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How Solar- vehicle Ventilators Work

A solar-powered vehicle ventilator would keep this merry trio cool inside a hot car on a summer day.
A solar-powered vehicle ventilator would keep this merry trio cool inside a hot car on a summer day.
Steve Mason/Getty Images

It's a blazing hot summer day, and you've left the air-conditioned confines of the local mall to return to your car. Since the parking garage was full, you've parked your car amongst hundreds of others on a vast plain of sweltering asphalt. As you open the driver's side door, you notice that the escaping heat is so thick that it actually casts shadows on the pavement. You brace for the burning heat your bare legs and shoulders will have to endure before the air conditioning kicks in. Your lungs protest as you breathe in the furnace-like air.

That furnace analogy is no exaggeration: Even on a moderately warm day, a car's interior temperature can reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius). Interior surfaces can reach a sizzling 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius) [source: L.A. Times]. How do you keep your unattended car's interior from becoming a crematorium when the mercury outside is pushing triple digits? One way is to install an easy-to-use solar vehicle ventilator.

The device's name sounds a lot more complex than the device actually is. A solar vehicle ventilator, also called a solar car vent or solar car fan, takes the sun's energy and converts it into the low-voltage electricity required to drive a small fan. The fan blows stale, hot air out of your vehicle and draws fresher air in. These and similar automotive gadgets can decrease your car's interior temperature by up to 15 degrees.

­That may not sound like much, but on hot days those 15 degrees can mean the difference between life and death, since temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) has often proven fatal to children and pets left alone in cars. Mazda launched an integrated solar ventilation system in the early 1990s, but has stopped offering this feature for unknown reasons. Audi and Mercedes-Benz have more recently offered such systems as options [Source: L.A. Times]

­However, if an Audi or Benz doesn't fit your current budget, you can always purchase a portable solar ventilator. Designed to fit most passenger vehicles, these universal ventilators typically will cost between $20 and $40, leaving you plenty of cash to spend on other things besides luxury German automobiles.

In this article, we'll take a look at how these sun-powered gizmos operate, how to set them up for maximum efficiency, and what to look for if you decide to purchase one.

Learn more about the mechanics of solar vehicle ventilators on the next page.