While there are a variety of ways to cool off interior rooms in your home or even a patio, attics can be a bit more challenging to deal with. These areas experience wild temperature swings in the summer and winter, which can lead to unforeseen problems over time. The best attic fan can help ventilate these versatile spaces, and we’ve compiled a list featuring the best roof and gable mount models.
- 5 Best Attic Fans
- How to Find the Best Attic Fan
- Attic Fan Features
- Installing an Attic Fan
5 Best Attic Fans
QuietCool AFG SMT ES 3.0
- Style: Electric
- Mount: Gable
- Airflow: "2,830 CFM"
- Coverage: "4,000 sq. ft."
- Thermostat: Adjustable
- Warranty: 15 years
- Style: Solar
- Mount: Roof
- Airflow: "1,628 CFM"
- Coverage: "2,625 sq. ft."
- Thermostat: No
- Warranty: 25 years
- Style: Electric
- Mount: Gable
- Airflow: "1,600 CFM"
- Coverage: "2,280 sq. ft."
- Thermostat: Adjustable
- Warranty: 1-year
QuietCool AFG SLR-30
- Style: Solar
- Mount: Gable
- Airflow: "1,320 CFM"
- Coverage: "2,300 sq. ft."
- Thermostat: Preset
- Warranty: 15 years
- Style: Solar
- Mount: Roof
- Airflow: "1,750 CFM"
- Coverage: "2,000 sq. ft."
- Thermostat: Adjustable
- Warranty: 15 years
The Best Electric Gable Fan for Connected Homes
#1 QuietCool Smart Attic Gable Fan
Smart fans are easy to find if you’re interested in a tower fan or window AC system, but somewhat rare in the world of attic ventilation. QuietCool has several smart systems in their arsenal, and the AFG SMT series gable fans are the best choice for connected homes.
A small smart hub on this fan allows you to connect to the AFG SMT ES-3.0. There are no controls on the hub aside from buttons for testing or pairing, but it will enable you to use the QuietCool Smart App. Once connected to your home’s wireless network, you can use the auto-adjustment feature, access seasonal presets, or check your attic's humidity levels and temperature.
Having the ability to monitor the conditions in your attic is a huge bonus, but a fan still needs to be effective at cooling that space. This Quiet Cool Attic Fan excels in that regard thanks to a brushless ECM or electronically commutated motor. This efficient variable speed motor is rated at 2,830 CFM on high and 1,343 CFM on low.
While electric instead of solar like the company’s gable mount attic fan, the AFG SMT ES-3.0 is just as well-built. The housing is made from heavy-duty steel, and it comes with a sturdy 20-foot power cable. Also included are vent covers, vibration pads for the mounting tabs, and their Fire Sense safety shut-off system.
This is another gable attic fan with no real downside aside from the price, which is reasonable for a connected system of this size. Homeowners found the QuietCool AFG SMT ES-3.0 easy to install and sync with their Wi-Fi, and it’s compatible with a wide variety of shutter systems as well. If this particular fan is out of your price range, the AFG SMT PRO series fans are also connected but considerably cheaper with PSC motors.
The Best Solar Powered Attic Fan for Large Spaces
#2 Natural Light 36-watt Solar Attic Fan
Natural Light produces solar powered attic fans with a variety of sizes for gable, roof, and curb mount installations. If you have a larger attic in need of solar cooling, our top choice from the company is the Natural Light SAF36.
This solar powered attic fan is engineered for large spaces and built to last. While the design isn’t as innovative as what we’ve seen from some manufacturers, the cap allows the system to maintain a low-profile on your rooftop. The solar panel affixed to the top is adjustable and very easy to remove or replace if needed.
Natural Light used heavy-duty aluminum to construct this solar attic fan, which is topped off with a powder-coated finish. Inside the dome of this 36-watt system is a 5-wing fan blade rated at 1,628 CFM. The unit itself is ideal for spaces up to 2,625 square feet, and while it has a protective screen to keep animals at bay, it doesn’t come with a thermostat or controller, so it will run continuously.
If you’re interested in a relatively quiet attic fan that’s simple to install, this model from Natural Light is hard to beat. No wiring is required, it’s available in a variety of wattages and colors and comes with an excellent 25-year guarantee. Unfortunately, you’ll need to pick up a thermostat separately with this model if you want to control it, and it’s priced at a premium compared to similarly-sized models.
An Affordable Electric Gable Attic Fan
#3 Broan-NuTone Gable Mount Attic Ventilator
Gable attic fans come in various styles, including electric models that don’t break the bank but still provide plenty of airflow. The 35316 gable mount attic ventilator from Broan-NuTone is a prime example of that and a great option for areas up to 2,200 square feet.
This attic fan may not look as impressive as QuietCool’s gable attic fan, but it’s more powerful and considerably cheaper as it’s not solar powered. The 14” fan has four pitched blades made from steel with an airflow rating of 1,600 CFM. The steel housing around the fan blades is ribbed for additional durability, while four sturdy mounting brackets make mounting this attic fan easy.
There are no extras with the Broan-NuTone 35316 aside from a thermostat attached near the fan's motor. It can be removed and remounted a short distance from the unit for a more accurate reading and is adjustable between 70°F and 130°F. The thermally protected shaded pole motor is lubricated, and there’s a built-in screen but no switches or shutters.
Broan designed a simple and efficient system with the 35316 attic fan, which makes it a low-cost alternative to solar operated models. The company has an automatic shutter system designed for this fan as well. The only downside to this gable vent fan is the warranty Broan-NuTone, which is short at only 1-year.
The Best Solar Gable Mount Attic Fan
#4 QuietCool Solar Powered Gable Mount Attic Fan
QuietCool made a name for themselves by producing powerful whole house fans, but they also have some of the best attic fans on the market today. That includes the AFG SLR-30, which is the best gable mount attic fan if you’re interested in solar power.
This attic exhaust fan is designed with ease of use in mind. There’s no wiring required on this plug-and-play system, and the fan has adjustable mounting tabs as well. While the solar panel will still need to be secured to the roof, it’s lightweight and easy to manage. That Polycrystalline solar panel has a 60-degree vertical tilt and measures 16.4” x 19.5”.
As for the fan, this big green gable vent fan is powered by an efficient brushless DC motor. The 30-watt system we chose can produce 1,320 CFMs and is ideal for attics up to 2,300 square feet. Computer balanced fan blades ensure quiet airflow, while a built-in thermostat keeps things efficient by ensuring it only runs when needed. This system is set to come on when temperatures reach 83°F in your attic and will shut itself off at 72°F.
One drawback of solar-powered systems is the fact they don’t work after the sun goes down without some assistance. In this case, it comes from an AC/DC inverter with a 20-foot power cord. When combined with the preset thermostat, this gives you the ability to run the system continuously despite the conditioners outdoors.
The QuietCool solar powered gable mount attic fan has been well-received by consumers and reviewers across the board. It has an attractive price tag given its power, and we like the fact both the panel and power inverter have extra-long power cords. It doesn’t have the longest guarantee but can outlive that mark when properly maintained.
The Best Budget-Friendly Roof Mount Solar Fan
#5 iLiving Hybrid Smart Exhaust Attic Exhaust Fan
Even as millions of homeowners across America strive to go green, solar-powered HVAC equipment still carries a high price tag. There are a few exceptions, however, and iLiving is a company that specializes in budget-friendly systems like the Hybrid Smart ventilation exhaust fan.
This roof mount attic fan is solar powered with a panel that’s fixed on top of a low-profile vent. It’s a common design with these systems, and the panel adjusts in 15-degree increments from 0 up to 45 degrees. Inside the housing is a 14” fan, which actually produces a higher amount of airflow than the 36-watt system from Natural Light.
Power for this solar attic fan comes from the sun, although you can also hardwire the system with a switch. If you’re concerned about continuous power, that won’t be an issue as this model comes with an AC/DC adapter. This allows the fan to run during the day or at nighttime unimpeded by the weather or any cloud cover outside.
The motor on this attic fan is listed with IP68 protection, and as it’s brushless, it’s designed with efficiency in mind. iLiving rates this fan for attics up to 2,000 square feet in size and a “smart” thermostat allows you to dial in the temperature for the fan to kick on or off. The dial-based module has a bypass switch and a range of 68°F to 122°F.
This unit may only have a 20-watt solar panel, but it has a great price point considering the specifications, the power adapter, and the fact it comes with thermostat. While it has a solid 15-year warranty and is another easy to install attic fan, the reviews have been lukewarm regarding customer service.
How to Find the Best Attic Fan
Even the most high-tech attic fan is still a simple device at its core and built with one purpose in mind. That doesn’t mean finding the best attic fan is easy, however, as these ventilation fans can cause plenty of confusion. In our guide, we’re going to tell you what to expect from a high-quality attic fan and why it’s important to install one in your home.
Why Ventilating an Attic is Important
Attics can be used in a variety of ways, from finished living areas to storage spaces. Whether furnished or unfinished, these areas deal with wild temperature swings throughout the year unless properly insulated. During the summer, the weather can be especially harsh in attics, where temperatures can soar well over 120 degrees.
This heat will warm the lower areas of your home, which can cause your air conditioner to work harder than it needs to. This results in more expensive electric bills and unnecessary wear and tear on HVAC units. By installing an attic fan on your roof or gable, you can alleviate these issues by moving that hot air outdoors while bringing fresh air in. Here are just a few benefits of using an attic vent fan in your home.
Attic Fans vs. Whole House Fans
When many consumers go on a quest to find the best attic fan, they often encounter systems labeled as whole house fans. The terms whole house fan and attic fan have been used interchangeably for decades, but these fans serve a completely different purpose.
An attic fan is installed in the attic on either the roof or in a gable. Its sole purpose is to remove warm air from inside the attic to the outdoors, and they typically run in the summer during the day as the sun scorches the shingles on your rooftop and heats up the space beneath.
Whole house fans are installed in the ceiling, not on the roof, but also excel at removing hot air from homes. They are designed to work with open windows in the living areas of your home as they move cool air in through the windows before venting it out through the attic.
Simply put, an attic fan helps regulate and cool the temperatures in attics by removing hot air, while a whole house fan is designed to help cool your entire home, not the attic.
Attic Fan Pros and Cons
The biggest advantage to buying an attic fan is its ability to cool down attics, which keeps your central system from working harder than it has to. These fans can result in significant savings on your electric bill in the warmer months, but that isn’t the only benefit.
Proper ventilation will help keep your roof in great shape and can save you from having to replace shingles prematurely. Roof shingles are guaranteed with a certain level of protection, but an unvented attic will significantly increase the heat. This can cause damage to your shingles, including fading, shrinkage, curling, and splitting.
A roof mounted, or gable vent fan can also stop mold growth before its starts. This is a common problem in homes with hot attics and cool living areas below, but an attic fan can help keep moisture at bay while regulating the temperature in these spaces.
The Drawbacks of Attic Fans
While there has been some debate on how much money an attic fan will actually save you in the long run, everyone agrees that back drafting can be an issue with attic fans. This is only a safety concern if you are running gas or propane appliances, but it is something everyone should be aware of.
High-powered attic fans can move a lot of air and potentially create negative pressure indoors. When this occurs, the attic fan can actually pull gasses into the home instead of venting them outdoors. If you have a furnace installed in your attic, a draft from a powerful attic fan could blow out the pilot light as well.
Choosing the right system and having it installed by a qualified professional can solve those problems, and the same goes for roof leaks. Installation can be costly, which is another drawback to attic fans. While some are incredibly easy to install yourself, it all depends on your attic, the type of fan, and where it will be installed.
Types of Attic Fans
Now that you understand what an attic fan is and what it can do, it’s time to think about the kind of fan that would benefit your home the most. While there are a few hybrid systems, most attic fans are powered through electricity or with some help from the sun.
- Electric Attic Fans - Electric attic fans were a major improvement over gable vents when they first hit the market and are still the most effective way to quickly cool large areas. You can find both gable mount and roof mount electric attic fans in various sizes, and they are cheaper than their solar-powered counterparts.
- Solar Attic Fans – If you’re interested in green HVAC equipment, a solar powered attic fan should be high on your list. These fans use the solar panels and can even run throughout the night or on cloudy days with an inverter. While easier to install, they have higher price tags and aren’t as powerful as electric models.
Both electric and solar attic fans come in two different styles with gable vent fans and roof mounted fans. If you already have a preexisting fan in place and are just looking for an upgrade, you simply need to install the new fan where the old model was according to the manufacturer’s directions. While you can switch from a roof mount system to a gable mount attic fan, most homeowners choose to avoid the additional cost.
A roof mounted attic fan is installed directly on top of the roof. That means you’ll need to cut a vent hole in the roof for the fan and then use flashing and shingles to help seal around the system. Because they are on top of roofs, and an improper installation can result in leaks, they are harder to install if you intend to do it yourself.
While you will clearly notice a rooftop fan because of its design, gable vent fans are designed to blend in. The gable is a triangular portion of the wall between a dual-pitched roof and a commonplace for a gable vent. Adding a fan behind that vent will dramatically increase the airflow, and they are easier to install.
Coverage and Ventilation
There are only a handful of technical speculations that should be on your radar when shopping for the best attic fan. Coverage is one of them, and it’s directly tied to the current ventilation and insulation already in your attic.
Attics that have too much ventilation will cause a fan to be inefficient. If you purchase a fan that needs more ventilation than your attic can provide, it can draw air from the living space below – something we discussed in our drawbacks section. If you feel your attic doesn’t have enough insulation, you’ll want to read our guide and consider an upgrade before purchasing an attic fan.
Coverage is measured in square feet, and manufacturers provide a square footage rating you can match to your home. If you’re not sure how large your attic is, you can get a measurement by multiplying the width by the length. A small attic that is 40’ x 20’ would need a unit capable of cooling 800 square feet.
Singles and siding are made to withstand the elements, and anything mounted on top of your house or on the side of it should have weather resistance as well. With attic fans, that usually boils down to build quality and the materials used in the construction of the attic fan and its housing.
Aluminum and galvanized steel are two of the more popular options used for fan blades and housings. Most have powder-coated finishes, which helps prevent damage from the elements, but plastic parts should not be overlooked. Sun is known for warping and discoloring plastic material, so the best attic fans should utilize UV-resistant plastics.
Attic Fan Features
The kind of features you’ll find on an attic fan depends on your budget and how much you are willing to spend. As you can see from our list, there are plenty of simple systems geared towards the budget-friendly crowd, but there are also a number of high-tech fans that make use of the best parts and technologies available.
The most common safety feature found on gable fans is a handguard, which varies in thickness and strength. You can find both attic mount and gable mount attic fans with wildlife screens as well, and they are handy at keeping animals and insects out of the attic. Many fans will allow you to adjust the speed, but not every system has a dedicated speed control.
If you want an efficient motor that will last for years, look for an attic fan with a brushless DC motor. Those are common on premium systems, including models in the solar class. On that note, solar gable and roof fans that rely on solar power are highly efficient, but you may want to consider models with adjustable solar panels instead of panels that sit completely flat.
Outside of brushless motors, the most expensive features that raise an attic fan's cost are thermostats and Wi-Fi connectivity. If you purchase a system with a thermostat, you’ll want to check the range. Some are preset, while others allow you to adjust the temperature at which the fan stops and starts. With connected systems, you will find more features, including temperature presets and the ability to control your fan remotely.
These smart attic fans allow you to monitor the conditions in your attic, but you’ll want to make sure you can get a signal through the ceiling and into the attic. AC/DC inverters are another popular feature, but something you can purchase separately if you have a solar powered attic fan.
Installing an Attic Fan
We’re going to keep this section simple. Are you afraid of heights? If so, you will want to rule out installing a roof mounted attic fan yourself and find a qualified professional to handle the hard work. The same goes for homeowners that have dusty attics full of cobwebs or ones used for storage that are full of boxes. Consider the condition of your attic before you think about installing a gable mount attic fan as well.
If you plan to purchase a solar attic or gable fan, you won’t have to worry about wiring as most systems only have a handful of wires that plug into specified locations. For gable mount solar attic fans like the ones from QuietCool, the video below will give you an idea of what to expect if you intend to install the fan yourself.
For any roof-mounted system, you’ll need to be comfortable using tools on the roof of your home. Unless you already have access, a hole will need to be cut through the roof into your attic, which is just as intense as its sounds.
No matter how easy the attic fan is to install, it must be properly sealed unless you want leaks and an expensive problem in your attic. The process will vary, but here is another video showing how a roof mount system is installed.
Attic ventilation is often overlooked by homeowners and can result in the myriad of issues we’ve discussed in our guide. Purchasing an attic fan is a quick way to solve those problems and something we highly recommended considering they can cool an attic in the summer and keep ice dams from forming in your gutters during the winter as well.