Is your attic hot and the air conditioning running steadily?
Should I add more insulation?
Chances are, even if your home is only a week old, it needs more insulation. The insulation levels recommended by the Department of Energy are now almost double what the current National Building Code requires. In today’s tough housing market, builders aren’t installing anything they don’t have to. I still see many houses, especially in the older parts of the southeast, without any isolation. Some of these houses are only 20 years old.
I have good insulation, but my air conditioner keeps running all the time and my attic is 150 degrees … what can I do?
The next step that can be taken is to ensure good ventilation in the attic, which helps prevent water vapors from being trapped in the insulation while the house breathes. Many homes have soffit vents of some kind, and usually some type of ridge-type vents today, unless they are sprayed with foam insulation. These help some in moderate climates but are not sufficient in hot climates. You can install a thermostatically controlled fan in a gable vent or through the roof, which will help to significantly reduce the attic temperature and humidity levels. The fans can run on alternating current or solar power. Attic fans are even available at Home Depot.
Radiant barriers offer protection from the sun’s rays, and if you’re lucky in a newer home, your builder installed some kind of plywood with aluminum sheets on the roof when it was built. If not, there are several options available. The Department of Energy has published a fact sheet on Radiant Barriers that provides an excellent overview of the topic and how much you could save on energy costs. There are about 20 companies that sell some type of laminated film that can be applied to the top of the insulation, which is the most effective location, but the most difficult to achieve, or to the bottom of the joists. Every hole around a conduit, pipe, or structure equates to a loss of reflection. It can be argued that the dust will eventually settle on the sheet and reduce its effectiveness as well. The next best location would be to apply the sheeting to the bottom of the roof joist frame. Again, this can be difficult because some places are very difficult to reach and the frame still remains in the way. My preferred radiant barrier is a spray application made by Sherwin Williams. It is marketed under the name E-Barrier, E-Barrier application YouTube video. This is a great product that is very easy to apply and can be a do-it-yourself project or applied by just about any painting contractor. In fact, you may feel the attic temperature drop as you apply paint. There is very little overspray fogging, but you still need to wear a mask. When I apply this product, I use a small electric sprayer that I take to the attic with me so I don’t have to worry about a hose failure somewhere in the house. I spray with a 4-foot extension wand so I don’t have to struggle to reach high or low areas. I also try to stay out of isolation as much as possible so it doesn’t get compressed.
An audit of home energy use could also reveal some interesting results. Ghost appliances and little things that are always on in standby use hidden power. Seals around doors, windows, and pipes seem so obvious they need to be checked, but are often overlooked, especially when outdoors with air leaking into a wall cavity. Recommended reading would be a helpful guide for conducting your own DIY home energy audit. This book comes complete with information to show you how making an upgrade will save you money.