Your attic and roof play a critical role in your home’s energy efficiency, and your monthly energy costs. Now is the perfect time to consider how you can prepare your home for the summer heat that will hit our area in a few short months. While there are many ways to reduce energy costs in your home, one of the most effective is to make sure that the top of your home that captures all of the warm, moist air is properly insulated and can breathe.
#1: Stop Using Your Attic as Storage
In our DIY Home Energy Audit article we wrote about how hot attics can literally cook your shingles from the inside out, melting them as they sit trapped between your hot attic and the beating sun. The cheapest and simplest way to insulate an attic is to add material to the floor. However, if your attic’s floor is covered stuff you may be very well compressing your insulation. Compressed insulation isn’t an insulator at all, it actually becomes a conductor, which of course makes your situation much worse.
If the floor is covered in either stuff or plywood, plan to pull up the flooring and add a new layer on insulation on top of the old. You may have to find a new location for all your holiday decorations and off-season clothing, but the energy efficiency of your home may increase significantly, as you also preserve the life of your roof.
#2: Choose Your Insulation Type and Material
For DIY attic insulation, you can use loose fill or batt insulation. Both of these types can be added to uninsulated attics or layered over existing material.
Loose fill works best for attics where there is existing insulation, attics with lots of obstructions to work around and for DIYers who want to get the job done quickly. Insulation fibers are packaged in bags and blown into place at the desired depth and density using special equipment. You can rent this machine from stores like Home Depot and Lowes. When determining the best material for your home, consider using fiberglass, cellulose or mineral wool. Always be sure to check labels for specifics on your material purchase.
Batt insulation works best for attics without current insulation, attics with enough headroom to maneuver around and for DIYers who don’t mind cutting the materials to fit about obstructions. Batt insulation is flexible and packaged in rolls that come in various thickness and standard widths, usually 16 inches and 24 inches. They come with or without a paper or foil to fit between studs or joists in a house’s framing. The same types of materials are offered for loose fill in addition to cotton material.
A WARNING! Be sure not to insulate over your soffits or any part of your roof’s airflow system. Your attic and roof must breathe! Without ventilation you will not only cause damage to your attic over a surprisingly short time, but you may well also develop indoor air quality issues as dark, warm, moist environments are favorable for mold growth. Many attics already lack sufficient ventilation without being plugged up by insulation, and fixing ventilation issues is a major part of modern roof replacement with most professional contractors.
#3: Examine Your Existing Insulation
An inexpensive and easy way to make your roof more energy efficient is to ensure you have proper insulation in your attic. Poorly insulated attics do not provide a home with the protection required to keep your energy costs down and fight extreme temperatures. Grab your flashlight and a handy tape measure to see what kind of insulation you already have in your attic and take note of its depth. Pull up and dispose of any material that’s water stained, moldy or compressed since it’s useless. If your home was built before 1990 and you notice lightweight, loose insulation with shiny spots, it could contain asbestos. Be sure to get it tested and if needed, call in a pro to remove and take it away safely.
#4: Make Your Roof “Cool”
Anyone who has worn black in the summer knows the impact of dark colors on heat retention. This same effect applies to your roof – the darker the roof, the more heat is retained. “Cool” roofs save energy by reflecting light and heat away rather than absorbing them. Many studies have shown that simply lightening the color of a roof can provide significant energy savings. Since there are so many options available and every house requires a specific solution, a qualified roofing company like Thompson Creek can help you determine the best roof cooling and ventilation strategy.
Most Importantly, Don’t Forget to Protect Yourself!
While you’re up in your attic, be sure to protect yourself to ensure a safe environment. To protect your lungs, eyes and skin from fibers, wear a dust mask, goggles, a long-sleeve shirt, long pants and work gloves. Stay clear and don’t stand on the joists. Use a piece of plywood as a standing surface and move them around as you work to prevent you from falling through the ceiling. There are many dark corners up in your attic so be sure to use a battery-operated lantern or clip-on light so you can see the entire workspace.
With these guidelines, you’re steps closer to creating an energy efficient home for the upcoming summer months!