Solar Powered Roof Fans in York, ME

I was recently contacted by a woman from Georgia that had found me on Angie’s List about helping alleviate unbearable summer heat in the upstairs bedrooms of her family’s cottage on York Beach, Maine. The cottage has been in the family for generations and she recalled lying in sweat as a kid, trying to get to sleep after the upstairs had been collecting heat all day long. She asked what suggestions I had to help the comfort levels of renting guests. I suggested the good ‘ole wind turbine. Why not?

Well, when I was researching the wind turbines to calculate the approximate cost of the project I decided to dig a little deeper and see how much air these things can really move, knowing the massive task it was needed to do. It turns out that some of them don’t spin that well at all, and the ones that do don’t move a ton of air.

Next, I came across the solar powered roof fans. It seems that there is much price fluctuation ranging from $90 to $500. Many reviews claimed that the more affordable ones felt flimsy and cheap. The last thing I want is to spend a client’s money and for them to not be happy with the performance of the product over a long period of time. I searched for highest rated solar roof fans and came across the U.S. Sunlight model 9910TR. They were about $300 a piece and eligible for a tax credit of up to 30% of the price of the units, before installation. Once shipped to my home, I took it out of the box to familiarize myself before installation day. I was amazed at how well it met the main secondary criteria: It was so quiet that I could hardly even tell it was running while I held in my hands up to the sun.

We decided to install two: One in the largest bedroom; and one for the 2 other bedrooms to share. Here in New England, you’ll want to install them on either a south or west facing roof plane. We got lucky and have a roof plane that faces due southwest. Once installed, I waited until about 1:00 pm to adjust the rotation and tilt of the solar panel to about dead perpendicular to the sun.

From the inside, drive a screw through the roof for locating on the outside, and then protect from the mess with a drop cloth.

The fans seem to work very well, not requiring any wiring of any sort. During the heat of the day, I could easily feel the air blowing on me from the fans while I was working on the roof. They are sun activated- so when the sun hits the solar panel, the fan moves. When it’s overcast or cloudy, it slows. For our purposes, we knew it wasn’t going to be like central a/c, but wanted to keep the bedrooms tucked up under the roof from ever getting so darn hot that they can’t cool down.

Strip back the shingles and set aside for re-use, then cut the hole with a jig saw. Notice the drop cloth caught the debris.

I got the both of them installed in one long day. We may opt to install an optional thermal switch that ensures the unit runs only when the attic temperature hits 80 degrees. This will prevent the fan from running during the winter, thus prolonging the life of the fan. I’ll keep you posted as I hear feedback from the clients.





This is the final product! The shingles were a little brittle, and being right on the coast we decided to glue them back down as well as nailing.







From the inside.















Do It Yourself Concrete Wall Insulation


Every now and then we have to insulate the inside of a foundation wall. Concrete walls have zero insulation value, according to the building code. In our cold sector of the country, we have to insulate walls to an R-Value of 21. I recently had just such an occasion, to insulate a concrete foundation wall in a home that we were remodeling in Rye, NH.

You see, this foundation was built as part of an addition, some years ago. It seems that whomever built this addition didn’t pay quite enough attention to the little details. There are water pipes running through this utility area, with no insulation on these concrete walls and no heat source. What do you suppose happened to those water pipes this winter? They sure did freeze, unfortunately.

See how close the water pipes are to the exterior rim band? On the other side of that 2″ thick foam piece that we sealed around the edges of lie below freezing temps.

What did we do about it? Well, we decided to make this utility area of this addition warm. We started by determining what the vulnerabilities are, and then convert them into strengths. The rim band of the floor framing (where floor joists terminate over an exterior wall, in this case foundation wall) is a typical vulnerability. This one’s no different. We decided to use standard 2″ blue foam insulation board and fit it into these spaces between the joists. We then seal around it with the spray foam gun.

The next and only other major vulnerability is the concrete foundation. In this case, the foundation walls are exposed entirely to the elements on the other side, no earth for insulation purposes. So, if these concrete walls essentially have no insulation value, let’s rectify that. I chose to walk a nice balance between frugality and functionality. We wanted to keep the cold out and the heat in, but without spending a fortune. We also want to provide a safe finished product. Leaving most foam board products exposed would be unsafe and a code violation. They will easily ignite. I didn’t want to have to sheetrock or put plywood over the foamboard, so I decided to upgrade to Dow Thermax. You’ll have to research whether this can be left exposed in your municipality, but I chose to go with it here.

We start by applying adhesive to insulation pins. The adhesive is made specifically for this purpose and emits rather potent fumes, so take precautions. After letting the pins cure to the concrete overnight or so, it’s now time to cut and fit the insulation board onto the pins. We air seal the perimeter of each sheet with the fire resistant foam from the foam gun, and we’ve just sealed out the cold. We opted to only go with 2″ foam, which now gives our wall an R-Value of approximately 13. Not quite up to code for new construction, but probably about 500% better than it was. Also, we weren’t required to adhere to building code because we didn’t need a permit for a repair of this nature.



Finally, we decided to maximize heat that was already available, instead of install a new heat source. We cut a nice hole through the plywood that had been used to block in an old foundation window dating from before the addition. On the other side of this plywood window, there is a wall mounted on demand boiler hot water heater. The heat transmitted from the existing mechanical room was ample enough to supply the previously cold, adjacent room.

Eldredge Lumber in York, Maine carries the Thermax insulation for around $60 per 4′ x 8′ sheet, and Ricci Lumber in Portsmouth, NH special ordered in the pins and adhesive. The minimum order was 1,000 insulation pins, and we used a quart of adhesive. The total for these 2 items was under $200. We air sealed the edges of all the panels with a fire retardant spray foam from a can. We used 6 sheets of the foam insulation for the concrete walls, and 2 sheets for the rim band where the floor joists meet the exterior wall. Super simple, you can do it!!!