The Best Attic Fans for Home Ventilation

Stay cool when choosing the right method for ventilating your attic. See our top tips and recommendations ahead, and don't miss our top picks!

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The Best Attic Fans Option

Photo: amazon.com

No matter how well-insulated your attic might be, direct sun on your roof can result in heat radiating into the attic space. This prolonged exposure to heat can affect your shingles and sheathing from the inside out. This heat, combined with moisture and a lack of airflow, can also promote moisture buildup and mold growth.

Ventilation helps maintain a healthy attic space—both for your roof and for your family. Attic fans perform this ventilation by pushing hot air out into the environment while also pulling fresh, cool air into the attic. The result is a cooler attic space with plenty of air exchange, which helps safeguard against mold.

Ahead, learn about the types of attics fans and read details on our top-favorite picks among the best attic fan options out there.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Broan Surface Mount Solar Powered Attic Ventilator
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: iLIVING Gable Mount Attic Ventilator Fan
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Natural Light Solar Attic Fan
  4. BEST WALL-MOUNTED: AC Infinity AIRTITAN T7 Ventilation Fan 
  5. BEST SOLAR OPTION: iLIVING Solar Roof Attic Exhaust Fan
The Best Attic Fans Option

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Attic Fans

A couple different fan styles can be used to help control the temperature of an attic space. Their functions differ somewhat. Depending on its layout, your home may be better suited to one or the other of the following types.

Whole-House Fans

Whole-house fans are installed into the ceiling of the highest point in the finished space—typically in an upstairs hallway. When running, they pull heat and moisture from inside of the house and force it into the attic space.

The issue with a whole-house fan is that the hot air needs somewhere to go. If your attic isn’t ventilated well, that humid, moist air will build up in the attic space and can cause mold to grow. Therefore, whole-house fans are best suited for open, well-vented attics.

Attic Venting Fans

Attic fans serve a different function, removing the hot and moist air from the attic and leaving the space below the attic floor alone. These fans circulate the air within the attic, pulling fresh air from the vents (like the ones in your soffit) and pushing hot air outside.

Attic fans can serve a year-round function. In the summer, you can drastically reduce the temperature in the attic, helping to lengthen the life of the roofing shingles and sheathing.

In colder months, attic fans can help you avoid damage caused by ice dams as well. The fans cool the attic, equalizing the temperature between the attic and outside of the home. This prevents snow from melting on your roof and freezing when it hits the cold gutter.

When installing an attic fan, it’s important to consider how well your attic is sealed off from the rest of the home. If your attic door or hatch is particularly drafty, turning the fan on will pull air-conditioned or heated air through the gaps. You don’t want to be heating or cooling the neighborhood.

What to Look for When Buying an Attic Fan

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when choosing an attic fan. You’ll want to understand the different capabilities and functions of models, as well as the material they are constructed from. And most importantly, there are some safety considerations to keep in mind before you set out to install a new attic fan.

Material

Your attic fan must be built from material sturdy enough to survive the excessive heat that can build up in an attic. Cheaper fans with plastic components may begin to fail over time under these conditions. In the winter, plastic often becomes very brittle, making it easy to snap a fan blade under normal use.

Instead, choose a fan with metal construction. The body and the fan should both be constructed of sheet metal and steel, galvanized or painted if possible. These materials are far more stable than plastic in fluctuating temperatures and hold up well against moisture.

Ease of Use

Attic ventilation does you no good if you find it too much of a hassle to turn on or off. Many whole-house models now come with remote controls, which allow you to turn the fan on from the floor below and customize its settings with the touch of a button.

Attic fans are great for homeowners who want to be able to forget that their fan is there. Most either come with a programmable thermostat or can be wired to one, which will turn the fan on when the attic reaches a set temperature—no need for flipping a switch or monitoring the attic’s temperature yourself.

Safety

One very important aspect to consider when deciding if an attic fan is right for you is safety—particularly around furnaces installed in an attic. An attic fan can create enough draft to blow out a pilot light on a furnace. If this happens, the furnace will empty gas out into the attic. At first, the fan will alleviate most of the danger by forcing the gas outside, but once it shuts off, it’s a different story. Your attic can fill with gas, and then seep into the rest of the home, posing a danger to you and your family.

Whole-house and attic fans are also capable of pulling carbon monoxide back into the home through a damaged flue. Be sure that your flues are in good operating condition, and that your furnace, oven, fireplace, and other appliances that use fuel are ventilating properly.

Venting Requirements

Understanding the venting requirements for the attic fan you choose is important for a few reasons.

If you choose an attic fan that requires more ventilation than your attic can offer, it will begin to pull air from inside the conditioned space. This negates whatever energy efficiency you were hoping for. Too much ventilation, and you may find the fan doesn’t work efficiently at removing the hot air from the entire attic.

If your whole-house fan doesn’t have the proper ventilation, it’s not going to work very well either. It’ll fill the attic with hot air, which will stop it from pulling more air into the space through open windows.

Adjustable Thermostat

As mentioned earlier, adjustable thermostats give you the ability to simply set a dial and forget about the fan. When the temperature within the attic reaches a set point, the fan will turn on and start venting the heated air, cooling the attic space.

Likewise, adjustable thermostats will shut the fan off when the temperature drops back below the set temp. They’re not only easy to use, but they also help save you money by not running the fan when it doesn’t need to be on.

Air Volume (CFM) and Square Footage

The higher the CFM (cubic feet per minute), the more airflow a fan can produce. Choose a fan that matches your home or attic’s size for optimal performance. Too high of a CFM and you’ll be spending more money running the fan than you should be. Too low of a CFM and you’ll just be spinning your wheels, with little positive impact on the home.

Not all fans will come with CFM ratings emblazoned on the packaging. Instead, you need to look for the amount of square footage the fan was intended for. This detail is especially important in choosing a whole-house fan.

Noise Level

Ah, noise: the bane of all whole-house fan owners since the dawn of whole-house fans. But no longer. Newer, smaller, and more efficient models can run at much quieter levels, keeping the house cool in relative silence.

If you have an older fan installed in your home, switching to a newer whole house fan will provide a noticeable change in noise. The newer models have smaller fans, create less turbulence, and their motors are better tuned than the massive house fans of old.

Our Top Picks

The Best Attic Fans Option: Broan Surface Mount Solar Powered Attic Ventilator

Photo: amazon.com

1. BEST OVERALL: Broan Surface Mount Solar Powered Attic Ventilator

The Broan is an excellent option for anyone looking for an easy-install, high-performance attic fan. This model draws its energy from a built-in solar panel and is designed with a low profile, making it less noticeable from the curb. The 537 CFM fan is capable of moving plenty of air through an average-sized attic (roughly 1,200 square feet).

The Best Attic Fans Option: iLIVING Gable Mount Attic Ventilator Fan

Photo: amazon.com

2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: iLIVING Gable Mount Attic Ventilator Fan

If you’ve got access to your attic’s gables, iLIVING’s Gable Mount fan is a great option for moving some air without having to cut a hole in your roof. This model can be installed through the wall. It features a sturdy galvanized housing and a 3.1-amp motor that provides ventilation for up to 1,600 square feet of attic space. It also comes with a built-in thermostat that you can set to automatically activate and shut off the fan when the air gets to a certain temperature. Only note that this fan does not come with an outside vent cover.

The Best Attic Fans Option: Natural Light Solar Attic Fan

Photo: amazon.com

3. UPGRADE PICK: Natural Light Solar Attic Fan

The Natural Light Solar Attic Fan fan installs on a shingle roof and is capable of moving over 1,600 CFM of air—impressive for a solar panel-powered fan. Though its high performance justifies its high price tag, bear in mind that, depending on where you live, successful use of this model during the may require the additional expense of a separate thermostat.

The Best Attic Fans Option: AC Infinity AIRTITAN T7 Ventilation Fan

Photo: amazon.com

4. BEST WALL-MOUNTED: AC Infinity AIRTITAN T7 Ventilation Fan

If you have a partially finished attic but still want help controlling excessive heat, the AC Infinity AIRTITAN T7 fan may be for you. This model is small enough to fit over an air conditioning and heating vent but can also be vented outside, running at a programmed temperature range. The AC Infinity AIRTITAN T7 actually offers a lot in the way of programming. In addition to temperature controls, it also boasts program alarms, timers, and an economy mode. This unit has to be vented through the wall, but its compact size helps it fit between most wall studs.

The Best Attic Fans Option: iLIVING Solar Roof Attic Exhaust Fan

Photo: amazon.com

5. BEST SOLAR OPTION: iLIVING Solar Roof Attic Exhaust Fan

This model from iLIVING uses a positionable solar panel that can generate enough wattage to produce 1,750 CFM of air movement—more than enough for the average attic space. Besides airflow, there are several other features that make this model stand out from the crowd. For instance, unlike other solar models, this one comes with a controllable thermostat.

FAQs About Your New Attic Fan

If you’re still not entirely sure how an attic fan or whole-house fan works, or if you have other general questions about attic fans, here are some answers to FAQs that might help.

Q. How does an attic fan work?  

An attic fan works by exchanging the hot air in your attic space for fresh air pulled through the vents. This will help to avoid premature damage to the shingles or mold building up in moist, hot attics.

Q. How do you install an attic fan?

You install an attic fan through the roof and flashed under the shingles. Gable fans are installed at the very top of your gable-end walls and vented through the walls outside. Whole-house fans require cutting through the finished ceiling on the highest floor of your home and ventilating outside.

While it’s possible for a DIYer to wire these fans, it’s best to call an electrician for the job.

Q. Can you replace the attic fan motor?

You can, but the reality is models with accessible fans are usually pretty affordable to replace entirely. If you do want to replace the motor, bring it to an electrical shop and they should be able to match you up with a new one. If not, they may be able to rebuild the one you have.