An attic fan is designed to help regulate temperature and humidity levels by exhausting hot air from the unfinished attic space above your living areas. It's an important part of maintaining attic ventilation and can make a big difference in your energy bills, too.
Joel Worthington, President of Mr. Electric, explains the purpose of an attic fan this way: "Think of it as a means of cycling the trapped air out with fresh air from the outside." He says that it's especially important in the summer, when stagnant air can be trapped inside the attic and heated by the sun beating down on the roof. "If the air conditioning unit is running and the home doesn’t have a functioning attic ventilator, the attic is acting like a radiant heater while the air conditioning unit is trying to cool the room at the same time. Essentially, they are working against each other." In addition, attic fans can prolong the life of shingles, minimize the chance of mold infestations, and prevent ice dams from forming.
To find the best attic fans, we evaluated both gable mount and roof mount models. We compared each fan based on installation, air volume, and coverage area, plus features like a built-in thermostat or humidistat.
QuietCool AFG PRO-2.0 2-Speed Gable Mount Attic Fan
Easy to install with no wiring required
Suitable for spaces up to 4,000 square feet
Must pick between high and low fan speed setting
No app to control fan function
The QuietCool 2-Speed Gable Mount Attic Fan is easy to install, energy-efficient, and well-made with the addition of a prewired thermostat. For all these reasons, it’s a popular choice, and we recommend it as the best attic fan for most homes.
This electric gable mount attic fan is powered by a PCS (Permanent Split Capacitor) motor. In real-world terms, this means that the motor uses less energy than non-PCS versions and has fewer moving parts, giving it the edge for durability, too. Installation of the fan is straightforward, and it includes rubber mounting pads, which reviewers say greatly contribute to noise reduction and upholds the reputation of the QuietCool brand. The thermostat is adjustable, with intervals every 10 degrees from 50 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep in mind that while this attic fan is equipped with a 2-speed motor, you’ll have to pick a single fan speed setting at the time of installation, unless you install an on/off switch at the power supply box. Most people will likely be happy with the high-speed setting, which gives a maximum air flow of 1,945 CFM and ensures good ventilation for spaces up to 4,000 square feet.
Aside from picking one fan speed setting at installation, the only other real compromise when picking this attic fan is the fact that it doesn’t include smart features. Other QuietCool models offer Bluetooth functionality so that you can adjust the fan speed or turn the fan on and off from your smart device. If that appeals to you, you may want to upgrade to one of these models. Otherwise, this plug-and-play attic fan is a great value.
Price at time of publish: $109
Dimensions: 20 x 18 x 11 inches | Air Volume: 1,945 CFM | Type: Gable mount | Coverage Area: 4,000 sq. ft.
iLIVING 800 CFM Shutter Exhaust Fan
Made of corrosion-resistant materials
Requires hardwired installation
Remote controller sold separately
A basic but affordable attic fan is a small investment that can pay off with energy savings and head off more serious problems with moisture or mold. This model from iLIVING is a great option for ventilating spaces up to 1,200 square feet but costs less than $75. It produces 772 CFM, but additional fan sizes are available to accommodate larger or smaller spaces. Corrosion-resistant materials eliminate worries about rusting, and the unit features automatic shutters that open and close as the fan turns on or off.
This gable mount attic fan requires hardwired installation, which makes set-up more advanced than most plug-and-play models. And while the sealed and permanently lubricated motor is low-maintenance and capable of variable speed settings, you’ll need to purchase a separate remote controller if you want to take advantage of that function. All things considered, though, this small attic fan is a bargain and earns high marks for its frills-free operation.
Price at time of publish: $66
Dimensions: 15 x 15 x 5.75 inches | Air Volume: 772 CFM | Type: Gable mount | Coverage Area: 1,200 sq. ft.
QuietCool Smart 2830 CFM Power Gable Mount Attic Fan
Built-in thermostat and humidistat
Control with an app
Only equipped with Bluetooth, not Wi-Fi
For an attic fan with more functionality and features, the QuietCool Smart Gable Mount Attic Fan is the one to choose. It has a 3-speed fan with a built-in thermostat and humidistat, offers an app for basic monitoring and control of the fan’s functions, and is equipped to expel hot air from spaces up to 3,000 square feet.
Out of the box, this wall-mount attic fan installs easily and feels well-made, according to reviewers. For the sake of durability, it’s constructed of galvanized steel, which resists corrosion. The fan assembly plugs into a 110V outlet, so no hardwiring is required for installation. It’s prewired with both a thermostat and humidistat, which isn’t a feature you’ll find on all attic fans. The combination translates into more efficient operation when the fan is set to turn on or off as conditions call for it.
The 3-speed ECM (electronically communicated motor) gives you the option to reduce air speed (and noise) by setting the fan to medium and low settings. On low, the fan still produces 1,337 CFM but conserves energy, using just 22 watts compared to 148 watts on high. On the highest setting, this attic fan moves air at speeds up to 2,801 CFM.
Of course, one of the best things about the Smart Gable Mount Attic Fan is the fact that you can remotely control the fan using the QuietCool app. From your smart device, you can adjust the fan speed and set schedules to optimize performance and energy efficiency. The only downside is the fact that the fan isn’t equipped with WiFi, so the app relies on a Bluetooth connection. This means you won’t be able to make changes to the fan’s operation while you’re at the office or away on vacation. All in all, this attic fan is a splurge compared to other basic options that cost $100 or less, but it provides more control and efficiency in exchange for the higher price tag.
Price at time of publish: $269
Dimensions: 11.25 x 19.75 x 22.5 inches | Air Volume: 2,801 CFM | Noise Level: Not listed | Coverage Area: 3,000 sq. ft.
QuietCool 40-Watt Solar Powered Roof Mount Attic Fan
Includes 40-watt solar panel
Hybrid system draws on electricity as needed
Thermostat is not adjustable
May be too small for large attics
A solar attic fan uses the sun’s energy for power, keeping your house cool and your energy bills low. This hybrid roof mount version from QuietCool pairs an efficient DC motor with a 40-watt solar panel but draws on AC power for uninterrupted operation during overcast conditions or at night.
The QuietCool 40-Watt Solar Powered Roof Mount Attic Fan relies on a prewired thermostat to dictate fan operation. While it’s a plus that the thermostat is included, it’s preset to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and can’t be adjusted. In the experience of some users, this is too low of a temperature setting, resulting in the fan operating more frequently than expected. The good news is that the fan is very quiet while running, according to most people. It won’t be a bother to most households, even when it’s operating at night with very little background noise to mask the fan.
When deciding if this is the right solar attic fan for your home, consider that it moves air at speeds up to 791 CFM. While the manufacturer states it has enough air movement to ventilate spaces up to 2,000 square feet, some homeowners find the fan underpowered in large spaces. Nearly all reviewers agree on how well made this solar attic fan seems and that it’s easy to install. It also is backed by a 15-year warranty to give you peace of mind that it will run well for years to come.
Price at time of publish: $369
Dimensions: 26 x 26 x 14 inches | Air Volume: 791 CFM | Type: Roof Mount | Coverage Area: 2,000 sq. ft.
Best with Thermostat
Maxx Air Cool Attic 1300 CFM Power Gable Mount Attic Vent
Prewired, adjustable thermostat
Sturdy galvanized steel housing
No smart features
Some complaints over fit and finish
An attic fan with a thermostat is a more efficient choice because the fan will operate as needed, rather than constantly using energy to move air. Some attic fans are compatible with an add-on thermostat, but the simplest route is to purchase one with a prewired thermostat. That’s the case for this popular gable mount model from Maxx Air.
The adjustable thermostat allows you to pick a temperature between 50 and 120 degrees. When the temperature in your attic reaches this temperature threshold, the attic fan will turn on. For more control over the conditions in which the attic fan operates, you can upgrade the thermostat to a combination thermostat/humidistat unit, but that involves a separate purchase and a little modification on your part. There’s no app to let you remotely control the fan’s operation, but most people are satisfied with relying on the thermostat to regulate the fan’s operation and save energy costs.
The biggest complaint about this attic fan has nothing to do with the thermostat but involves the fit and finish of the mounting hardware and fan blades. Some reviewers run into problems with the fan blades clearing the bolts of the mounting bracket. With a little tweaking of the blades or some new bolts, the problem is usually resolved.
Price at time of publish: $93
Dimensions: 15 x 15 x 5.875 inches | Air Volume: 1,300 CFM | Type: Gable mount | Coverage Area: 1,850 sq. ft.
Best Roof Mount
Master Flow ERV6 Roof-Mount Power Attic Vent
Multiple finishes for roof vent
Low profile dome
Includes screen for keeping out animals
Humidistat is a separate purchase
No app or remote control available
The Master Flow ERV6 is a top contender for a roof-mounted attic fan because of its low-profile dome, built-in thermostat, and reliable performance. Unlike a ridge vent which is passive, this power vent attic fan moves air at rates up to 1,500 CFM and is capable of covering more area. It's a solid choice for even large attic spaces up to 2,800 square feet.
Some homeowners avoid roof-mount attic fans because of the visual impact. If you’re concerned about that, the dome of the Master Flow ERV6 is available in four different shades to blend in with your shingles. Regardless of your chosen color, this attic fan is made of galvanized steel for durability. It also has a heavy-duty internal screen to ensure that animals don’t use the attic fan as an access point.
While the thermostat is adjustable and easy to set, according to reviewers, it’s worth noting that a humidistat is a separate purchase. In addition, no app or remote control is available to adjust the attic fan's settings. Despite this, most people are satisfied with other important features of the fan, like easy installation and relatively quiet operation.
Price at time of publish: $165
Dimensions: 25 x 25 x 9 inches | Air Volume: 1,500 CFM | Type: Roof mount | Coverage Area: 2,800 sq. ft.
Best Gable Mount
Air Vent 18-Inch Dia Electric Gable Vent Fan
Unique fan housing for better efficiency
No anti-vibration pads included
A gable mount attic fan disperses hot air from an exhaust opening on an exterior wall of the attic space, rather than through the roof. You might choose this type of attic fan to avoid creating an opening in the roof, like you would need to do for a roof mount gable fan. We recommend this electric gable vent fan from Air Vent because of its efficient design that allows it to ventilate up to 1,900 square feet of space.
While most gable vent fans have a cylindrical housing surrounding the fan, this model uses a patented design with a series of rings that surround the six-blade fan. The result is more efficient air movement, up to an impressive 1,320 CFM. The fan’s operation is controlled with a built-in thermostat, further boosting efficiency by preventing the fan from operating when conditions don’t warrant its use.
This gable mount attic fan sometimes draws complaints for producing noise and vibration during operation. This isn’t completely unexpected for this type of attic fan “since they're directly mounted to structural components that span into the living space,” says Epelbaum. To solve the problem (or avoid the issue), some users have used rubber pads to dampen any vibration from the fan’s housing. They’re not included with the fan assembly, but it’s a small add-on purchase while you’re buying the other installation hardware necessary to install the attic fan.
Price at time of publish: $106
Dimensions: 17 x 17 x 7 inches | Air Volume: 1,320 CFM | Type: Gable mount | Coverage Area: 1,900 sq. ft.
The best attic fan for you will depend on a number of factors, including how large your space is, how you'd like the unit to be powered, how you'd like it mounted, and whether or not you want an included thermostat and humidistat. For spaces up to 4,800 square feet, we recommend the QuietCool Smart 2830 CFM Power Gable Mount Attic Fan as it's easy to install, simple to use, and extremely energy efficient. If budget is a concern, the iLIVING 800 CFM Shutter Exhaust Fan is our top choice. This unit comes in under $100 and can handle spaces up to 1,200 square feet.
What to Look for in an Attic Fan
- Gable Mount: A gable mount attic fan exhausts hot air through an opening in the attic wall. It’s typically visible when looking at the home’s exterior and can require more complex installation than a roof-mount attic fan. However, some homeowners prefer this type of attic fan to avoid creating a hole in the roof.
- Roof Mount: This type of attic fan draws air through an opening in the roof of your house. The fan sits above the ventilation hole and is usually smaller in size than a gable mount fan, which means it may not have as much cooling power. However, it’s often more simple to install a replacement roof mount attic fan than it is to install a new gable mount attic fan.
Both types of attic fans can also be powered with solar energy, according to Worthington. But it’s worth noting that roof mount attic fans may have a slight advantage because of the more direct sun exposure that comes from the fan’s location on the rooftop. If you want to put solar power to work for your attic fan, our top choice is the QuietCool 40-Watt Solar Powered Roof Mount Attic Fan because it includes a 40-watt solar panel and an AC/DC inverter that allows the fan to run even in low-light conditions.
A key performance factor for an attic fan is how much air volume the fan moves. This is measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute) and is determined by how fast the fan operates. According to Lane Dixon of Aire Serv, attic fans usually produce between 800 to 1,600 CFM. Some attic fans are equipped with multiple speed settings, so check the high and low fan speed settings to see what the CFM rating is for each. In some cases, you’ll have to pick a high or low speed setting at installation. Other attic fans give you the ability to control fan speed. This is the case with the QuietCool Smart 2830 CFM Power Gable Mount Attic Fan, which has low, medium, and high fan speeds controlled within an app.
To be effective, you should pick an attic fan with enough cooling power for the size of your attic. If you're unsure of your attic's square footage, it's best to measure the space before you start shopping for an attic fan. If you choose an underpowered attic fan, it won’t adequately clear hot air from the space.
The coverage area for an attic fan is primarily based on the fan’s CFM rating, which is usually between 800 and 1,600 CFM. Dixon says that for attics up to 2,200 square feet, one attic fan should be sufficient to cool the space.
An attic fan should be durable enough to withstand fluctuating temperatures and exposure to moisture. It’s unlikely that you’ll regularly inspect or maintain the fan because of its remote location in your home. Logically, then, you should pick an attic fan that is made of long-lasting, sturdy materials. Some attic fans may have plastic housing, which won’t rust or corrode but can become more brittle with exposure to excessive heat or cold. However, Dixon says that most attic fans are made from galvanized steel “because they can better withstand temperature swings of high and low temperatures.” This is the case for the Maxx Air 1300 CFM Mill Electric Powered Gable Mount Electric Attic Fan, which has galvanized steel housing that is corrosion-resistant. The blades of an attic fan are often made of aluminum, since this material is lighter in weight and rust-resistant.
To be installed properly, you’ll need to create an opening in the roof or exterior wall of your attic that can accommodate the housing of the attic fan. In addition, the fan needs a power source to operate. Some attic fans are plug-and-play, simply requiring you to plug the fan into a 110V outlet. This is the case for our top overall pick, the QuietCool 2-Speed Gable Mount Attic Fan. Hardwired attic fans require wiring to your home’s electrical system and may require the expertise of an electrician.
An attic fan is going to be placed in one of the most remote parts of the home and will likely be left untouched for months or even years, so it's necessary to ensure that the attic fan is made of tough, durable materials that can stand up to excessive heat, freezing cold, and airborne moisture.
Some attic fans are made with plastic components that can be susceptible to both high and low-temperature extremes, despite having superior resistance to moisture. Due to this vulnerability, most attic fans are made of galvanized or painted steel because these materials have no problem withstanding the blazing heat of summer or the frigid temperatures in winter. As long as the protective surface of the metal isn't damaged, these materials also hold up well in rain, sleet, ice, and snow.
Should my attic fan run all the time?
No, an attic fan shouldn’t always be running. Dixon says, “If the outside temperatures are mild, the attic fan may not need to run as the attic temperature should not be too hot.” While it may seem like a small thing to set the attic fan to operate continuously, Dixon doesn’t advise it since running the attic fan all the time increases energy costs.
Most attic fans will turn on and off in conjunction with a built-in thermostat, which you can often set to your desired temperature threshold. If the attic becomes too warm, the fan will be activated, and hot air will be pushed out of the space.
How long do attic fans last?
The life expectancy for an attic fan is around 15 years, says Dixon. “If damaged by storms, homeowners may be able to have them replaced if a new roof is needed after severe storm damage.” You’ll see that some attic fans have a 15-year warranty, while others may only offer a 5-year warranty. The warranty period isn’t a definitive answer as to how long the attic fan will last, but it can provide you with a gauge of how durable the fan materials and motor are intended to be.
Is a higher CFM better for attic fans? And How many CFMs do I need to cool my attic?
A higher CFM isn’t always better for an attic fan. It takes energy to power the fan, so a fan that is larger than necessary will use more energy. In addition, a too-strong attic fan can hinder the efficiency of your HVAC system since it may actually draw heated or cooled air from your living space into the attic.
According to the Home Ventilating Institute, here’s how many CFM you should have based on the size of your attic:
- 1,000 square feet: 700 CFM
- 2,000 square feet: 1,400 CFM
- 3,000 square feet: 2,100 CFM
If you have a dark or steep roof, then you should add 15 percent to the above-listed CFM recommendations.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Erica Puisis, a freelance home writer who has been contributing to The Spruce since 2017. She specializes in home appliances and products that are innovative and essential. When researching the best attic fans to buy, she evaluated each model based on its type, ease of installation, CFM, and additional features that make the fan easier to use or more efficient. Every model included in our recommendations moves air at 750 CFM or more.
For additional insight, Puisis interviewed Joel Worthington, the President of Mr. Electric. As the head of a nationwide electrical company, Worthington provided tips on how to choose an attic fan and explained the types available. For an HVAC perspective, we also spoke to Lane Dixon, Vice President of Operations at Air Serve. Dixon spoke about what to look for when it comes to CFM for an attic fan and whether an attic fan should operate continuously.