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Maximizing Energy Efficiency with Attic Improvements

If you’re looking for an effective way to improve your home’s energy efficiency, the best place to look is up. While steps like upgrading interior lighting or installing a “smart” thermostat can lower energy usage, an even more beneficial measure is to make improvements to your attic space. By augmenting attic insulation, air sealing and other related aspects, you can make a substantial impact on comfort and energy savings in your home.

One of the most effective ways to boost your home’s energy efficiency is to improve attic sealing and insulation. Photo: McHale’s Environmental Insulation, Inc. (2014)

One of the most effective ways to boost your home’s energy efficiency is to improve attic sealing and insulation. Photo: McHale’s Environmental Insulation, Inc. (2014)

1. Maximize attic insulation. One of the most basic yet effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency is to bring your attic insulation up to current standards. Over the years, building code changes have called for higher grades of insulation, which means if yours hasn’t been upgraded for a few decades, it’s probably under-performing. Besides increasing comfort and efficiency, replacing substandard attic insulation with R38 grade or better usually pays for itself in two to five years.

2. Air-seal your attic. Homes typically contain numerous air gaps between the attic and the living space, including joints where walls meet ceilings and apertures where electrical wires and mechanical equipment enter the attic. When conditioned air is allowed to “ex-filtrate” into the attic through these gaps, the home’s HVAC unit has to work harder to replenish it, which results in higher energy consumption. By meticulously sealing gaps, joints and apertures that lead into your attic, you can curb energy loss and lower your operating costs.

3. Install a radiant barrier. While keeping your attic sealed off from your living space will improve your home’s energy efficiency, an additional measure is to keep your attic cooler in the first place. This can be achieved by installing a radiant barrier, which is an aluminum-impregnated paint or a foil that’s applied to the underside of the roof. By reflecting solar heat out of the structure, a radiant barrier can lower an attic’s temperature by 20 to 50 degrees on a hot day.

4. Install a whole-house fan. It can be difficult to ventilate a home on a hot day, even after the outdoor temperature has dropped. A great way to solve this problem is to install a whole-house fan. Situated in the attic, the fan simultaneously exhausts stale indoor air while pulling in cool, fresh air from outside, which can reduce indoor temperatures within minutes. As a low-energy supplement to your air conditioning system, a whole-house fan can also help lower your power bill.

To find a Diamond Certified ­­­­home insulation specialist in your area, click on one of the links below.

Alameda County: www.diamondcertified.org/alameda-insulation
Contra Costa County: www.diamondcertified.org/contra-costa-insulation
San Francisco: www.diamondcertified.org/san-francisco-insulation
San Mateo County: www.diamondcertified.org/san-mateo-insulation
Santa Clara County: www.diamondcertified.org/santa-clara-insulation
Santa Cruz County: www.diamondcertified.org/santa-cruz-insulation

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About The Author
James Florence

James Florence is Senior Writer at American Ratings Corporation. He can be reached at (800)738-1138 ext.323 or [email protected]

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4 Responses

  1. Eugene Dean says:

    My electricity bill is obnoxious, so I decided to do a little research and came across your article. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not even addressed the first item on your list. My home is over 30 years old, and the insulation has never been updated. Since it has never malfunctioned, I didn’t see any reason to replace it. New roof insulation is clearly the first thing I need to invest in. Thank you for sharing such helpful information.

  2. Drew says:

    Awesome suggestion to build a radiant barrier. Even at it’s worst, they can lower the temperature significantly so it’s a great investment. Thanks for the idea.

  3. Braden Bills says:

    I’m trying to figure out what I should use as insulation in my attic. I’m mostly looking for the most energy efficient option. It seems like maximizing the attic insulation would be the best way for me to handle this! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Cindy Tesler says:

    I agree that one of the most basic and effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency is to bring your attic insulation up to current standards. You also mention that putting new insulation in your attic usually pays for itself in two to five years. I think it’s a good idea to choose an insulting contractor that has experience using the type of insulation that your house needs.

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