When you think of making your home more energy efficient and comfortable, you likely think about insulation, but do you also think about air sealing?  If not, you should. They go hand in hand. Too often we reach for the thermostat to make our homes more comfortable. However, if you’re not sure the air you’re paying to cool or heat is staying in your home, it’s like throwing money away.  Not to mention the negative effect of energy over-use on the environment. While there are areas all around your home that can benefit from insulation and air sealing, this article focuses solely on improvements to your attic. According to ecobeco, fixing your attic alone can save you 10% on your home energy bill.  Air sealing and insulating your attic are two energy saving must do’s if you want to lower your utility bills.

Air sealing plugs those leaks

Attics are common culprits for leaks unless they’ve been air sealed.  Home energy efficiency experts at ecobeco suggest three common leaks to look out for in your attic. 

  1. Most attics have a hole in the floor to allow for a vertical passage to vent the furnace flue from the basement through the attic.  Unless the space around the flue in this bypass hole is covered and sealed, you might as well leave a window open 24/7. What a waste!
  2. If you have recessed lighting, do you have light protector boxes?  If you have recessed lights the lead to the attic and they are not sealed with light protectors, you’ll have air gaps. In addition, the light box serves a safety function as well. They control the heat that may come in contact with insulation, which decreases fire hazard.  
  3. Like the bypass mentioned above, your attic is full of cables leading from floor to floor, each requiring holes. These holes must be foam sealed to prevent air gaps. If you have floor boards on your attic floor they are also prone to gaps and need foam sealing. For more tips about attic energy efficiency from the EPA, click here.  Or, watch their Rule Your Attic video.

Now it’s time to assess attic insulation

Once you’ve taken steps to air seal your attic, it’s time to ensure your attic is insulated properly.  Nine out of ten U.S. homes are under insulated. So, chances are, you’ve got work to do.  Insulation is designed to resist the natural flow of heat from warmer to cooler areas.  Air can move directly and indirectly through interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and floors.  Proper insulation decreases this heat flow and boosts energy efficiency. The Department of Energy recommends certain levels of insulation depending on where you live, where you are insulating, and what type of heating and cooling you use.  For more details about selecting the proper insulation, visit energy.gov.

Three common problems with attic insulation

But selecting the correct product is not all there is to it.  Installing it properly is critical to getting the most benefit.  Installation with gaps, tucks, or folds are common problems that compromise effectiveness. Three other common problems to be aware of are as follows:

  1. Don’t insulate over attic vents:  The vents must be free to exchange air in and out of your attic.  Vents the are blocked can allow for moisture to collect and mold and mildew to develop.  Attic vents are usually in the soffit, under the eave, at the ridge line, or on the gable.  Make sure they are unobstructed.
  2. Don’t compress insulation.  It decreases the R-value.
  3. Don’t forget to insulate the attic entry.  Whether a hatch, door, or pull down stairway, the entry can account for serious energy loss if not insulated.

Even if your insulation was installed correctly, when HVAC techs, plumbers or electricians work in your attic, they may need to move insulation temporarily.  They may not replace it correctly. It’s prudent to inspect your insulation after any work is done in your attic.

An energy audit can help you assess your attic

Not sure how your attic stacks up? It would be worth it to call in a professional to take a look.  An energy auditor could thoroughly assess not only your attic, but your entire household for energy use, deficiencies, and recommended solutions.  Some energy service providers will perform audits or can point you to someone.  The money you may have to spend up front for an energy audit will pay dividends for years to come with on-going energy efficiency.

Therefore, if you focus first on air sealing your attic to prevent your hard-earned money from escaping and then ensure you’ve properly insulated, you will have taken two critical steps towards home energy efficiency.  As a result, you’ll lower your utility bills, make your home more comfortable, and decrease your carbon impact on the environment. For more tips to reduce your home heating and cooling bills, visit Plymouth Rock Energy.