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Why Attics Need to “Breathe” Year Round – A True Story

Recently I met a man who used to work in the construction business. More specifically, he worked in a niche as a construction “fixer.” His job was to go to newer developments where homeowners had various complaints or problems with their houses, narrow down the issues, itemize them, quote the price to fix the problems, and assist the homeowners by trying to work out solutions with the original developer who built the homes. His story applies to all homes, but I found it ironic that he was experiencing this in newer homes.

While out on a call to a home in winter, he entered the homeowner’s master bedroom. He saw black streaks on the ceiling. He pointed them out to the homeowner and asked if they could take a look in the attic. The homeowner seemed surprised by this and asked him why. My friend said, “Do you know what those streaks of black are on the ceiling?” The homeowner was puzzled and had no idea. My friend said, “That’s mold growing on your ceiling, and I guarantee you that your attic is wet.”

They went up to the attic, icicles were hanging from the attic ceiling, and, sure enough, the attic was also wet. The culprit? There was no ventilation in the attic. It might be hard to believe that icicles can form inside the house, but in many older homes that lack proper insulation and ventilation, the attic can become a magnet for condensation, which will freeze when it gets cold enough and the moisture has nowhere to go. … After a while, this frost builds up to form icicles. Homeowners assume that attic fans are only useful in the summer to move the heat around and keep the attic and home cooler. This could not be further from the truth. While fan ventilation does the trick in summer with the correct type of fan and the fan’s correct placement, it is just as important in winter. In the winter, heat in your home rises – to the attic. With it comes moisture. When attics are not well ventilated, moisture collects in this area of the home. … Adequate attic ventilation allows cool, dry air from outside to come into the attic, while warm, moist air inside the attic can escape.

Attics and More sells solar attic fans that have a lifetime guarantee. They install quickly and are workhorses without tapping into your electrical grid. Some other facts about our fans:

  • They can withstand 150 mph hurricane winds
  • They can withstand golf ball-sized hail
  • We offer a lifetime warranty
  • The flanges are made of a single piece of aircraft quality aluminum
  • They are made in the USA
  • The motor is completely sealed, which means that no dust or moisture can get inside causing the motor to seize and potentially creating a fire hazard
  • They are whisper quiet

Our price not only includes the installation of the new solar fan but the removal of another fan if you have an existing one. Our solar fans also qualify for the federal solar tax credit (26% for year ending 12/31/2020), and we provide the paperwork to you. This credit steadily declines each subsequent year, so it really is in your best interest to purchase a fan now. Our fans are not made in China like those sold in the big box stores, and ours come with a lifetime warranty that cannot be matched.

If you have not had the opportunity to see or have one installed over the hot summer months, now is the time to contact us for a complimentary appointment to see our fans at your home up close and personal, AND take advantage of the highest federal solar tax credit. Let our Attic Specialist stop by to recommend the fan that would best suit your attic based on square footage and roof pitch, so give us a call today at 856-474-2400!

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Why Our Solar Attic Fans Are Effective in Both Summer and Winter

If you did not have the opportunity to see or purchase one of our amazing solar fans over the summer, now is not the time to exclude these marvels from your budget. They are effective in both summer and winter. Your attic needs to breathe. In the summer, the fans move the air from sun-up to sundown off the grid keeping the air moving and the temperature down, and in the winter, the fans circulate the accumulation of moisture that builds up in an attic from the kitchen and bathroom, preventing mold growth and other expensive issues.

We are getting close to the end of the tax year. The Federal Solar Tax Energy Credit now sits at 26%. For each subsequent year, that percentage drops.  While you are planning your budget for the end of 2020, you may want to invest in a reasonably priced, high quality product that allows you to reap benefits from both a cost and comfort perspective. Your home is your greatest asset. Why not show it some well-deserved love too?

Give us a call at 856-474-2400 or visit our web page where you can fill out a simple form requesting a free inspection of your attic. We can send one of our highly qualified Attic Specialists to your home with a fan in hand. You can take a look, ask questions, and our inspector will determine what type of attic fan will do the trick.  There is never any obligation and we love meeting our neighbors who live in the communities we all share.

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Inspect Your Attic Before Buying or After Purchasing a New Home 

As the housing market begins to recover from the COVID-fueled downturn, many people are just settling into a new house or are seriously considering putting the ole homestead on the market.  

According to Realtor.com: “Buyers are still out shopping for homes, which suggests they think [the recession] is a temporary blip,” said Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. 

With interest rates reaching all-time low (3.07% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan in the week ending July 2), new and prospective homeowners keep the market healthy. In fact, mortgage applications have surged 18.1% annually as of mid-June, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. 

However, new homeowners and house shoppers may want to tread carefully amid all this optimism. Finding the perfect home (not just a house) involves careful investigation, regardless of interest rates. And one of the most vital areas to carefully inspect is right above your head – the attic.  

Attics are sometimes overlooked during the home-buying process – “It’s just a place to store our junk!”  

However, an attic reveals visual cues that point to potential issues with the structural integrity of a house.  

“An attic reflects the history of a home. It can provide clues to serious problems that might not be disclosed or even known by the current owner,” Realtor Elizabeth Weintraub said in a blog post.  

Rafter and truss damage could be a warning sign the households some serious problems. In addition, a closer inspection may reveal substandard wood quality or haphazard construction, and that can lead to leakage and water damage.  

That’s why it’s vital to have your attic inspected by a trained professional. But what will an inspector be well inspecting? Let’s look at some basics.  

Out with the Old 

Nothing scares away potential home buyers more than a house with an old, worn-down look – outdated appliances, period-specific décor (must we discuss the avocado fridges from the 70s?), and decrepit insulation.  

Not only can old insulation ramp up energy costs, but it can also be hazardous to your health! As we learned in our recent blog post, older homes may be rife with unsafe insulation consisting of dangerous material such as vermiculiteasbestos, and, the appropriately scary sounding, Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI). A trained inspector can advise you on your modern, safer options. 

Under-Insulation 

Unless your home is in the top 10-percent in the Awesome Insulation League, your house – old or new – is probably under-insulated. 

The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association estimates around 90 percent of existing U.S. homes are under-insulated.  

“If all U.S. homes were fitted with insulation based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), residential electricity use nationwide would drop by about 5 percent and natural gas use by more than 10 percent,” Jonathan Levy, professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health, said in an NAIMA statement.  

The U.S. Department of Energy agrees

“Unless your home was specially constructed for energy efficiency, you can probably reduce your energy bills by adding more insulation. Many older homes have less insulation than homes built today, but even adding insulation to a newer home can pay for itself within a few years.” 

So how can you know if your house is under-insulated?  

EnergyStar advises looking for:  

  • “Drafty rooms 
  • Hot or cold ceilings, walls, or whole rooms; uneven temperature between rooms 
  • High heating or cooling bills 
  • Ice dams in the winter” 

Use a ruler to measure the depth of your insulation. From there, you can estimate what’s known as an R-value.  

The energy department adds: “R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation.”  

And Don’t Forget… 

Finally, a professional attic inspector may also check for wildlife damage – that’s right, critters may sneak into your attic looking for a cheap place to crash. Gnawed wiring, shredded paper nests, and feces are a pretty straightforward set of clues that an amateur attic inspector may miss.  

In addition, an inspection may look into proper chimney access and quality, as well as signs of water damage.  

What’s Next?  

Before you sell your home or place a contract on a new buy, it’s a fantastic idea to launch a professional attic inspection.  

Understanding the intricacies of attic quality and insulation gets complicated quickly. An inspection by a qualified attic professional can save time and money.   

Why crawl around a dark, dusty (and maybe spooky!) attic without knowing the warning signs.  

Contact us today to discuss how we will provide the next level in attic inspection for your home – before the SOLD sign goes up.  

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Insulation Dangers: Closed Cell/Spray Foam vs. Blown-in Fiberglass

Most homeowners never consider what kind of chemicals are literally over their heads. And by chemicals, we mean attic insulation material.

There’s a myriad of choices when it comes to insulation. What most customers don’t know, however, is that several types of insulation may contain hazardous material that can fuel long-term health problems.

For the sake of space, we’re going to place two types of insulation under our “blog microscope” (blog-oscope?) – Closed Cell/Spray Foam and Blown-in Fiberglass. Spoiler alert: blown-in fiberglass turns out to be safer AND more energy efficient.

Danger Above: Spray Polyurethane Foam

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF), as the name implies, is, well, spray foam composed of polyurethane. SPF’s are classified as high, medium, or low density. Attic insulation falls into medium or low. Medium-density SPF’s are sometimes called “closed-cell foam” because they are contained within an internal closed-shell configuration to improve thermal resistance. To make this simple: All closed-cell foam is SPF but not all SPF is closed-cell.

SPF has been a popular attic insulation choice because of its high R-value. Readers may recall the term from previous posts. EnergyStar defines R-value as “a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation.”

Sounds great, right? Well, here’s the problem. SPF contains a harmful chemical scarily named
isocyanates. Now, if isocyanates stay locked inside the insulation, it’s probably not an issue.

However, the EPA notes: “If SPF was not applied properly, chemical contaminants may have migrated to hard and/or soft surfaces elsewhere in the building and may be the source of residual odors; therefore, removal may not resolve the issue.”

Think about your attic for a moment:

• What do you know about the composition of your attic insulation?
• Was it installed before you bought the home?
• What were the qualifications of the installer?
• Why do you have 5 years’ worth of magazines up there?

It’s likely the answers are “Not much,” “No idea,” “Dunno who installed, “Hey, those special editions of Good Housekeeping will only increase in value!” Therefore, most homeowners have no way of knowing if they have SPF or if it has been properly installed and, as such, don’t know if isocyanates have seeped out. Yikes!

What’s the worst that can happen if your attic is a ticking isocyanate time bomb? Let’s ask OSHA:

“Health effects of isocyanate exposure include irritation of skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness, and difficult breathing. Isocyanates include compounds classified as potential human carcinogens and known to cause cancer in animals. The main effects of hazardous exposures are occupational asthma and other lung problems, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.”

According to Metropolitan Engineering Consulting and Forensics:

“We do know for sure that the prevalence of asthma in the overall United States population has
increased by almost 100 percent since the early 1980’s and links have been reported between these foams and the asthma or dermatitis incidents. A study that was done by Krone, et al. and published in the publication Environmental Contamination and Toxicology in 2003 showed that isocyanates in foam containing consumer products were present 30 years post-manufacture.”

Stay Safe with Blown-in Fiberglass

Commonly composed of fiberglass or cellulose, blown-in insulation is (surprise) blown into attic spaces like confetti. The tiny particles seep snugly into any space and can fill existing walls with minimal damage to any desired depth.

Of course, no insulation type is 100-percent without potential health risks. However, blown-in fiberglass offers maximum benefit with minimum risk – especially when installed by a qualified pro.

  • Blown-in insulation keeps indoor attic temperatures cooler in summer. In addition, blown-in stops heated and cooled air from leaking out. Since it fits into the smallest spaces, blown-in maximizes HVAC performance. Consumers report blown-in insulation often saves so much in energy costs that installation pays for itself in a couple of years.
  • Blown-in fiberglass insulation also reduces the risk of fire. Since it creates a tight seal across the attic, air can’t flow through small spaces to stoke a blaze.
  • Blown-in is easy to install quickly by a qualified installation team – often within a few hours.
  • Because blown-in creates such a tight seal, overall household noise is reduced. And, in these trying times when we’re stuck at home, a quiet home is a peaceful home.

Choose Wisely: The Right Pro for the Job

If you’re convinced that perhaps your attic needs some attention, the first step is an inspection. Attics and More offers a free attic inspection to determine if you have the safest and most efficient attic insulation, as well as uncovering other trouble spots. If blown-in installation is the best option, we’ve got you covered.

EnergyStar notes: “It is easier to get complete coverage of the attic floor with blown-in loose-fill insulation. It is best to hire an insulation contractor for this job.”

Contact us today to discuss how we can identify what’s above your head and … how safe it might be.

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How to Properly Add New Insulation Over Existing Insulation

Maintaining proper levels of attic insulation not only keeps your home cooler in the summer and warmer come wintertime, but also shaves your energy bills. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates homeowners could reduce energy costs by 10 to 50 percent with proper attic insulation. According to EnergyStar: “The attic is usually where you can find some of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home.”

Winter has passed, but the sweltering heat waves of summer have not yet arrived, making this month an excellent time to climb on up and check out your attic’s insulation situation.

When Enough is Enough

An under-insulated attic is a recipe for a drafty house and higher bills. Like any kind of home improvement project, there is a “Goldilocks Zone” for sufficient insulation – a level of “just right.”

While a “back-of-the-napkin” analysis will help any homeowner make decisions on proper insulation, nothing beats partnering with an attic professional. An energy analysis by a qualified professional can provide an actionable evaluation for your insulation needs. However, if you decide to take a look for yourself, here are a few tips to determine if your attic is under-insulated.

Know Your Material

Whether you’ve owned your home for decades or days, many homeowners rarely visit the attic and may not realize what kind of materials are being used for insulation. Older homes especially may contain insulation materials such as asbestos and Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation that have been determined to be hazardous to your health. Many modern homes are insulated with some form of fiberglass. Also, homeowners are discovering the energy-saving advantages of multi-layer reflective insulation. Attics and More uses a patented MLI called eShield. There are three types of heat flow – conductive, convective and radiation – that can cause an attic to become hot in the summer or lose heat in the winter, making it more difficult and expensive to regulate the temperature of your home. Traditional insulation does a sufficient job combating two of the most common types of heat flow, conductive and convective heat, but is ineffective against radiant – a third type of heat transfer that comes from the sun. This is where the eShield™ radiant barrier insulation comes in. This state-of-the-art attic insulation reflects 97 percent of all radiant heat transfer – a leading cause of home energy waste.

R You Ready for R-Value?

To determine if your attic is under-insulated, it’s time to “get mathy” and assess your insulation’s R-value. R-value is not a concept you slept through in calculus class. Instead, it’s the measure of your insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value, the better the insulation’s thermal performance. If the insulation level sits even with or below the top of your floor joists, it’s time for more insulation. Check out our recent blog post for more tips on determining R-value (and no, this won’t be on the final exam!).

Furthermore, unlike other blown-in insulation products on the market, ours is the only one that is guaranteed to maintain its R-value level for as long as you own your home, so you can rest assured that you’re investing in a quality, effective product. Additionally, our air sealing service, which seals holes and leaks in the house, can significantly cut down on air leakage in the attic and can have an immediate impact on your monthly energy bills.

Next Up to Batt…

Batt insulation is pre-cut into flat sheets and is usually made of fiberglass or rock wool. It often includes a foil or paper facing that serves as a vapor barrier. While partnering with a professional will ensure the right material and correct quantity, you can lay down batted insulation on your own; but, please follow these guidelines (courtesy of This Old House):

  • “Wear a long-sleeve shirt, gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask.
  • Make sure you use an unfaced batt (one without a paper or foil layer), so the insulation does not trap moisture in the ceiling.
  • Lay the batts perpendicular to the joists, so they do not compress the insulation below.
  • Use cardboard or rigid-foam baffles to keep soffit vents open.
  • Fill all cracks between the living area and the attic with caulk or expanding foam.”

Blown Away

The primary alternative to batted insulation is blown insulation. In addition to our radiant barrier insulation, we also offer our own blown-in insulation and air sealing service, which together comprise “The Perfect Attic System.” The benefit of this advanced system that we’ve developed is that it is designed to combat all three types of heat transfer – where our blown-in insulation and air sealing service limit conductive and convective heat flow, our reflective foil insulation is effective against radiant heat. As a result, we’re able to offer you a level of comprehensive protection that can’t be beat.

This is commonly composed of fiberglass or cellulose, blown insulation is – as it sounds – blown into the spaces of your attic like confetti with a (you guessed it) blower. The small particles fit snugly into any space and can fill existing walls with minimal damage and to the desired depth. While it’s often the least expensive choice, the fiberglass particles can irritate the lungs, skin, and eyes. Blown insulation has also been known to cause problems with holding moisture and mold.

While going down the DIY path is doable, remember that insulation installation is a precision process. Improper addition of insulation can encourage mold growth and, if you fail to add proper ventilation, moisture can accumulate in the attic.

A qualified specialist can provide a comprehensive overview of your attic’s needs. EnergyStar recommends considering a professional if you experience:

  • “Difficult attic access and limited space to work
  • Wet or damp insulation, indicating a leaky roof
  • Moldy or rotted attic rafters or floor joists, indicating moisture problems
  • Kitchen, bathroom or clothes dryer vents that exhaust moist air directly into the attic space instead of outdoors
  • Little or no attic ventilation
  • Knob and tube wiring (pre-1930), which can be a fire hazard when in contact with insulation.”In addition to enhancements such as eShield insulation, homes may benefit from solar-powered attic ventilation systems.

Don’t Forget to Seal Those Leaks

The gaps — often difficult to locate without thorough inspection — allow for temperature-controlled indoor air to escape outside. This is the source problem behind drafts and cold spots throughout homes.

Poor sealing is a problem for all seasons. Indoor temperature control is most notably necessary during warm and hot seasons, as heated and cooled air is essential for a comfortable home environment. Even then, the effects of improper sealing are felt across the calendar, allowing for energy escape at any point.

Have to Move That Air Around

When a home is well-ventilated, temperature control efforts are more diversely spread throughout the home. This means that air conditioners and heaters don’t have to work as hard to keep designated areas the desired temperature. When appliances don’t work hard, their energy output is lowered, resulting in a tangible reduction to home energy bills over time.

While Dorothy had it right in The Wizard of Oz when she said, “There’s no place like home,” we can say with confidence that “There’s no place like a properly insulated home, Toto.” Attics and More is a phone call away to ensure your attic is properly sealed, insulated, and ventilated for the best energy savings and most comfortable environment in your home.