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.
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.
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.