We all know that roofs are meant to help insulate the house and help protect it against the elements. A lot has also been said about the different types of roofing materials. However, if you’re building a new house or repairing your existing roof, the different types of roof vents are of paramount importance to you.

The primary purpose of roof vents is to help your home breathe easier. Simply put, roof vents, or attic ventilation systems, are used to let in clean, cool air and let out stale air. This makes them important to the health of your family as well as your home itself. We’re going to introduce you to the different types of roof vents, their efficiency, and more.

What are attic ventilation systems?

Attic ventilation systems help your home breathe by pulling in fresh air from the outside into your home and allowing heat from inside to escape towards the outside. There are two types of attic ventilation systems: active and passive. Both of these systems essentially do the same thing, and one isn’t more effective than the other.

Active ventilation systems pull in the air from the outside and push out air from the inside using fans and pumps. Passive systems do the same thing using natural forces such as wind.

Why is roof venting important?

roof ventilation

Here are some of the major drawbacks you will have to deal with if you do not have adequate roof venting in your home.

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  1. Poor indoor air quality due to stale air circulating inside your attic without a way out.
  2. Overworking your home’s HVAC systems, especially in the summer months, to effectively cool the second and third stories of your home.
  3. Moisture builds up in the attic because of warm air accumulating there.
  4. Your roof sheathing is likely to get affected with dry rot.
  5. If you live in colder climates, ice dams are sure to form in the winter months, causing permanent damage to your home’s roof.

Active ventilation systems

Active roof vents create a drawing effect, pulling in the air into the intake vents and pushing it out through the exhaust vents. There are four types of active vents.

Turbine vents

turbine vents

Turbine vents are popularly known as whirlybirds. They create a drawing effect using convection to keep air moving in and out of the attic even in the absence of winds. If this ventilation system is installed properly, the air in your attic is refreshed at least ten to twelve times in an hour.

A common misconception is that because turbine vents are open-aired to the attic and have slats, insects, rainwater, and snow have easy access to your attic. However, these systems are built to prevent any external elements other than air from entering your home.

Read more: Snow blowing in roof vents

Power vents 

If you’ve seen circular, low-profile vents on the roofs of homes, those are power vents. Power vents are usually installed near the top ridge of the roof and use electricity to push stale, hot air from the attic to the outside.

While using this roof ventilation system, it is important to keep in mind that they should be paired with humidistats during the winter months. Not doing this will build up the humidity in your attic, causing condensation and damaging the roof. 

Another important maintenance tip to keep in mind is that the motors used by this type of vent will break down periodically and will need to be replaced.

Power vents work best when paired with some kind of an intake vent, such as a soffit vent.

Solar-powered vents

These vents work on the same principle as power vents do, but, as the name suggests, they are powered by the sun.

While solar-powered vents are great from the point of view of being environmentally friendly, they actually aren’t very energy efficient. The reason for this is because they are powered by the sun, the vents stop working when they run out of charge until the solar panels are recharged. In the interim, your home’s HVAC systems have to work overtime to compensate and keep your home cool.

Ridge vents with a baffle

These vents run the entire length of a roof and cut into the roof’s ridges. They are a popular choice aesthetically because they cannot be seen from below. However, they aren’t the best choice you can make because they are not designed to keep out rain, snow, or insects from entering your attic.

The moving part in this ventilation system is the baffle or chutes, that move to let air in and out of the attic. You also have ridge vents without baffles, but those are passive vents.

Read more: Introduction to insulation baffles

Passive ventilation systems

Passive ventilation systems use forces of nature, such as the wind, for air movement in and out of your attic. Since there are no mechanical parts involved, these roof vents are more affordable and virtually maintenance-free. Let’s take a look at the four types of passive roof vents.

Static vents

Also called turtle vents or box vents, static vents look like little boxes on your roof and work using the principle of convection to move hot air out of the roof.

This means that as your attic becomes warmer, hot air automatically rises up and is pushed out through the vents.

Ridge vents without a baffle

Like their active counterparts, ridge vents are cut along the entire length of your home’s roof on the ridge. However, this passive ventilation system does not have baffles to direct the air.

Ridge vents without baffles are not a very practical choice because they are even less effective than active ridge vents in keeping out debris, pests, insects, rain, and snow.

Read more: Ridge caps and vents

Off-ridge vents

Off-ridge vents are similar to box vents but require a cutout near the ridge on the roof to be installed. These lesser-known vents are long and thin in shape. Their sleek design makes them a good choice since they do not stick out visually.

However, their design also limits their coverage area. If you choose this ventilation system for your home, you will need multiple units to do the job.

Gable end vents

Gable end vent

This passive ventilation system refers to wooden vents installed where the two slopes of your roof meet on the exterior wall of your home’s attic. The system relies on the force of the wind outside to move wind in and out of the attic.

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Cupola vents

Cupola vents are possibly the best-looking vents there are. They look like small towers on top of homes, often featuring their own mini-roofs. 

Cupola vents were originally designed for barns, to let in a lot of air to help dry hay. They are now most often featured on modern Italian-themed homes. 

They come in a variety of designs, some with wooden louvers to prevent debris, pests, and natural elements from getting access to the attic. Others are wide open to allow in lots of sunlight and air.

Their exotic design and the fact that they let in excess amounts of air mean that cupola vents are not only expensive, but they also may not really be the best fit for all homes.

What should you choose?

The best combination for any home to have in order for it to be properly ventilated would be a combination of ridge vents for exhaust and soffit vents or fascia vents for intake vents. In case ridge vents cannot be installed, box vents are the next best option.

Read more: Introduction to turtle vents

Understanding different types of roof vents was last modified: January 3rd, 2023 by Narayan Shrouthy
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Add more images, the info is nice, but I want to picture them