Your Questions About Solar Powered Attic Fan

George asks…

Anyone have experience with solar attic fans? How effective are they?

I have an old house (100 years) and it has no soffit (intake) vents for the attic. I have a moisture/humidity problem in the attic that I need to resolve. Currently, I have 2 gables vents and nothing else. It was recommended by an energy auditor that I install a powered vent on the roof near the ridge and he recommended solar. Do these things have the power to move enough air? I asked about how the humidity will be dealt with when the sun goes down and he told me that it won't be as much of a problem at night (funny, I didn't know that humidity goes away in the evening). Anyone have any EXPERIENCE with solar attic fans? They effective?

ssadmin answers:

I have to preface my answer by saying I'm a big fan of solar, and we even have a solar electric system on our roof.

However, I think solar attic fans are overrated. We got one maybe 8 years ago. It had blades that turned in sunlight, and yes, you could feel a draft from it, but it wasn't like the blast from a room fan. After it was put in, the house cooled considerably. Previously, all we had were these mouse-size holes drilled just under the eaves (I think maybe they're called soffit holes), and gable vents like you.

But here's the thing. After 2 years, I noticed that the solar panel had burned out, and the fan wasn't turning. Yet the house was still reasonably cool. I think simply having a 1-foot plus hole high on the roof was enough to let the hot air out, even if the fan was not turning. We had spent hundreds on a solar fan, when all we really needed was a hole with a large rain cover.

So when we got the roof redone, I asked for ridge vents. That worked great. Completely passive, and lets the heat out. We live in a relatively dry area, so I don't know how it would work for reducing humidity if there was no heat. Ridge vents don't work on all houses, and could be hard to retrofit unless you are redoing the roof anyway. But you could do a wind-driven vent like we have on our garage.

The garage is separate from the house, and got hot in the summer. It had only a gable vent, and not a very big one. Encouraged by my previous experience, I asked to have one of those wind-driven turban-type whirlybirds put on the roof there. It was an easy retrofit, they just cut a hole, and put it on with some flashing, then put back a few shingles. It works fabulously, and at a fraction of the cost of the solar fan.

James asks…

Can a bank reduce what the appraiser says a house is worth?

I signed a contract on a home for $197,900 with an asking price of $199,900. The FHA appriaser originally appraised it at $210,000, but the bank said the comps were invalid since the home has a basement and the comps did not. The appraiser re-did the appraisal 3 times to try to satisfy the underwritter and came in at $198,000. There are only 1 in 25,000 homes in Arizona with basements and they are considered a “premium” since it is much less to cool them in the summer and they are so rare. The underwriter then with the stroke of a pen said the adjustments the FHA appraiser made were not accurate, and said the home appraises for $188,000 (because that was the comp for the identical home sold 1 year ago) even though the “identical home” had original cabinets and bathrooms and the home I am trying to buy has new kitchen cabinets, new appliances, new vanity and mirror (in one of the 3 baths) and new solar powered attic fan and sump pump in the basement.

Is there anyone I can report this to that oversees underwriters or anyway I can request a new underwriter without moving to a new bank (another bank has seen the file and said they would accept the $198,000 comp. It's pretty bad when a fully qualified person can not buy a home he wants in this crappy market.

ssadmin answers:

You bet they can. Underwriters have final decision if the appraisal is acceptable or not.

1/2 of the things you mentioned don't add value to an appraisal by the way. They are selling points, but that's all, especially the appliances. These can be removed at any time after all. Upgrades that give value are finished rooms, hard-wood floors, new windows, etc. A new vanity and mirror do not.

If the area you are buying in has stabilized or is still declining, using the identical home as one of the comps was the right thing to do.

By the way, even if you go to another lender this appraisal will follow you. FHA appraisals are assigned a case number and for the next 6 months all lenders will have to use this appraisal.

Linda asks…

What kind of vent/s should I install in the left side of the attic?

The left side of the attic is separated from the remaining attic with walls.
There is no ventilation at all there.
The vent intakes beside the gutters outside are blocked with insulation inside.
What kind of vent should I install there?
A solar powered vent fan?
Just a normal vent is enough?

ssadmin answers:

Try a solar attic fan. It's should ventilate that section of your attic fine and won't require any electrical connection to run.

Helen asks…

Which attic fan is better?

I am thinking to install an attic fan becuase it is getting very hot in my attic.

PVC housing, $86

Aluminim housing, $256

PVC but Solar Powered, $499

is there a better one that you know of?

The attic is 880 sq. ft.
I do have winter time here with 0F degree temps with snow.
I do not have trees above my house.
I do not have A/C.
I do use ceiling fans in the bed rooms.
Here is a nice story for the use of attic fans.
I have a hip root, thus I cannot use gable fans.

ssadmin answers:

I'd probably go with the one that has the aluminum housing. Overall it is probably built better (better housing, better motor, etc) and will last longer. The solar powered one you are paying the high price just because it is solar powered, doesn't mean it is built well.

Steven asks…

attic fan and tax credit?

Guys, i am planning to buy an attic fan, can I claim it during tax filing as part of home improvement? I heard some solar powered ones are eligible upto 30% tax credit, what about non-solar ones?

ssadmin answers:

An attic fan will not qualify for any kind of tax credit.

Here is the list of items that DO qualify for energy credits:

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