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Text Box: SOLAR POWERED ATTIC FANS (continued)
Like most home technology products there’s an ongoing debate on whether solar powered attic fans (ventilators) are a practical and effective way to move air and cool attic areas to reduce energy costs.  Manufacturers, suppliers and installers invariably answer with a “yes”.  Not surprising when you consider their primary goal is to promote and install their products and sell installation services.  On the other side of the debate there are numerous industry home ventilation experts that tend to say “probably not”.  The “experts” have done enough research with case studies and calculations to support their findings.  Home owners, however, have opinions all across the board.  Even those who’ve installed solar fans are unsure of performance and their actual return on investment. 

One large manufacturer promotes the notion that you can “use the sun's energy for years of worry-free, no-cost cooling & air circulation”.  Sounds enticing but attic ventilation technology is far to complex to make that kind of simplistic statement.  For consumers, the bottom line should be the bottom line!  Unfortunately too many home owners will install solar powered attic fans on an impulse without knowing if they’ll actually work in their house.  Because conditions vary from house to house these systems may or not perform the way they might expect.  

1-  If you’re intention is going “green” at any cost there may be little or nothing that will change your mind.  With a commitment to do the anything to “conserve” energy regardless of the cost and subsequent performance.  If, on the other hand, you’re interested in performance to save money and reduce your energy bill it’s always wise to do research to see if the solar powered attic fan is right for you.  

2-  Seriously consider having a qualified ventilation specialist do a study and evaluation of your house and it’s existing conditions?  That’s what you’ll need to determine the feasibility of installing a system.  They should examine your house and provide an analysis that shows that a solar fan is the right choice.  Without it, any performance expectations will be a “best guess” estimate.  And, remember that their services won’t be free. 
   
3-  Solar fans typically start operating around 10:00 A.M. and will run until 7:00 P.M., a total of 9 hours of operation during the summer months.  Fans efficiencies are reduced or stop working every time the sun goes behind a cloud or the panels are shaded or dirty.  Considerer installing a thermostat and a deep cycle battery so the fan works when you want it to work.  

4-  The unit prices range from $200 to $400.  A professional installation will add another $200 to $400.  Add another $400 to $600 for a thermostat and battery backup.   Keep in mind that a battery will have to be replaced about every 36 months.  That’s about 4 times in 15 years for an additional “differed” expense of about $800 (replacing the battery every 36 months for 15 years, 4 times, at $200) could will cost $800).  A reliable system with a thermostat and battery backup installed by a professional that lasts for 18 years could actually cost around $2200.  That’s an average annual cost of over $120 a year!   Let’s do the math using the upper end amounts:
 
Unit without a battery:  $800 divided by 18 years = $44.44 cost per year
Unit with battery:   $1400 plus 5 batteries at $1000 = $2400 dived by 18 years = $133.33 cost per year

My opinion.  They sound good in theory.  At this point I don’t believe solar attic fans (with or without a battery backup) are all they’re cracked up to be.  This is another example of “one size fits all”.

If you install a system just because it seems like a good idea it’s a gamble that you’ll get the performance results you expect.  I’d start with how well your attic is insulated and whether your existing ventilation is working in it’s current condition. Unless and until you maximize the performance of what you already have in place adding a solar attic fan doesn’t make much sense.
Text Box: OUTSIDE LOW VOLTAGE LIGHTS  I’m a believer in low voltage lighting.  
Don’t make the mistake of confusing low voltage systems with solar panel/battery  operated lights.  Solar lights aren’t worth the money and in my opinion they’re junk!
With low voltage lighting you can double your enjoyment and provide added security around your house at night.  An easy to install and relatively low cost way to illuminate focal points of a garden, deck, patio, pathway or fountain.  Accent lighting can be done with ground mounted spots, by backlighting or directly and can have impressive results.   Low-voltage systems will save you money over conventional 110 voltage installations in two ways. First, the installation doesn’t require a licensed electrician.  Most home owners have the skills to install them.  Second, because the system is low voltage the operating power usage is much less then a 110 volt current used throughout your house.  
Low-voltage landscape lights operate by transforming and reducing your house current from 110 volts and stepping it down to the 12 volts necessary to operate the fixtures.  It’s actually the same voltage as a car battery.  Transistor timers let the electrical current flow through the low voltage cable at predetermined times to operate the low voltage lights.  Timers are built into most transformers. Some transformer may include a photo sensor that automatically turns the lights on at sunset and off at sunrise.  Another major advantage is that they’re much safer then standard 110 voltage that operate inside your house.  In the event of a short circuit or broken line, there’s no danger of electrocution.  Low voltage can be easily installed safely anywhere in your yard without the risk of electric shock. 
Fixtures are available in a large variety as well, from decorative path lights to ground well lights, tree-mounted spotlights or wall-mounted sconces. Bulb wattage can range from 8 to 35 watts.  Low voltage requires a 110-volt source at the step-down transformer and can be plugged into an existing exterior GFCI outlet. 
With a little creativity and imagination you can enhance the appearance of your house and yard and improve personal safety and security.

OUTSIDE LOW

VOLTAGE LIGHTS

 

They look and work great & cost less.  That’s why I’m a real believer in them! 

(read more)

SOLAR POWERED

ATTIC FANS

 

Should I install a solar powered attic fan?  They sound good in theory, but…   (read more)

Text Box: WATER POWERED
BACK UP SUMP PUMP

The BASEPUMP operates 
without electricity when you
 need flood protection most!
(read more)