is likely not an important consideration when choosing a fan.
How much space do you need to be ventilated?
If power is not a concern, you can base your decision of which solar attic fan to buy based largely on the square footage of your attic. A larger fan will be able to circulate more air, which is important if you have a large attic with lots of hot air that needs to be recirculated. Typically, attic fans’ abilities to move air is measured as airflow capacity in cubic feet per minute (CFM), and a 1,000 CFM fan should be able to provide enough air flow to circulate air over a 1,600-square foot or greater square foot attic. Thus, a 1,000 CFM fan is considered to have a coverage area of 1,600 square feet, while the 1,750 CFM fan from GBGS will have a coverage area of up to 2,800 square feet.
Consider size and weight
A bigger fan, with a larger coverage area, will almost always be larger and heavier, although this also depends on the design materials – for example, the small 1,280 CFM fan from Brightwatts weighs 28 pounds compared to the 34.5-pound 1,750 CFM fan from GBGS. Size can be important if you have limited space in your attic or a small entryway, since you need to be able to get the unassembled fan into the attic and have the blades rotate without obstructions.
Weight is a consideration for where exactly you can install the fan, since a heavier fan will require more support from your roof.
It will take more than a few years’ worth of use to recoup the initial investment into your solar attic fan with savings on your electric bill from using less air conditioning. Therefore, it is essential that your fan will last for many years to come. You can ensure that this will be the case by choosing a fan with a long warranty – for example, both Natural Light fans come with 25-year warranties. Remember to ensure also that the warranty covers both the fan motor and the solar panels, since either of these components can be expensive to replace.
How to install a solar attic fan?
Although many people opt for professional installation of their new solar attic fan, you can save money by tackling this project yourself. You will need to first install the roof brackets and fall-arrest system for the solar panels to the desired location on the roof. Then you will need to use a reciprocating saw to cut the shingles on the roof to the shape of the circular base of the fan, and mount the fan to the roofing brackets. You can secure this with caulk and then use a roofing nail to replace shingles in the area immediately around the brackets.
Solar fans can’t lower the temperature of the outside air they’re bringing in, but by moving warm air out of your attic and bringing outside air in they will lower the overall temperature in your attic.
Where on your roof you install your solar panels will depend on the setup of your roof and the power required by your fan. If you fan does not require much power, you may be able to install it anywhere on your roof if your roof receives a lot of direct sunlight. However, if you have a high-powered fan and a roof that receives direct sunlight for only part of the day, you will want to install the fan in the area that receives the most light – which is often to the southern-facing side of the roof.
Yes. Solar attic fans were originally developed for homes in Florida, where hurricanes are a common threat. As a result, most solar attic fans have been designed to withstand severe winds over 100 miles per hour.
Our three overall favorite solar attic fans on the market today are the 36-watt and 24-watt fans from Natural Light and the 20-watt fan from GBGS. The GBGS fan is perfect for large attics thanks to its 1,750 CFM air flow capacity, and users greatly appreciated the ability to move the solar panel using the adjustable base to continue capturing light as the sun moves with the seasons. The 24-watt Natural Light fan has the advantage of Natural Light’s easy installation and 25-year warranty, plus a flush-mounted solar panel design that users loved for its durability in storms and relatively high air flow capacity. However, we feel the 36-watt fan from Natural Light is the best solar attic fan for most homes thanks to its air flow capacity nearly on par with the fan from GBGS paired with easier installation and a ridiculously long 25-year warranty that covers both the fan motor and solar panel.