Should I Use a Solar Attic Fan in Florida?
Florida’s summer heat can be brutal and so can the accompanying cooling bills. Though we tend to notice the stifling heat’s impact on our day-to-day lives, sometimes, the indirect impacts are the real problem. Improper ventilation and heat buildup can wreak havoc on your home.
While you may not be thinking of cooling your attic every day, it needs cooling and ventilation just like the rest of the rooms in your home. Solar attic fans are an investment that can save you from major home damage. If an attic isn’t properly ventilated, it can lead to moisture build-up, which in turn can cause wood rot and mold growth. Solar attic fans, powered by the sun, work to increase or improve the air circulation in your attic and facilitate ventilation.
Modern Solar Energy Use: What Is a Solar Attic Fan?
More recently, certain products have been developed that harness the sun’s rays for specific purposes. One such product is a solar attic fan. These fans are powered by the sun to increase or improve the air circulation in your attic and facilitate ventilation. If an attic isn’t ventilated sufficiently, it can lead to moisture build-up, which can cause wood rot and mold growth.
Even though most building codes mandate that new homes have a passive ventilation system, these systems generally don’t provide enough pressure to move air through an attic to the outdoors. A solar attic fan can be used to pull air into your attic, circulate the air through the space and move the air back outside.
Ideally, a ventilation system is designed to continuously move air through your attic while keeping moisture out. A solar attic fan used in conjunction with a passive ventilation system achieves this. Using a solar fan in your attic forces air in, through and out of your attic. During the summer, a solar attic fan can lower the temperature in your attic by as much as 50%.
In addition to preventing the buildup of moisture and lowering the temperature in your attic, the benefits of solar attic fans include the following:
- Protection for your roof: By preventing the condensation of moist air, a solar attic fan can protect your roof and prolong its useful life. Depending on where you live and other factors, you may decide to run your attic fan year-round.
- Energy cost reduction:
If you don’t have an attic fan, stagnant air stays in your attic without being refreshed. During the summer, this causes heat to build up, and the average temperature in an attic during the summer is 160 degrees F.
Because your attic is so hot, the air conditioning that keeps your living space cool has to work harder since the heat that’s stored in your attic transfers to the rest of your house. A solar attic fan stops the buildup of hot air, prevents your air conditioner from having to increase its workload and saves you money as a result. The great thing is it does all of this without adding to your utility costs because it is powered by the sun rather than by electricity.
Tax savings: At least until the end of 2016, having a solar attic fan installed in your home can help you save money on your federal tax return. Depending on where you live, you may also save money on your state and local taxes if you go through with a solar attic fan installation.
Costs vs Benefits of a Solar Attic Fan
The cost of a solar attic fan will depend on numerous factors, including its cfm and manufacturer. Current prices for certain types of solar attic fans range from around $375 up to just under $800. According to HGTV.com, a solar attic fan installation costs between $100 and $150. Of course, that cost will vary depending on where you live and the company you hire to install your solar attic fan, among other factors.
Despite the upfront costs involved with installing a solar attic fan, installing one is the type of home improvement project that will pay you back in both the short- and long-terms. As was mentioned in the discussion of the benefits that solar attic fans provide, installing a solar attic fan will start to pay you back in the short-term by reducing your federal tax burden and, possibly, the amount of tax you owe to your state.
If you buy a solar attic fan and have it installed in your home before the end of this year, you will be entitled to a 30 percent tax credit on your federal taxes for the amount you paid to purchase and install the unit. This generous tax credit applies to solar attic fans purchased and put into service between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2016.
To appreciate the true value of this federal tax credit, you have to understand what a tax credit is. Unlike a tax deduction, which reduces the amount of your income that is subject to taxes, a tax credit reduces the amount of tax you owe on a dollar-for-dollar basis. If you spent $500 on your solar attic fan and paid a company $150 to install it, you would be able to claim a credit of ($500 + $150) x .30, or $195, on your federal tax return. If you owed $600 in federal tax before you bought and installed your solar attic fan, you would owe just $405 after your equipment was put into service. To see if you’re eligible for a tax credit at the state level, you should contact your state’s department of revenue or your tax preparer.
In addition to helping you save money on your federal taxes in the short-term, installing a solar attic fan can help you save money on your utility bill over time. How quickly your fan will pay for itself depends on various factors, including how much you paid for your fan and its installation, the energy prices in your area and the efficiency of the insulation you have in your attic. Depending on these things and a few other factors, it is possible that your solar attic fan can save you enough on the cost of utilities to have paid for itself in as little as one or two summers of use. Some experience 30% lower cooling costs by using an attic fan.
How Solar Attic Fans in Florida Differ From Full House Fans
Now that you’re familiar with what solar attic fans are, how they work and the benefits they provide, you may be wondering how they differ from full house fans. The biggest difference between a solar attic fan and a full house fan can be found in their very purposes. As was explained earlier, the purpose of a solar attic fan is to circulate air through your attic to facilitate the ventilation of the space and protect your home. The purpose of a full house fan is to cool down your entire living space.
In general, people use their full house fans to cool their houses at nighttime. A solar attic fan is designed to run when the temperature in your attic rises to a certain temperature, such as 90 degrees F. A full house fan, on the other hand, you typically turn on when the temperature outside drops lower than the current temperature in your home and can bring the inside to a more comfortable level.
Like a solar attic fan, a whole house fan can help lower your energy costs, too. A typical whole house fan draws between 200-700 watts compared to the 2,000-5,000 watts that are usually drawn by a central air conditioner. This means a full house fan uses only about 10-20 percent of the power that a central air conditioner uses to cool your living space. Therefore, during an evening when the temperature goes down, it can be more energy efficient to use a whole house fan for cooling your home rather than the air conditioner.
Like a solar attic fan, a whole house fan is normally mounted in the attic of a home, but in a different location. A solar attic fan is typically located near the peak of a roof, where the hottest air is, in a location that’s central to your attic’s intake vents. A full house fan is ordinarily mounted in the floor of an attic, behind a rectangular grill, above a central hallway. To use a whole house fan, you first open windows on the first floor, close the damper in your fireplace and turn on the fan. The fan then draws the cooler exterior air inside and pulls it through your living space.
Solar attic fans and whole house fans differ in other ways as well, including the number of cubic feet of air they move per minute and their venting requirements. As a general rule, a solar attic fan should be big enough to provide 10 changes of air per hour.
To calculate your needs, measure the number of cubic feet of volume in your attic. Then, multiply your attic volume by 10 air changes per hour to determine the flow of air your space requires. Next, divide your total flow by 60 to get the cubic feet per minute, or cfm, you’ll need. Since fans are typically rated in cfm, this number will help you identify the size of the fan that will do best in your space. It will also tell you if you’ll need more than one solar attic fan. Additionally, in most cases, you’ll need to have at least one square foot of exhaust for every 360 cfm.
Typical full house fans normally have a rating that’s between 2,000-6,000 cfm. In general, a whole house fan requires one square foot of exhaust for every 750 cfm. If your vents have insect screens on them, you’ll need to make your exhaust openings approximately 50 percent larger than the general requirement.
Another way solar attic fans differ from full house fans is the complexity of their respective installations. Since a solar attic fan doesn’t run off of electricity, wires don’t have to be run during a solar attic fan installation. Whole house fans, on the other hand, are much more labor intensive and time consuming for their installations since they are heavier and must be wired for electricity.
Environmental Benefits of Using Solar Energy
One final way in which solar attic fans are different from whole house fans is their carbon footprints. Full house fans need electricity to work, and electricity is normally generated from oil and coal or natural gas. When oil and coal are burned to produce energy, greenhouse gas emissions are released, which can harm the environment as they continue to build up in the atmosphere over time. Since solar attic fans don’t require electricity, using them doesn’t release greenhouse gas emissions or add to the pollution in the air.
Even though a lot of high-tech equipment might be needed to produce solar equipment, the process to create this equipment does less damage to the environment than the mining, drilling and fracturing that are required to extract coal, oil and natural gas from the earth. In fact, the International Panel on Climate Change reported that coal and natural gas can produce between eight and 51 times as many damaging greenhouse gas emissions as home solar power production does.
Additional environmental benefits of using solar energy include the following:
Reduced risk: Extracting coal, oil and natural gas from the earth and transporting these fossil fuels have environmental risks associated with them that generating solar power simply doesn’t. When oil is being transported, for instance, there is always the chance a spill might occur — which may have devastating effects on the environment. After an oil spill involving the vessel, Exxon Valdes, it took sea otters 25 years to recover to their pre-spill levels, for example.
Reduced dependency: As alternative energy sources such as solar power are used more often by private consumers and businesses, the nation’s dependency on fossil fuels will drop. Currently, only about one percent of electricity is derived from solar power, even though the sunlight that hits the earth every day is more than 2,500 times the amount of energy used in the United States daily.
Reduced depletion: As the nation’s dependency on oil, coal and natural gas decreases, the need to harvest these resources from the earth will also drop. This will slow the depletion of the country’s finite fossil fuel supplies.
The History of the Solar Attic Fan
Thomas Edison is widely considered the greatest inventor of all time. Edison filed his first patent for one of his inventions when he was just 22 years-old and employed as a telegrapher. Edison’s first known invention was an electrographic voice recorder designed to help members of congress record their votes faster than could be done using the traditional voice vote system.
It’s common knowledge that Edison went on to invent other things that had an even greater impact on society as a whole. The forward thinker invented the light bulb, for instance, along with what is believed to be his favorite invention, the phonograph. In the first message recorded on the phonograph, Edison recited, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Although Edison died of natural causes on October 18, 1931 at the age of 84, some of the conversations he reportedly had with other pioneers of his time, including his friends, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, were chronicled in a book written by James D. Newton that was published more than 50 years after Edison’s death. In his book, entitled Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh, Newton credits some of his friends with a fond appreciation for the natural forces of the earth that might be harnessed to provide power.
During one conversation described by Newton, Firestone wondered about the amount of research that was dedicated to using wind to provide power. Ford mentioned the potential that tides had to provide power. According to Newton, Edison responded by saying he would bet on the sun and the use of solar energy as a source of power. The inventor continued by lamenting that he wished he had more time left in his life to see what the future held for alternative sources of power.
While some critics have questioned the accuracy of Newton’s account, the author always maintained that he kept a detailed record of events and a diary of the conversations he shared with his comrades. He only used the work of other writers who discussed his friends to “jog” his memory as he wrote his book.
Regardless of whether the conversation briefly described above was retold verbatim in Newton’s book, it is amazing to think that three of the greatest minds of their generation contemplated the ability of the earth’s forces, including solar energy, to provide power on a wide-scale basis. Even during Edison’s life, other innovative thinkers began making advances toward some of the solar equipment we use today.
As early as the seventh century BC, people used the sun’s rays to ignite fires. In ensuing centuries, the sun was used to light torches for religious ceremonies, set fire to war ships, and warm Roman bathhouses and other buildings. The world’s first solar collector was built by scientist, Horace de Saussure, in 1767. About a century later, French mathematician, August Mouchet, laid the groundwork for solar-powered steam engines which proved to be the predecessors of modern parabolic dish collectors.
Contact Del-Air Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Electrical Today
If you’d like a quote for the cost of a solar attic fan and its installation, contact Del-Air Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Electrical today. Whether you need a solar attic fan, a brand new HVAC system or something else, the talented professionals in our sales department can provide a quote for you in 10 minutes or less. With more than 400 fully stocked trucks staffed with expert, experienced technicians, we can install the system you need the very next day.
At Del-Air Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Electrical, we are 100 percent committed to making sure you are comfortable in your home at all times. That’s why we’re dedicated to providing the HVAC equipment and services you need to keep your home properly heated and cooled whenever you need them.
Our goal is to provide prompt service at competitive prices. We make certain you get the greatest value possible even when you don’t need a brand new system. We provide all manufacturer rebates and we’ll take the time to qualify you for any relevant rebates offered by your local utility company as well. We also offer financing for new systems to people with approved credit for as little as $79.95.
When you choose Del-Air Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Electrical for your HVAC needs, you’re working with a company that’s as invested in maintaining the comfort of your home as you are. That’s why we offer a full range of maintenance and service programs to ensure your system is operating as effectively and efficiently as possible at all times. That’s also why we sell and service every major brand — to ensure you have the system that suits your home the best and that you have someone you can trust to keep your system running properly for as long as possible.
Your in-home comfort and complete satisfaction are our highest priorities whenever you contact us. Don’t just take our word for it, though. Read below to see what some of our clients have said about Del-Air Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Electrical:
“Prompt, fairly priced, lots of long-term, highly experienced technicians. I have used Del-Air for over 20 years at two different homes!” – L.M., Sanford
“You guys knew exactly what the problem was and fixed it very quickly and got my AC up and running again.” – R.C., Tampa
“Fast emergency response. Techs are polite and professional. On this occasion, our system wouldn’t come on. The condensation had to be cleaned out and drained. Chris was very inventive using a hose attached to a wet vac to clean everything out and get things started again. It was pouring out and he got soaked running between the garage and the outdoor drain, but he got the job done. Thanks.” – C.S., Fort Myers
“You guys were able to get to us in a quick and professional manner. The tech was friendly and a delight to welcome into our home. Thank you so much.” – P.V., Kissimmee
If you’d like to learn more about what we can do to keep your home properly heated and cooled, contact Del-Air Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Electrical today. We’re here for you.