Ridge vents are wonderful additions to any attic, but do they work without soffit vents? The answer is yes, but there are some drawbacks to doing so. This article will look at using ridge vents without soffit vents and explain the benefits and drawbacks of doing so.
Ridge vents can work without soffit vents; however, this won’t be very energy efficient. Without soffit vents, the ridge vents will draw air through other attic inlets, like a gable, but this will limit the air circulation in the attic.
Ridge vents work their best in combination with soffit vents. This combination will ensure adequate air movement through the attic, thus lowering its temperature to match the ambient temperature. This improves the longevity of insulation and woodwork of the roof in general.
Let’s see how the ridge-soffit ventilation system work.
Working of Ridge-Soffit attic ventilation
For soffit-ridge attic ventilation, the soffit vents act as the fresh air inlet and the ridge vents as the exhaust vents. Soffit vents, if you don’t already know, are installed at the soffits of the house, which is the lower portion of the attic. Ridge vents are installed on the top of the roof. In this arrangement, thanks to wind and natural convection, ambient air enters the attic through the soffit vents at the bottom and is exhausted through the ridge vents at the top.
Under normal circumstances, a ridge vent works in a similar way to a chimney. The ridge vent creates a draft, and the negative pressure it creates pulls air through the soffits. This air movement takes place along the path of least resistance, and the air entering the soffits will move between the shingles/water barrier/plywood and the ceiling insulation of the attic ceiling until they are exhausted through the ridge vent. The system works marvelously to keep the air temperature inside the attic close to the ambient temperature, and thereby, the attic is kept cooler.
For this system to work well, there must be no blockages preventing the flow of air from the soffit vents to the ridge vents.
Soffit vents can be neglected and sometimes covered with a layer or more of paint that blocks the airflow. Care should be taken not to obstruct the vent holes if you decide to paint the soffits. (Readmore about this on Can you paint soffit vents). The holes above the soffit vent should be big enough and unobstructed to allow free air passage. Blockages will lead to a hot attic, and mildew and mold forming on the rafters as well as on the insulation of the attic.
Soffit and ridge vents are useful in the winter season as well. Having air circulation in the attic during winter will prevent it from heating up and forming ice dams. Air circulation also helps to avoid mold growth during that season. One downside of doing this is that it will lead to heat loss if the attic is not insulated properly from the living areas of the house. The hot air inside the house can seep through the ceiling into the attic and escape, thus increasing utility bills. However, it is best to keep the ridge and soffit vents open during the winter than not.
What if you have no soffits vents?
But what if your roof doesn’t have an overhang for soffit vents? It is still possible to vent the attic with ridge vents. Given below are soffit vent alternatives that will work with ridge vents;
Note: In this case, you must remember that you are going with the second best and not the best solution. For example, ridge vents work one hundred percent with soffit vents, whereas anything less is substandard.
1. Gable Vents
Gable vents are installed on the gable of the house. They act as intake vents. The negative air pressure created by ridge vents will pull cool air through the gable vents.
One drawback of this system is that since gable vents are usually installed slightly above the attic floor, the intake air may not circulate throughout the attic; some lower portions close to the floor may not get adequate air circulation. Another downside is that these types of vents cannot be installed on all houses because all of them may not have a gable face.
2. Eyebrow Vents
Eyebrow vents are low-profile vents installed on the roof of the house. They are usually used as exhaust vents, however, if the vent is installed on the edge of the roof, it can act as an intake vent. This may not work for all roofs. Where it is applicable is when the slope of the roof is more than 30 degrees. This slope should provide some good vertical distance between the ridge vents and the eyebrow vents. In that case, the eyebrow vents will work efficiently as intake vents.
3. Drip Edge Vent
Drip edge vents are a great alternative to soffit vents. They are small intake vents installed on the drip edge of the house. These vents are usually installed when there is no provision to add soffits. These vents are usually small in size compared to soffit vents, so they won’t let as much air as soffit vents can. However, a well-planned installation of these vents will result in efficient ventilation of the attic. Just like how soffit vents work, drip edge vents will intake cool air, which replaces the hot air vented y the ridge vents.
I actually recommend drip edge vents over gable and eyebrow vents.
The best intake vent is a soffit vent for air to circulate under your roof and be exhausted by a ridge vent. If you need to adapt the system, it is possible, as discussed but do not expect the same results as you would have had with soffit vents in combination with a ridge vent. Some or a combination of alternatives might give you results that are close to ideal.