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What Are the Different Types of Solar Ventilation Fans? (By Panel Design)

Solar-powered ventilation fans are another popular rooftop solar device, following closely behind solar generation systems and solar water heaters.

They harness solar energy to improve ventilation and air circulation while contributing to decarbonizing the property.

When compared with traditional ventilation fans, they possess several outstanding benefits:

  • Easy to install without the need for electrical conduit running and wiring
  • Low maintenance due to the long-lasting panel and no wire replacement being needed
  • Increased structure lifetime as a result of less engineering being needed for installation
  • Do not consume electricity when combined with battery storage

However, there are varying variants of solar ventilation fans on the market, such as solar attic ventilation fans, solar ventilation fans with thermostats, ventilation fans for boats and marine applications, and ventilation fans for warehouses, to name a few. Which one is ideal for my project and suits my needs?

An in-depth discussion of detailed technical aspects of these fans is beyond the scope of this article. Here we will categorize these fans into several groups by their solar panel design, and talk about how varying panel designs suit different use scenarios.

Solar Ventilation Fans With Stationary Panels

Solar Ventilation Fan With Stationary Panel
Product Source: Amazon

Also known as all-in-one solar ventilation fans, these ventilation fans have their panels embedded into the top surface of the housing, typically sitting flush with the surrounding surfaces.

The panel on these fans is stationary, hence the name.

This provides a compact and appealing appearance for the entire product. However, the stationary design somewhat limits the applications of these fans. They should be installed at a rooftop spot where there is minimal shading and optimal solar irradiation across the daytime. Otherwise, their efficiency and power output will be compromised, and consequently, an unstable performance of the fan will be induced.

If the aesthetics of solar ventilation fans is your major concern, you’d better opt for products with larger battery storage capacity, or with dual power source design which can be complemented by utility power. This will help to ensure the fan can get enough power and functions as expected even though the solar energy supply is insufficient.

Another downside is that, you should 100% confirm the solar irradiation and associated conditions suffice to support reliable solar conversion for a smooth operation of the fan motor throughout the forecasted application period. Because of the stationary design of the panel, you can only get a complete replacement for the entire product if the solar supply fails to meet the required standards.

Alternatively, you can switch to products integrated with thermostats. These fans only operate when the indoor temperature reaches a certain threshold. When not in operation, the ‘saved energy’ can be used to charge the battery.

Solar Ventilation Fans With Adjustable Panels

Solar Ventilation Fan With Adjustable Panel
Source: Amazon

Akin to the concept of all-in-two solar street lights, the fan motor, blades and related electronic devices of these fans are integrated into a housing, while the solar panel is separated and installed on a horizontally rotatable and vertically tiltable base.

Since the panel is not fixed as in the stationary product, users can adjust the panel either horizontally or vertically to get the maximum amount of sunlight absorption. This provides great flexibility for the application of these ventilation fans, making them adaptable to a wide range of rooftop environments. In some cases, these fans can also be installed on the outer walls of properties, where there is an acceptable amount of sunlight and when the panel can be moved to an ideal position.

Unfortunately, this design leads to a less appealing appearance in comparison to the stationary counterpart. Plus, before buying these products, you should ensure that they use strong and quality materials, and the panel module is capable of withstanding any strong wind loads at your site.

Unlike previous products, replacement for the damaged panel or upgrade for a larger capacity panel is more feasible in these products.

Ventilation Fans With Independent Panels

These ventilation fans adopt a distributed design, with their panel installed at a separate spot and connected to the fan with a long wire.

These fans are ideal for spots with poor irradiation resources, such as those with frequent shading. The placement of the independent panel has huge flexibility, with a core goal of letting it receive enough sunlight to supply reliable power for the fan.

In other words, these solar-powered ventilation fans can be installed at nearly all kinds of spots of the structure.

Another advantage of these fans is that the choice of their fan capacity is much broader. From several hundred to several thousand CFM (cubic feet per minute), they can provide robust ventilation and air circulation performance for either residential or C&I projects.

Moreover, thanks to their straightforward design, the look of their fan module (with housing) can be either simply cube or highly customized to fit the design of rooftop ridge for building-integrated projects.

You might wonder, why not revamp the current ventilation fan with a solar panel myself?

Actually, analogous to the idea of modern solar power systems, a battery energy storage module coupled with related electronic parts such as a charge controller is typically necessary for these fans to fully unlock their potential.

In contrast to other types of ventilation fans, the replacement of the panel is simple enough.

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Each type of solar-powered ventilation fan has its good and not-so-good characteristics. 

The ultimate choice comes down to a comprehensive consideration of ventilation demand, aesthetics as well as some specific features, such as remote control and IoT monitoring.

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