First, it's key to know that the attic venting code is primarily designed for moisture removal, not superheated air in a hot climate. Click here to study the UBC code on attic venting. If you are considering the purchase of a solar powered attic fan, I encourage you to read this page completely. Get the facts before you buy any energy conservation product.
The importance of venting your attic cannot be overlooked. In cold climates, improper venting can lead to moisture buildup which causes mold to grow or wood rot in extreme cases. in cold climates, I have even found ice in the attic insulation. During the summer, stagnant, superheated attic air can dry out your trusses, increase your energy costs due to demand on the air conditioning unit, and make your house uncomfortable.
How did we become experts on attic
venting? Our patented reflective insulation products reject the
infrared heat emitted by hot roofs which in turn builds up in the attic and
makes it even hotter. Getting rid of this waste heat then forced us
to look at not only how homes are vented, but the US home building codes that
dictate what is needed for adequate ventilation. What we found was
amazing. Codes for attic venting are the same all over the US regardless
of the climate, and are designed for moisture egress, not the removal of hot
air. Furthermore, in most homes that do have venting, the vents are
plugged with insulation (see photos below).
Let's start with an understanding of basic physics: Hot air rises. But why? Heated air rises due to a differential in density (mass), where cooler, heavier air flows downward. I use the word flow because air is a fluid, which can be a combination of gases and liquids. Like a lava lamp, the colored liquid is heated, rises to the top, cools off (density is increased), then falls back to the bottom.
Think of the force required to raise a hot air balloon off the ground with 10 passengers, the tanks of propane, the weight of the basket and the balloon. Pretty impressive force if you think about it. Should be easy for hot air to rise out of your attic, right? Driven by the density differential, the exhausting of the hot air should bring in fresh air from vents located around the base of the roof (soffits). WRONG! There is no "pressure" that drives hot air out of an attic. The pressure (atmospheric), inside your attic is the same as it is outside (based on a no wind condition). Wind blown across a roof can create a positive pressure on the windward side and a lower pressure on the lee side. Only the differential buoyancy of heated air over the temperature of ambient air is different.
Using a tracer gas and smoke
generators, we have documented all types of attic venting, the appropriate
sizes that work in hot climates and have posted our findings below.
This is not a scientific study but observations made over the study of hundreds
of homes in all types of climates.
Our proven field results and recommendations (if using a radiant barrier material and passive vents):
What works, what doesn't:
CONTINUOUS SOFFIT VENTING
Continuous soffit venting is typically a 2" or 3" slot cut into the soffit into which is placed on a manufactured venting system made from plastic or metal. The plastic is typically molded with thousands of small holes (1/32" in diameter), to keep bugs out. Great idea, easy to install but falls short of offering sufficient net free area to allow enough air to move.
Another popular type is an aluminum strip with small louvers pressed into them.
BENEFITS: Easy to install and attractive.
PROBLEMS: The holes are too small (see photo below), to pass sufficient air preventing the attic from aspirating naturally. Most often these are covered with insulation or partially plugged over time with dust/pollen/spider webs .
See our formula below for how many to add per square foot of attic area.
This vinyl soffit covering is very popular as it completely eliminates the need for painting and/or maintenance on your home. Great idea! Unfortunately, it starves the attic for air and costs you higher utility bills and comfort.
SOLUTION: Cut in larger openings (8" x 16"), in the soffit and cover with a screened, louvered grill available on our online energy store! Click here.
The correct term is "air motor", also called roof turbines. It is thought that the spinning turbine creates some sort of suction which induces air movement. This has not been proven. They are often used in large commercial applications for venting smoke and fumes from a manufacturing plant. The wind spins the turbine which is connected by a shaft to a fan blade below which spins and pulls the air from the building. Turbines used in the residential market do not have these fans and therefore can exhaust only what the roof opening dictates. Mathematically, Pi times the radius squared equals the area, (A=3.14 x r x r) A 10" unit offers 78.5" of free net area, a 12" unit offers 113" square inches. Venting an attic using natural aspiration is based on net free area. Use this to calculate the size of intake vents (soffit) and exhaust vents (at the top of the roof). We recommend Aura Vents for natural venting. Whirlybirds are better than most vents but in my opinion, make a house look like an industrial building. Despite the small area of these vents, the vertical stack of this vent allows for the fastest flow of air from a hot attic. For best performance, these vents should be placed as close to the peak of the roof as possible.
O'Hagen Vents (typically for tile roofs): Somehow meet code, but attics with these vents that we smoke tested, showed little to no air movement.
"Pop" Vents: Better than nothing, but the openings are not big enough for air to efficiently move out of them.
Ridge Vents: Totally useless unless you live where the wind is consistently blowing. If there is no wind, a ridge vent is useless.
Since our reflective attic insulation products increase attic temperature by rejection instead of absorbing infrared heat, attic venting plays an important part of our system. Getting rid of this waste heat is essential to reduce energy consumption and increase interior comfort. If your home is like most and severely under vented, the most effective and cost effective way to increase venting is using our imported German attic fan. Install it in the hottest side of the house (South or West), so it will draw the coolest air possible (East or North side), into the attic.
Ridge Venting vs. Dormer Vents
Ridge vents are very attractive, easy to install and
makes all the sense in the world...but as we stated above, they just don't
work. Everyone thinks it best to put an attic exhaust vent at the peak
where the attic air is the hottest. Sounds logical except for one basic
fact: Hot air rises, it doesn't go down. A ridge vent design dictates hot
air must fight gravity and travel down
from the peak of the roof in order to escape. Even if it only
has to travel a short distance, it will not happen. This is
unrealistic and so is expecting this type of vent to be effective. The
only "driving force" that makes hot air leave an attic is the differential
density of the 140 degree F lighter attic air compared to the more dense ambient
outside air. Prove it for yourself: buy a 2000 CF smoke
canister, place it in a coffee can in the center of the attic and light
it. Then go outside and wait for the smoke to come out of the ridge
vent. Better bring a lunch, plenty of water and a good book....you
will be there awhile.
The roof you see above was built using a continuous ridge vent. When the hot weather came in April to this Phoenix home, the attic was like an oven despite the fact the intake venting (soffits), were doubled to insure good flow. We cut the first hole in this roof about noon to install the dormer vents you see above and the air came out so fast if you kicked the sawdust into the hole it would hit you in the face! Proof that the hot, stagnant attic air is not being vented properly and being trapped by the ridge vent design. Furthermore, the steeper the roof pitch, (like homes in Texas or the older Cape Cod homes in the Midwest), the less the ridge vent will work. This observation is based on fact, physics and common sense. Hot air does not fight gravity. Further, in cold climates, it only takes a few inches of snow to render ridge vents completely useless....when you need them the most to keep the roof from getting warm, melting the snow and creating ice dams. Inadequate venting is a major contributor to costly ice dams.
UPDATE ON THE ABOVE HOUSE: 5/11
As you just read, we installed the ridge vent on this
home in 1990 and found it to be absolutely worthless. Puffing smoke up
under the vent in a hot, stifling attic showed NO movement of air up through the
vent. So we went back and added the six dormer vents. The attic was
still too hot so we blocked off all the dormer vents, installed a 16"
German fan in the center, blocked off the oversized gable vents and now
drawing cool air in through the soffits. Over 20 years of testing and we
finally get it right? I once thought that passive vents would be
suffice when using a radiant barrier which makes attics hotter. On this
home the passive venting was many times what the minimum USB code required and
was still not enough. With summer soon upon us, we will be doing more
attic temperature testing but one thing is certain: after having
experimented with every type of vent combination available it appears the best
way to remove hot, stagnant air is by using a reliable powered
Dormer vents installed on the back side of a
home in Dallas where the hottest attic air temperature was ever recorded by our
NRG Auditor. Two reasons:
1) The underside of the roof decking was sprayed with silver radiant barrier paint thus lowering the emissivity and increasing the convective currents in the attic space.
2) Ridge vents trapped the hot air inside. The dormers shown here dropped the attic temp by 42 degrees. Solution: TCM6 over the insulation and increased venting.
Many homes do have soffit vents but are blocked by improperly installed insulation. Proper attic ventilation is necessary and the products listed below will help.
This procedure gives your attic the
air it needs to properly vent. In cold climates this equates to
adequate moisture removal and the elimination of the associated problems, like
mold growth and wood rot. In hot climates, the super heated attic air can
flow out the upper vent (if you have them), and draw cooler air in around the
house. This is what your architect and builder expected. However, in
most homes the insulation contractor may have plugged up some or all of your
soffit vents. Our home energy auditors have found most homes have this
problem. Check yours or click here to schedule an energy
audit for your home (if you live in the Phoenix area). If you have
questions about your existing attic vents, take a few digital pictures and send
them to us for evaluation. Take advantage of our knowledge and free
advice! Please, no more than six pictures. Take one of each
side of the home noting to make photos of the soffits vents (if any), gable
vents (if any), and one or two shots of the attic.
Step by Step Soffit Venting
Dormer vents installed correctly on the back side of an apartment building. The lower vents on the roof are intake vents, and the upper vents are exhaust vents. This type of venting, if correctly sized to the volume of the attic, can adequately vent the hot air out during the summer and moisture during the winter.
These are not seen from the front of the building and therefore do not detract aesthetically.
This shows a typical home store attic fan installed on a gable vent inside the attic. Although the mounting looks secure, the application is incorrect since the space around the fan is not blocked off. Air will always take the path of lease resistance. The fan will draw air from the closest point, in this case, from vent openings around the side of the fan. This means very little air will be exhausted from the attic! The open area around the fan shroud (the round ring), needs to be blocked off with cardboard or wood to make this type of installation effective.
Photos of what not to do:
"Yes, I have an attic fan, installed it myself"
The homeowner who installed this (and the insulation at the roof deck), was an engineer. Neither installation is correct. The fans will just move air around each other and not ventilate the attic. Furthermore, both fans were seized when we replaced them with one 14" German fan.
Great idea, improper installation
Summary: Think of the fan installed as an air
pump. The fan will exhaust air from the rear of the fan and push it
through the vent. The key is understanding where the intake air is being
provided. In all of the photos above, most of the intake air is being
drawn in around the fan since this is the path of least resistance. To
make this work correctly, all the area around the fan needs to be blocked off as
well as roof vents or soffit vents that are too close to the fan. When
designing a venting system that employs a powered fan, the goal is to evacuate
the hot air from the attic and bring in the coolest air possible. This
dictates mounting the fan on the hottest part of the home (the South or West
side), so the coolest air possible (the North or the East side), will be drawn
into the attic.
STAY AWAY FROM UNDERPOWERED SOLAR ATTIC FANS, THEY JUST DON'T MOVE ENOUGH VOLUME OF AIR. Great idea, not enough power and does not match the needs of the task. Attic venting is most needed between 1pm and 7pm and the solar fan reaches max power at noon.
We import a vibration free, powerful, reliable powered attic fan manufactured in Germany. This attic fan is unlike any other available. This fan features an external rotor to which the fan blades are welded. This unique design reduces blade flex and vibration, and eliminates one of the shaft bearings. The bearings are sealed and never need maintenance. We include an adjustable thermostat and an optional mounting box with this system. Install it, set the thermostat and forget about it. It costs 2 cents per hour at .10/KWH to operate. This equates to approximately $6/month!
14" 1800 CFM fan shown
To visit our online store to order click here
In homes that have gas appliances such as water
heaters or furnaces in the attic, great care must be taken to insure adequate
intake venting (gables/soffits), is provided so as to not create a negative
pressure that will draw combustion gasses down the chimney of gas
appliances. Installing an attic fan in this application has the
potential for fire or filling your attic with carbon dioxide. Just make
certain there is sufficient intake openings to circumvent this potential
To visit our online store to order click here
Pricey? Well, you could buy several home store fans for the price of one of these....then plan on replacing it every year because that's how long they last (see testimonial below). Once this job is done, you'll never want to do it again. With our fan....you won't because of the quality, the thermostat and sealed motor bearings that never need lubrication.
If you open the box upon delivery of this item
are not totally impressed with the craftsmanship and quality, return it for a
full refund. We are that confident of this item. We do not
offer any product on our site that have not been field tested in all
We fabricate this sheet metal box
for our Phoenix installations and thought we should offer it to our online
shoppers as well. The design, including large side
flanges, allows for a easier and more secure (thus quieter)
installation. This mounting box can cut the installation time
in half! It only costs $40 and this includes shipping if purchased with
This is how the fan will look when you open the
box. The fan is mounted to the sheet metal box and there is 6' piece
of 14 gauge Romex already pre-wired to the fan and thermostat.
We even provide a 2"x4" mounting box to mount the thermostat so all you need to do is run a 115 v power supply to the thermostat, mount the fan shroud to the wall, set the thermostat to 105 F and call it a day. Please note: the face plate and dial to the thermostat are in the small cardboard box.
Please email us with your questions,
technical and application issues. We do not want to increase the
price of these fans to include support so please, email first and if your
concerns cannot be addressed via email or our updated website, we can talk by
To visit our online store to order click here
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If you live in Phoenix, click here to find out about our
Home NRG Auditsİ. For those of you in cold climates, cut your heating
bills with our revolutionary Radiant Barrier Chips or our
latest patented energy product. Hot, sunny climate homeowners should
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To place an order click here