Want to cut energy costs? Look at your attic

Want to cut energy costs? Look at your attic

When you think of home energy cost savings, I would bet your attic isn’t your first consideration. But it should be! Most people think of their attic space as additional storage space, nothing more. That’s a big mistake.

Your attic has a number of important functions including:

  • Properly distributing the weight of your roof
  • Creating the ideal pitch for water run-off
  • Creating a protective, energy barrier for living spaces below

If you neglect your attic space, it can lead to big problems down the road.; For example, if left unaddressed, moisture build-up in your attic space can damage your rafters and roof sheathing leading to costly repairs and a potential roof replacement. If you use your attic as storage space, you may be unintentionally fueling the growth of mold and mildew, leading to health problems for you, your family or pets.

On the other hand, a properly configured attic space can significantly reduce energy costs. This can be achieved by making some basic improvements that will pay for themselves in a short amount time.

There are three key considerations for an ideal attic environment:

  1. Proper insulation
  2. Proper utilization
  3. Proper ventilation & circulation

1. Insulation - Heat flows from warmer to cooler areas of your home. When it is cold outside, and you run your heating system, the heat you are generating will naturally spread to your attic space. This is referred to as thermal flow, or conductive heat flow. Insulation is designed to create resistance to conductive heat flow. The level of resistance capacity associated with a measure of insulation is communicated as its “R-value.”

The higher the R- value of your insulation, the greater degree of thermal resistance it offers. Conversely, the lower the R- value of your insulation, the less thermally resistant it is, requiring your heating system to work harder in order to maintain the desired comfort level in living spaces. Similarly, in the summer, insulation helps keep heat from entering your air conditioned living spaces. Visit energy.gov to obtain the recommended insulation R-value for your home, based on where you live.

2. Utilization - I know you hate to waste all that free storage space in the attic, but everything you store on top of your insulation, affects the R-value, potentially creating hot spots and uneven temperature distribution in your attic space possibly promoting condensation, leading to moisture related issues. Perhaps, that space isn’t as “free” as you think?

3. Ventilation & circulation - To understand the importance of ventilation, we first need to talk about circulation. Air circulation is the key to reducing moisture in your attic space. ;And moisture is the No. 1 cause of attic-related issues.

One of the least expensive investments you can make to protect your attic includes a powered attic fan. A powered attic fan will dramatically improve the performance of intake and exhaust venting ensuring proper air circulation.

About this Angie's List Expert: Cory Thomas is the president of Superior Insulation & Attic Ventiliation, which has served homeowners in the Chicago area since 1997. The company offers professional grade residential insulation, attic ventilation including intake/eave vents, roof vents, powered attic fans, bathroom exhaust fans and whole-house fans, as well as infrared home energy analysis.

As of Feb. 25, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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