Insulating the attic is important for both keeping your home comfortably warm and cool. During the winter months when we’re trying to keep the home warm, we think about attic insulation and whether more insulation would help. What we sometimes forget is the important role attic insulation plays in helping keep the home cool during the hot summer months.
Insulating the attic is one of the most cost effect measures you can do to maintain comfort, conserve energy, and save money. The warm air your heating system produces and the cool air your A/C provides likes nothing better than to escape through our attics.
If you’re having a little trouble keeping cool this summer without running your A/C system 24 hours a day, don’t overlook the possibility that the number one retrofit you should apply is to add attic insulation.
Throwing in attic insulation will not necessarily produce the comfort, energy savings and lower utility bills that you’re looking for. Like everything else in the home retrofit business, only doing it right will produce successful results.
Here’s 8 tips to adding insulation and being successful at keeping your home cool.
1. Air Seal the Ceiling First:
Insulation slows the transfer of heat from one side of the insulation layer to the other side. That’s good, the warm air on one side takes a long time to pass through the insulation and mix with the cold air on the other side. Insulation is good at slowing down heat transfer, but not so good at slowing down air currents, especially if the air is pushed through the insulation because of pressure difference, stack effect, or the prevailing wind.
Once air currents pass through the insulation, some of the insulation value is lost. The insulation cannot do the job it was designed to do. Before insulating the attic, be sure to air seal the holes in the ceiling. Air seal those ceiling penetrations made by plumbers, electricians, HVAC, and chimneys.
2. Pre-Wire the Attic for Current and Future Technology:
I have been in many attics and seen the insulation destruction that takes place when every satellite dish installer, phone company connector, internet provider, security expert, and exterminator gets done walking and crawling through the attic.
These people only care about getting you hooked up, they don’t care about your insulation. Once 6 guys with boots have march around up there and flattened all that fluffy, loose fill, blown in insulation, you don’t have very many R-values left.
If you have a chance, pre-wire the attic and be ready for technology. If installers from the internet must access the attic, tell them to leave it like they found it. If you compressed it, fluff it back up before you leave.
3. Provide attic ventilation:
Believe it or not, an attic needs to breath. Otherwise, it turns into an oven. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, you have experience the oven affect numerous evenings in your lifetime.
It works like this:
It’s a bright sunny day and the warm rays of the sun beat down on the roof all morning and all afternoon. The attic space gets warm, then it gets hot, then it gets blazing. About 4 PM in the afternoon, the blazing temperatures in the attic begin to radiate through the ceiling and add heat to the living area. As the sun goes down, the house just keeps getting hotter and hotter.
Outside temperatures are cooling off a bit, you open the windows and doors, but the attic keeps cooking. With ice water beside your bed and a cool, damp washcloth over your forehead, you try to get to sleep.
City Building Departments will tell you how much ventilation you should have for your attic. They will say you need so many square feet of open attic ventilation for every 100 cubic feet of attic space. My advice is to provide more attic ventilation than the minimum recommended.
What the heck, off-set your attic oven with plenty of attic ventilation, the more the merrier.
4. Install Solar Attic Exhaust Fan:
I have not found a single person that does not like their solar powered attic exhaust fan. This is one way to really turn off the oven. Homeowners indicate that the fans really help keep the attic from heating the living space throughout the night.
When the sun hits the solar array mounted right on the fan cover, the fan starts to spin drawing hot air out of the attic. The air is then replaced by cooler air that enters the attic along the lower part of the roof. Oven air out, cooler air in.
5. Install Solar Light Tubes:
Before insulating the attic and making the trek into the attic more difficult, why not install a solar tube or two and then add more attic insulation. Solar tubes are a great way to add natural light into a space that does not have another source of light other than a light bulb.
Popular places to install solar tubes are hallways, bathrooms, utility rooms, entryways, closets, garages, and kitchens. About the only place that does not work well for a solar tube would include a room that you might want dark during the day. Such as a bedroom for the person that works graveyard.
If you install a solar tube, don’t forget to air seal the opening that allows the tube to pass through the ceiling. Seal the tube to the ceiling.
6. Light and Electric Outlet:
While you’re preparing to add attic insulation, it might be handy to add attic lights and an electric outlet or two. This not only helps you during the insulation retrofit, but it can also assist the electronic boys when they invade your attic to bring you the best, high definition picture available.
The light switch and electric outlet is placed near the attic access cover.
7. Spray Foam for Maximum Results:
The insulation that covers the attic floor is good at separating the indoor climate from the attic climate, but if you’re really having trouble with preventing the attic from turning into an oven, spraying foam insulation on the underside of the roof sheathing can be a huge benefit.
Spray foam insulation is more expensive than fiberglass or cellulose, but the foam provides insulation protection at the source. By applying it to the underside of the roof sheathing, the heat transfer between the roof and the attic is reduced significantly.
8. Seal the Attic Access Cover.
Most attic access covers simply don’t fit very well. During a blower door test, the amount of air that circulates pass the cover is usually very noticeable. The smoke stick and infrared camera have little trouble in quantifying the amount of leakage.
The way to air seal the cover is similar to the weatherstripping on a door. Foam or other flexible material is placed between the two adjoining surfaces. Now the trick is to latch the cover down to the ceiling in some way that it slightly compresses the weatherstripping.
Don’t think of attic insulation as something that is best suited for the cold winds of North Dakota, insulating the attic may well be the your best secret weapon against having a pooped out air conditioner in Texas.
Done well, insulation can keep the oven in your attic from invading the living space below. You might keep the bedroom just cool enough that you can finally get some sleep.
Thank you for stopping by, hope to see you soon, but I won’t leave the light on for you…