Vents & Add Ons
Learn about vents, soffits, and other roofing add-ons that may not immediately come to mind when thinking about your roof.

The Best Types of Vents for Your Roof

Proper ventilation is essential to any home. However, conflicting opinions on which of the many roof vent types is most efficient may be quite confusing. Depending upon your local climate, building codes, and the size of your home, a vent system may be more efficient than another. There are two major types of vent systems, intake, and exhaust, and you should consider adding one of each for maximum efficiency.


Types of Exhaust Vent Systems

The primary purpose of an exhaust vent is to pull excess heat and humidity from your home. However, it is a common myth that these vents also remove heat in winter months. Properly installed roof vents will increase the life span of your roof by reducing the risk of warping or other water-related issues. Exhaust vents should always be paired with an intake vent system for maximum efficiency.

Cupola Vents

More often, a decorative feature, cupolas may be converted into functional static vents. They are located atop ridges, which allow them to draw heat and moisture efficiently where they are located. Unfortunately, this type of vent is a poor choice due to its limited coverage and is, therefore, best used to complement other exhaust systems.

Adobe - Royalty Free

Louver Vents

Also known as box, turtle, and low-profile vents, this system consists of static louvers that must be spaced evenly and as close to the ridge as possible for maximum efficiency. Some models are square, while others are rounded, allowing for limited aesthetic choices. They sit lower than roof turbines, making them less visible, although they are still easy to spot. You will find these an excellent DIY project as they are easy to install, especially if your home has an existing static vent system.

Some additional steps and care are needed to make these systems waterproof. In addition, they are less efficient than ridge vents, and their visibility may make them an unattractive choice for your home. Finally, while inexpensive, the cost of installation may increase depending on how many you need and how good your intake system is.

Powered Vents

Generally consisting of electric fans built into the gables of your attic, powered vents are a mix of good and bad. For example, they require 300 watts of electricity to run, which has an environmental impact. At the same time, they are usually paired with a thermostat, so they only run when the attic temperature exceeds 100 degrees. Newer solar models allow powered vents to run off the grid but are more expensive.

A powered vent is often noisy, with the sound buffered only by your home's building materials and insulation. You may hear them running late into the evening in warmer climates when you are trying to sleep. Installation is more difficult and may require electrical knowledge if adequate power supplies aren't readily available. The added weight also makes them more difficult to install.

Finally, many moving parts make this ventilation more prone to breakdowns. Frequent inspections are, therefore, necessary to ensure the fan is functioning properly.

Powered Vent on a rooftop
Adobe - Royalty Free

Ridge Vents

Ridge Vents are installed on the peak or ridge of your roof and covered by shingles. They contain no moving parts but must be properly paired with intake vents, such as soffit vents, to function. Unlike other vents, the ridge vent doesn't create hot or cold areas in your roof, preventing some parts from aging faster than others.

You should not attempt to install a ridge vent as a DIY project, as they are extremely difficult to install, and the vent itself is expensive. Some contractors will try to run the vent only partway along the roof, which lowers or even negates its functionality. Another common problem is that the exhaust hole must equal the intake holes for the vent to function properly. As a result of these difficulties, ridge vents may not be right for your home, even though they are the most efficient option.

Ridge Vents on a rooftop
Adobe - Royalty Free

Roof Turbines

Made of lightweight aluminum, roof turbines resemble mushrooms with fan blades protruding from their sides. These blades may either be housed in a protective casing or have small louvers designed to open only when there is wind. They are highly effective and require no power. Stale, moist air slowly escapes from the turbine, and a gentle breeze causes the turbine to pull large volumes of air.

Because they require no electricity and are made of aluminum, roof turbines have little to no carbon footprint. Many models make no sound when turning, and this motion also keeps water from seeping in. They are also easy to install, making it a DIY-friendly project.

There are a few disadvantages to this type of ventilation system, however. Roof turbines are popular in commercial buildings, although you may find them less attractive without a flat roof. They also work more efficiently when paired with a low wall or soffit vents. Cheaper models that do not have a sealed ball-bearing system may squeak when the wind turns them. This also happens with some older models that have rusted.

Roof Turbines for Ventilation
Adobe - Royalty Free

Types of Intake Vent Systems

There is an old saying that nature abhors a vacuum. This is no different for your attic or crawl space. Installing an exhaust ventilation system without an intake system to complement it will render your vents useless. By combining intake and exhaust vents, air will circulate more freely, and you will gain the maximum efficiency for your system. There are two popular intake vent systems to choose from.

Gable Intake Vents

These triangular vents are located along the peak of your roofs. While visible, they are not unattractive and may be screened over to prevent insects. Unfortunately, they have limited coverage and are less efficient than soffit vents unless your roof has a multi-gable structure.

Adobe - Royalty Free

Soffit Vents

Best used in conjunction with ridge vents, a soffit vent is named for the part of your roof into which it is installed. A soffit vent is generally made of PVC or aluminum and may be used with existing intake vents for more efficiency. The duct is only visible when looking up at the eaves, making them difficult to spot. This downwards-facing orientation also allows airflow while preventing moisture from getting in. Soffit vents may be continuous or in square or rectangular panels, adding to their versatility.

Soffit Vents
Adobe - Royalty Free

Choosing the Right Vent

The following chart compares various types of vents for easy reference. Note that due to the wide variety of roof configurations, building materials, and models available, average costs are not given in monetary amounts. You may also find your personal experience varies due to these same factors.

Vent SystemVent TypeAestheticsCarbon FootprintAverage CostEfficiencyInstallation
Cupola VentsExhaustDecorative featureLow if modified or using recycled wood materialsVisible yet decorativeLow on its ownEasy
Gable VentsIntakeQuiet to moderate, depending on existing siding and wall materialsLowMedium to high, depending on the need for additional electrical workLow to moderate on its ownEasy
Louver VentsExhaustVisibleLowLowModerate to highEasy
Powered VentsExhaustVisibleLow to moderateLow to moderate requires contractorModerate to highModerate
Ridge VentExhaustInvisibleLowLow to moderate requires the contractorHigh when installed properlyVery difficult
Roof TurbineExhaustHighly visible on pitched roofsNoneLowHigh, may require more than one installedEasy
Soffit VentIntakeLow VisibilityLowLow to moderateHighEasy

More Roofing Add-On Information


Additional Resources

Fine Home Building offers an in-depth article on the basics of roof venting, how it works, and problems associated with an incorrectly installed vent system.

[adinserter block="23"][adinserter block="24"]

Meet the Contributors

Danny Lipford

Contributor

Joe Truini

Contributor

Jodi Marks

Jodi Marks

Contributor

Elisabeth Beauchamp

Contributor

Alora Bopray

Contributor

Sam Wasson

Contributor

Alexis Curls

Alexis Curls

Staff Writer

Amy DeYoung

Contributor

Sean Donnelly

Sean Donnelly

Contributor

Sarah Horvath

Sarah Horvath

Contributor

Jonathon Jachura

Jonathon Jachura

Contributor

Sharon Lord

Contributor

Coty Perry

Contributor

Dan Simms

Contributor

Dani Straughan

Dani Straughan

Contributor