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Why Attic Fans Are Important During Delaware Valley Winters

Written by Michele DuCoin and Samantha Brumbaugh

Many homeowners install attic fans in the summer because they are designed to vent out accumulated hot air in the attic. However, too few homeowners know that attic fans have year-round value.

In the wintertime, the role of an attic fan is reversed — this is arguably the most important time of year to have one. This is especially the case in New Jersey’s Delaware Valley. With Northeast winter temperatures ranging from bone-chilling cold to almost spring-like sunny days, an attic fan is essential to prevent damage to your home and to help you save money on your energy bills. 

What do attic fans do?

Attic fans work to equalize the temperature inside and outside of your home. The New Jersey Field Guide for Energy Auditors and Inspectors explains the importance of a properly ventilated attic, stating that “Attic ventilation is supposed to remove moisture from the attic during the heating season and to remove solar heat from the attic during the cooling season.”

Attic ventilation impacts a home’s energy efficiency and attics are often one of the most poorly ventilated areas of a home. Ventilation is essentially what allows a home to breathe and this is vital for a healthier living environment, a stronger and longer lasting home, and reduced energy costs. The main function of proper home ventilation is to retain cool, clean air and remove heat, moisture, and pollution.

There are three different types of ventilation that each uniquely works to improve the state of your home and the life of its inhabitants. The first type of ventilation is natural ventilation. Examples of natural ventilation include windows, screen doors, and pet doors. Natural ventilation is present in all homes to some degree. The second type of ventilation is whole-home ventilation and this is the most common form of ventilation found in modern housing. Whole-home ventilation includes exhaust ducts and vents throughout the home that work to circulate airflow and provide deliberate ventilation. The third type of ventilation is spot ventilation. Spot ventilation provides ventilation to a specific area of the home such as attics and basements.

An attic fan is a type of spot ventilation and its primary function is to remove moisture and hot air from the attic. They work simply by pushing out hot air from the attic and pulling in cooler air from outside. The constant exchange of moist, warm air from the attic with dry, cool air from outside prevents condensation. This same process also helps to prevent ice dams from forming by keeping the attic at an even temperature. Having an attic fan in the cooler months prevents the likelihood of costly home repairs and structural damage.

A look at one of DVHET’s technicians installing a solar attic fan.

What could happen without an attic fan?

Condensation. In the winter, heat rises through a home and takes moisture and humidity along with it. The moisture and humidity originate from spaces like the kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom showers in addition to the heat that is constantly running in your home. When the humidity rises and increases in a space such as an attic, moisture condenses out of the trapped air and drips onto insulation and the building structure itself. 

The Department of Energy states that proper ventilation is one important piece of having a moisture control strategy. Without a strong moisture control strategy, your home is at risk for a whole host of problems.

If the insulation absorbs too much water, it becomes less effective and ultimately leads to heat loss in the home. If the structure of the home begins to absorb water it can result in wood rot, mold and fungus growth, and the breakdown of roofing materials altogether.

Water damage due to water leaking through a roof. [source]

Ice dams. When warm indoor air rises to the peak of an attic, snow on the heated part of the roof melts and flows down to a part of the roof that is below 32°F. The process of snow thawing and refreezing causes an ice dam.

Ice dams prevent proper drainage through gutters and downspouts and can wreak havoc on your home’s eaves, gutters, and roofing. Eventually, the water pushes its way into the attic through cracks in the roof and could then seep into your ceiling and interior walls. A solar attic fan prevents the attic from becoming warm enough to cause ice dams. 

Concentrated hot air in the attic could also heat up space under roof shingles. Over time, this will cause the shingles to become brittle and ineffective, ultimately shortening the lifespan of your roof.

Photo of ice damming on a roof. [source]

Why choose a solar attic fan?

According to the State of New Jersey Construction Code Communicator, “adequate attic ventilation is a long-standing requirement in building codes for moisture control.” It is imperative to have a properly ventilated attic at all times of the year.  All it takes to prevent attic-related winter woes is to install a solar attic fan on your home. Solar attic fans draw their power from the energy of the sun, cost nothing to run, and are an excellent way to improve a home’s energy efficiency all year long. Compared to solar attic fans, the increased costs to run electric-powered attic fans offset the cooling benefit they provide. Solar attic fans save energy and help you save money in the long run.

Choose Delaware Valley’s Best

Call us at 856-809-2744 or click here to schedule a free attic inspection and to learn how to prevent condensation and ice damming from causing your home the winter blues.

A Sappy Attic Is Not A Happy Attic

As we complete more and more attic inspections, it’s becoming a concerning reality that many homeowners have no idea what kind of shape their attic is in.

Not knowing what’s going on with your attic is careless. There’s really no excuse. We understand it can be a “pain” or a “hassle”, but your attic requires the same attention and maintenance as any other area of your home.

We’ve seen health concerns such as fiberglass emitting a synthetic material called styrene, a possible carcinogenic per the American Lung Association. We’ve seen depleted insulation: aged, compressed, and saturated. We’ve seen infestation from sealing issues.

Even with the aforementioned issues, the one attic issue we see and feel the most is from insufficient ventilation. HOT ATTICS POSE PROBLEMS. Elevated attic temperatures can result in overheated ducts and an overworked air conditioner. Let’s not forget to mention that attic-heat build up radiates into your living space making you hot, resulting in you blasting your air condition. How does that wallet feel?

The photos above show what can happen when you don’t have proper ventilation. Turns out you may not be the only one sweating. Your attic can sweat too. These photos document a hot attic and the residue of tree sap dripping from the rafters. Essentially, the attic was so hot that it was deteriorating.

Fortunately for this homeowner, we were able to address the issue in a timely manner. The installation of our solar fan will continuously exchange attic air to avoid future heat build up. In turn, a more efficient air conditioner, cooler ducting, cooler living spaces, and lower cooling costs. They say “don’t sweat the small stuff”. That may be sometimes true, but in your attic’s case, the small stuff can lead to big time problems.

Want to receive a no-cost solar attic fan?

Contact Michele DuCoin at 856-809-2744 to schedule your free attic inspection and learn how to receive a no-cost solar attic fan!

Flip the Bird

There’s only one thing that you can do if you’re a homeowner and you walk up to your attic and see this kind of mess. And that’s “flip the bird”.

We went out for one of our routine attic inspections in LeisureTowne of Southampton, New Jersey. Now we’re accustomed to seeing some pretty crazy things in attics: exposed wires, molding issues from poor ventilation, trash, insufficient insulation, you name it.

Chip Kelly and the Bird Gang, though? We don’t see this very often. Needless to say, it’s a primetime example of why inspecting your attic is important to the health and comfort of your home.

As attic energy savings experts, we called in some friends who could handle the pest control. Then, we proposed sealing improvements, including our NASA inspired multi-layer reflective insulation to help get this attic back into tip-top shape, while helping reduce heating and cooling costs, and improving overall comfort.

That’s what we call killing two birds with one stone.