A well-maintained attic can keep your home comfortable, and with a few upgrades, can cut your energy bills. If you live in a cold climate, you already know that keeping your home warm in the winter is expensive, and the Department of Energy predicts that gas and oil prices will continue to increase. They also estimate that properly insulating your attic can save 10% to 50% of your heating bill.
If you can feel cold air coming in, you have a problem with sealing. A hold large enough to create a draft can put a significant strain on you HVAC system, to the tune of a 10-20% increase in utility bills.
According to Energy Star, the most common locations of attic air leaks are:
- Behind and under knee walls
- Attic hatch
- Wiring holes
- Holes for plumbing and pipes
- Dropped soffits that are open to the attic
- Recessed lights
- Furnace flue or duct chase (the hollow box or wall feature that hides ducts)
Start by conducting a visual air leakage inspection to look for cracks and gaps at the common leak sites shown in the diagram below:
Uninsulated walls or ceilings allow heat to move freely through building materials. If your heating bills are on the rise, or you notice that you have cold spots in your home, you may have insufficient insulation. Multiple studies indicate that as many as 2/3 of US home are under-insulated. “Wall insulation is regulated by building code [in most areas], but attic and crawlspace insulation is not,” explains Atticare CEO Zach Jakob, “These areas are often neglected.” The average house should have 12-14 inches of attic insulation.
One way to test your home for air loss and insufficient insulation is with a thermal imaging scan. “In San Francisco,” according to Zach, “Our techs use a thermal imaging camera to qualify areas of the home that require further investigation.”
Proper ventilation limits moisture problems, promoting a healthy space and protecting your investment. The best course of action can vary depending on your climate. Cold climates, like New Jersey, should allow air to flow in a way that keeps the space relatively close to the outdoor temperature, to prevent ice dams and condensation. Warm climates, like Los Angeles, should use ventilation to expel moist humid air that can lead to mold problems.
The attic is where you can find some of the larger opportunities to save energy. In most cases, evaluating and upgrading an attic is a one-time deal, followed only by occasional inspections. Ensuring proper seals, insulation and ventilation will promote energy efficiency and let you and your family feel more comfortable year round.