January 14, 2020

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Most people today are aware that energy efficiency is important. Electricity rates have risen approximately 15% in the last 10 years, and show no signs of slowing down as natural gas prices and electricity rates (the amount you pay per kilowatt-hour, or ¢/kWh) continue to rise. For homeowners looking to lower their bills, they need to take a closer look at their homes and where their energy is going. For many, too much of their hard-earned money is flowing up and out of the attic.

Most attics today are under insulated, resulting in air leakage paths that cause decreased performance of your insulation. This increased demand on your heating and cooling systems indicates that your house as a whole could be wasting energy. According to Energy Star 90% of American homes are under-insulated.  Coupled with air leaks, poor ventilation and other factors, this can all add up to your attic eating up a lot of your energy costs each month.

Thankfully, there are ways you can make your attic more energy efficient. The following 5 methods can help get you started so you can start seeing improvements in your energy bills this year. An energy audit will be able to determine which of these improvements listed below is best for your investment into improving the comfort of your home today.

Attic insulation

According to Energy Star, 9 out of 10 homes have an under-insulated attic. This means it is most likely that your attic needs some insulation to be at its most efficiency.

Insulating your attic helps conserve energy in both the warm and cool weather. During the winter months, insulation creates a thermal blanket that prevents your home from losing heat through the roof, which causes ice dams. Ice dams occur when a warm attic melts the snow on your roof, so it flows to the edge and refreezes. In the spring and summer months, insulation helps prevent the hot sun that’s heating your roof from transferring a lot of that heat down into your home.

What this translates into is that added insulation means you won’t use as much heat in the winter or as much AC in the summer. 

Attic Ventilation

Ideally, you want your attic to be as cool as possible all year long. In the summer, a cooler attic translates to a cooler home, which means that you’ll use less energy on AC. In the winter, a cooler attic means fewer ice dams and fewer leaks.

Insulation is only the first step in creating a more energy efficient attic; you need to add a vent as well. Attic vents allow air to move, which prevents it from building up and creating a super-heated atmosphere.

When installing an attic vent, placement should be considered for proper air flow and to prevent wind-driven rain or snow from making its way inside and compromising your insulation performance. Consider having an inspection performed by a professional to ensure the attic venting meets proper performance characteristics for its location and the roofing type. 

Seal it up

Air leaks are a huge source of higher energy bills in many homes. Air leaks mean that outside air is getting in, while the air you heat and cool is escaping. Many people think about air leaks in their living spaces but forget that their attic could be suffering from the same problem.

Sealing air leakage pathways into an attic improves insulation performance and closes passages that may allow moisture to enter. This way your attic is less likely to become super-heated in the summer, so the rest of your home can stay cooler as well, with less need for the air conditioner.

Add a radiant barrier

Radiant barriers are a type of insulation that reflect heat back to where it belongs. In the attic, this can be in one of two places depending on your climate. If you live in an area that sees cold winters, lining your attic floor with a radiant barrier will stop heat from entering your attic and escaping. This makes the rest of your home warmer and more energy efficient. If you live in a hot climate, you want to line the underside of your roof with a radiant barrier to prevent heat from entering your attic from above. This will in turn keep the rest of your home cooler and more energy efficient as well. Radiant barriers are very fast and easy to put down and can be paired with insulation for even more effectiveness.

Pay attention to the attic entryway

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Many people forget about their attic entrance when they begin the process of making their attic more efficient. Whether you have a hinged door, a hatch with pull-down steps (as shown in the above image), or a panel in a crawl space that grants you attic, you need to make sure that this space is also insulated and sealed.

There are specific types of attic insulation available that can cover the back of a door or insulate a set of pull-down steps. You can also install weather stripping around the door or panel itself to help prevent air leaks at this crucial juncture. If your attic entrance isn’t fitted correctly, it could be leaking warm or cool air constantly, raising your energy bills, so it is important to make sure it’s properly seated, insulated and sealed at all times.

Improve your overall all efficiency

Improving your attic energy efficiency will improve the efficiency and comfort of your whole home. Adding insulation, sealing air leaks, including a radiant barrier and adding a fan will all help keep your energy bills lower year-round. By improving the efficiency of your attic today, you will start to enjoy a more comfortable and efficient home while reducing your utility bills. 

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Cristina Miguélez, Guest Poster

Cristina is Remodeling Specialist at Fixr.com, a website that connects consumers with service professionals in their area and estimates the cost for remodeling projects. She writes about home improvement tips and tricks to help homeowners make better home remodeling decisions.