Summary: 

For effective attic ventilation, learn why continuous soffit and ridge vents are essential for keeping your attic ventilated 24/7. Using an attic fan for attic ventilation is not a good idea in a central air conditioned house, as the attic fan will suck the hot air and the cooled air out of the house. Effective attic ventilation means air must be able to enter at the soffit and exit at the ridge vent.

Dear Tom and Leslie: 

I've heard you say many times that using an attic fan sucks cooled air right out of the house and that it's better to rely on soffit and ridge vents. Is that still true if you ONLY have soffit vents?  We don't have ridge vents and my husband reminds me how we fight with the extreme heat on the second floor of our home. 

Also, is it still better to shut off the attic fan with just the soffit vents providing attic ventilation and just count on the A/C now, or do you have another suggestion to help with our attic ventilation?

You are correAttic Ventilationct that using an attic fan is generally a lousy way to cool your attic when you have a central air conditioning system.  And, you are also correct that the reason is that it will not only suck hot attic air out, but the attic fan will also suck out the air-conditioned air from inside your house.  Using passive ridge and soffit venting for attic ventilation is a better idea. 

For the most effective attic ventilation, I recommend continuous soffit and ridge vents.  Air will enter the attic at the ridge, run up under the roof sheathing where it carts heat away in summer and moisture away in winter, and exit at the ridge.  This 24/7 attic ventilation solution is far more effective than any other type of mechanical or passive ventilation solution. 

However, to answer your question, having ONLY a ridge vent for attic ventilation will not work.  To have an effective attic ventilation system, air must be able to enter at the soffit, travel up under the roof sheathing (removing heat in the summer and moisture in the winter) and exit at the ridge vent.  If you only have soffit vents, it won't work.

Once you have a properly functioning soffit and ridge attic ventilation system, you can shut down the attic fan for good!