This article lists the various options for attic and roof ventilation.
Unless you have a sealed attic, it is important to provide attic ventilation for a number of reasons. The primary reason is to exhaust the hot air trapped inside the attic. Sufficient ventilation also avoids the growth of mold. There are many types of attic ventilation but since not all roofs are created equal, the ventilation option that works for you may not work for another.
The various attic ventilation options are drip edge vents, over fascia vents, gable vents, soffit vents, cupola vents, roof turbines, solar powered attic vents, hardwired power attic vents, box vents, and ridge vents.
Given below are the detailed descriptions of these venting options to help you choose the right one for your attic.
Table of Contents
1. Drip Edge Vents
Drip edge vents are vents installed on the drip edge of the roof. They are uber-efficient and it is possible to install them on your own if you have some experience with roofing. However, if this is not the case for you, be sure to call in the professionals for this job. Drip edge vents are installed right beneath the very first row of shingles on your roof. So this means they are on the edge, not the first row at the top, just to be absolutely clear.
Drip edge vents are air intake vents. Since they are installed at the bottom of the roofing, the negative pressure created inside the attic by convection pulls the cooler air from outside through these vents. These vents are great for homes where soffit vents cannot be installed due to the small surface area where the overhang is. Even better though, drip edge vents have evolved over time where some have ventilation built in – something that looks similar to a soffit vent. They then drain water into the gutters but also allow for air intake to hit the roof while cool air is pulled through the interior of the roof and to its peak.
2. Over Fascia Vents
Over fascia vents are quite relative to drip edge vents in that they are designed for homes that are unable to host soffit vents. Their design is a bit different from a drip edge vent, though. They are a bit smaller than drip edge vents, which can hamper the amount of airflow that they are able to catch when the wind hits the roof. Especially when compared to soffit vents.
However, they still do relatively well with air intake when the wind is present and they tend to not be as obvious as far as appearances go. This vent is placed right at the top of the fascia board (now you see where the name comes from) and the gutter, then also goes right underneath the first row of shingles just as drip edge vents do. If you do have soffits already, but need a bit more ventilation, these vents are a great choice.
3. Gable Vents
Ah, the trusty old gable vents. Do not let my phrasing fool you, these vents may have been around a while, but they are still used quite often in homes to help aid ventilation. The keyword in that last sentence is “aid.” Gable vents work secondarily as exhaust systems and use cross-ventilation (two gable vents installed on two opposing sides of your attic) to get air in one side and out the other. They work well in areas that have lots and lots of wind.
However, they are not known for their reliability as far as ventilation goes in areas that experience temperatures below freezing or even in areas that endure very hot or humid summers. So, if you live in a climate that is similar to this, then you might want to consider another option.
Still, these types of vents work best in areas that are breezy and have a relatively uniform climate. Also be careful if you combine any other ventilation systems, as other ventilation systems can mess with the airflow of the gable and totally cancel out effectivity. If your temperatures remain moderate and mild, then gable vents can be a great choice for your attic ventilation.
4. Soffit Vents
I have already mentioned this name a few times now throughout this article, that is because they are the most common and the most often used type of ventilation system, especially for newer homes complete with attics. Soffit vents are fantastic with air intake, but even more, they are very cost-effective for the work that they are able to do.
If you have ever looked up at the eves of a home and noticed some panels with holes in them, you have seen a soffit vent in action. Fortunately, they are not so unsightly that they take away from your home’s aesthetic. So, if you were worried about that, then fear not- they are the latest and greatest trend in attic ventilation.
Soffit vents work based on the principle of convection just like other vents do. The negative pressure created inside the attic by the rising hot air pulls in fresh air through the holes in the soffits.
There are continuous soffit vents and individual soffit vents, depending on how much intake ventilation your attic needs.
Both of these options are going to get the most air in and the most air out compared to many other ventilation systems. There is a reason that soffit vents are predominantly used in attic ventilation today.
5. Cupola Vents
The name nearly gives itself away in that many of you out there have never even heard of such a thing. This name is actually derived from Italian and, if you have ever been along the Italian countryside, you have likely seen one of these types of vents on an old country home. Cupola vents are beautiful, really, but they are also very efficient at getting large amounts of air in and can also pull air out. They are also known for the light that they allow into a space.
Cupola vents are exhaust vents unlike the others mentioned above on this list. Having exhaust vents is important for natural convection to work. Cupola vents are usually installed at the very top of the roof to provide an easy path for the hot air rising up. You can have one or more cupola vents on the roof depending on how much attic ventilation you need. Make sure you don’t put too many of them as too much exhaust ventilation has negative impacts on your attic.
One downside of these vents is their cost; they cost way more than an ordinary vent. Many people do not have the need or the funds for such a structure on top of their home, but if you are looking for a beautiful alternative to other modern-day ventilation systems, a cupola could be the one for you. They are costly structures considering their purpose but unlike other types of vents, these add beauty to your roof.
Many homeowners see this as an unnecessary cost where there are other ventilation options out there for a third of the price. However, if you want your home to remind you of your time spent aboard (or if you happen to live in Italy and want your home to blend in), then cupola vents are the way to go for attic ventilation.
6. Roof Turbines
If you have ever seen a barn in the United States, you have seen a roof turbine. However, this ventilation system is not simply reserved for the farmers, many homes also host this type of vent atop.
Roof turbines are self-rotating exhaust vents that pull hot air from the attic. Their spin helps to add some pulling power in addition to natural convection. These are usually installed on the hip of the roof towards the top and are used as an alternative to ridge vents or can be used along with them.
Roof turbines are made of metal and are known for their nickname “whirlybird.” They harness the wind and use this in order to power up and get air pulled up from your attic or from the barn if that’s where you’re installing this bad boy.
One downside of roof turbines is that they are not very efficient when there is no breeze. If you find yourself in the middle of a scorching summer day without a single breeze in sight, this system can leave you sorely disappointed. They are also quite small, which means they are not able to pull large amounts of air out at a time.
However, if you have the right spot for this, they require little maintenance and are very quiet. So, if you live in an area that has a consistent source of wind (just a little breeze will do) and you also prefer a quieter, more subtle option, then this can be a great choice for you and your attic.
7. Solar Powered Attic Vents
Solar attic fans fall under the category ‘active roof ventilation systems‘. The ventilation options we mentioned before were passive, they didn’t require any energy. Solar attic fans are an exhaust system that forces air out of the attic either through its roof or through its gable.
The good side of this ventilation method is that it runs on solar power, at no running cost to you.
But beware, this system is not without its flaws. Because the solar-powered vent is fueled by the sun, this means that the fans which operate with it are usually either going at a very powerful rate or are too slow to make a difference.
There is no way to ensure that the vent is working at a consistent speed that is appropriate for your attic. Because of this, they can fall a bit short when it comes to reliability and effectiveness. Cost may be saved, but this may not end up being enough for its functionality. However, if you are in an area that consistently receives adequate sunlight, then solar-powered attic vents can be an effective way to ventilate your attic and protect the earth’s resources.
8. Hard-Wired Power Attic Vents
These vents are like solar attic fans but operated by electricity. They are a bit more reliable when it comes to keeping your attic at a consistent temperature. This is because they do not rely on the wind or sun to keep them going, but on your ability to keep the power running in your home (just be sure to pay those electric bills!). Electric-propelled vents pull the air out of the attic and thus help to maintain a more consistent temperature in the space.
The only thing to consider with this type of system is the cost difference due to their use of electricity. If this ventilation system is working hard, you may see a slight increase in your monthly electric bills over the summer.
9. Box Vents
Box vents are a highly popular venting solution for many homeowners, especially those with newer homes. However, these for sure take an expert to install, so if this is going to be the route you take, go ahead and call your local guy. They are called box vents for their design that is square. Because of their design, they can be installed where your home needs them the most, rather than running along the whole roof as other systems would.
A hole is cut in the roof and then the vent is placed over it. It seems simple, but these vents are very effective, and more can be installed for those of you that need some serious exhaust ventilation. They are also great for homes that have complicated roofs with varying angles. If you find yourself in a home that is more closely related to something out of a Dr. Suess book, these types of vents might save you a lot of headaches when it comes to finding something effective.
10. Ridge Vents
Ridge vents are beloved by many homeowners because they are discrete. Essentially, they look like part of your roof but are doing some serious work when it comes to ventilation. They are placed at the very peak of your roof and run along the entire span of its highest point – the roofline.
These are considered to be super effective because they are located at the most primary position to help hot air escape. Hot air rises, and ridge vents are consequently positioned where it counts.
These also take some skill to install, but you can leave it to the experts and they will have it done in a day. You do not have to worry about them clogging with debris or not working due to no wind being present, so they offer great reliability while also not being an eyesore for your home. After all, curb appeal is a thing and these vents will certainly not be the thing to make future buyers cringe.
What to Consider Before Choosing Your Attic Vents
There are a few things to consider before making any big commitments to your attics’ ventilation systems. If you are like me and tend to jump the gun due to excitement and an intrinsic need to have everything done right this very moment, hold off.
Relax and take into account these few things before giving any contractors the go-ahead. If you feel like you are still not informed enough to make the decision, always ask an expert’s opinion! Then, you can compare with your knowledge, budget, and home for the appropriate ventilation choice.
Consider the Weather Before Choosing Attic Ventilation
If you live in an area that has a relatively mild climate, ventilation should not be a huge ordeal for you. However, if you are in a location that experiences extreme hots and extreme colds, you need to keep in mind how these fluctuations in temperature are going to affect the stability of the temperature in your attic. This is going to affect what type of system you choose and how you want it to function for the climate you are in.
If you were to choose a roof turbine but were living in a place where there is virtually no wind and lots of humidity, the ventilation would simply be more of a roof decoration than a functioning machine. The weather in your area plays a huge part in which ventilation system you should choose, how well it is going to function, and if it is going to be effective long-term.
Note Any Existing Ventilation
Many homes already have some type of ventilation system installed. This is great, as most of the time, that system will be working to some degree. However, if it is no longer functioning or effective, you will need to remove it or make repairs in order to get it going again. If it is in fact still working, but you need a little something more to get your attic flowing with a good amount of air, you need to consider how a secondary ventilation system will affect what currently exists.
However, if you add a secondary ventilation system that is opposed to the function of the one that currently exists, this can lead to weather infiltration and energy bills that are out of the roof (pun intended).
Make sure that the systems will work together rather than against one another. If they cancel one another out, your extra installation efforts will have been futile. Do a little digging and see which systems will be able to work alongside one another.