Solar Chief’s Work Order #1: DIY Solar Energy Project - Install a Solar Attic Fan

One of the great things about a solar attic fan is that they can be installed anywhere, anytime making it a superb DIY solar energy project. You don’t need any permits or technician labor to have it installed. As it runs on solar energy, it’s logical that your solar power attic fan will only turn on during the day time. Interestingly, this is a great thing, because in hotter places the day time is when you really need the ventilation to work at its peak.

Finding the Right Solar Attic Fan Location

There are two popular places where people tend to place this unit: roof or the gable. The choice is really determined by the kind of requirements you have. If you want decent ventilation but also want to avoid rain from seeping into the house through cracks or openings, then you must have the vent in the gable. However, if you live in a dry place and peak ventilation is all you care about the roof is the best place as it receives maximum sunlight.

Analyzing Your Ventilation Scheme

Now you’ll need to do a little investigative do diligence to get the most efficiency from your solar fan because it’s best to place your solar power attic fan in a location where it will be the most effective. For this, you need to study your ventilation scheme and understand your home’s air movements. Based on your analysis you’ll find the sweet spot for your solar fan.

Enhancing Your Natural Ventilation Scheme

OK so let’s say you can’t find any vents and you need to find a good place to put it or the vents seem to be in the wrong spot (believe me this can happen). Remember we’re still talking “natural ventilation” here and have not yet gotten to the fan. The best way around this is to redesign or modify your natural vent scheme and add a few more vents. The best place to add these vents is near the roof to help take advantage of the chimney effect. This is easy to do just by purchasing the necessary hardware from the local stores.

Finding the Right Installation Location

As you may have guessed picking the best location for your solar power attic fan is based on the natural air movement analysis. As discussed you may find that there are already passive vents installed and they’ll be closer to the roof to push the air outwards. If you can fit your solar attic fan into one of these you’d have an ideal install. Typically, for such a setup you would not need to install a new vent. The only challenge though would be to find a fan that fits that vent.

Keep in mind that you must locate the solar attic fan downwind to ensure the ventilation is uniform throughout the attic. Also, sunlight exposure for your fan’s home solar power panel is a major factor in finding the best location.

Picking the Right Type of Solar Attic Fan

When it comes to fans you have two choices for this little DIY solar energy project: the complex distributed system and the simpler single unit system. Total cost for a one-piece unit (single unit system) is around $300. One-piece attic vent fans are simple to install. With single unit solar fans you need not play around with your attic ventilation system. If you can’t fit the fan into an existing passive vent then you’ll have to cut a hole in the roof, pull the shingles back, slide the unit up under the shingles, and install the fan in the hole. Seal the opening and carry out proper weather proofing and you’re all setup.

Of course while installing the fan you need to ensure that you avoid the trusses. The best solution to this is to locate a good spot from the attic and drill the holes from inside out. This way you will know exactly where to place the fan when you go on the roof. The only problem with the one piece systems is that your home solar power panel is integrated into the fan. So the best location on the roof may not get the most sunlight. Without sufficient sunlight, the fan is not of much use. Then you’ll need to look at the distributed solution.

This means after you buy your solar panel house attic fan it will have two sections. One section would have the actual fan and the other section would have your home solar power panel to power the fan. You would need to remotely install the panel to take advantage of the most sunlight.

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