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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.

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Prep Your Home for the Dog Days of Summer

The face of summer 2020 will undoubtedly be changed by the COVID-19 pandemic for most Americans. However, one thing won’t be affected – those scorching “dog days.”* And with climate change rampant, we can expect the annual average temperatures across the U.S. to continue the same increase we’ve observed over the last century. 

According to the Farmer’s Almanac

“For a large part of the United States, this summer is likely to be a scorcher! June will set the tone for the season, with above-normal temperatures in the northeastern quarter of the United States, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska.” 

“Heat will come in spurts in the first half of the summer season,” AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Pastelok adds. “But, as we get into July, it will start to dry out a little, and I think that’s when we’ll start to see the heat peak, with temperatures climbing into the 90s.” 

For homeowners, thoughts turn to AC units when it comes to keeping the home cool across such heat waves. However, the key to keeping cool this summer is actually right over your head. That’s right – although we often think of attic insulation as the gatekeeper when it comes to retaining warm air and keeping out freezing assaults, a properly sealed and insulated space plays a vital role in staying cool.  

Maintaining the proper level of insulation keeps sweltering, humid air from creeping inside. “The way thermodynamics work is heat flows from a hotter place to a cooler place,” Lauren Urbanek, a senior program advocate with the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards, Climate & Clean Energy Program, said in an NBC interview. “Not having insulation means heat is seeping into your house and your air conditioner is having to work a lot harder.” 

Multi-layer, reflective insulation can both stop heat transfer and resist it, curtailing radiant heat from entering your home during the summer and exiting during the winter. 

As we’ve noted before, if you suspect insulation issues, the first step is to examine your attic floor. Is the insulation level even with or below the top of your floor joists? Use a ruler to measure the depth of your insulation. You can then estimate what’s known as an R-value.  

From there, it’s often helpful to schedule an attic audit from an energy-savings professional. A home-energy analysis can save homeowners an average of 5 to 30% on monthly energy bills and can also uncover possible unsafe conditions in insulation, attics, walls or basements. 

Finally, a major, doggone culprit when it comes to letting those sweltering canines inside could be a lack of proper sealing. Hidden leaks in your home can account for significant air loss.  

As the U.S. Department of Energy notes: “Air leakage occurs when outside air enters and conditioned air leaves your house uncontrollably through cracks and openings. When it’s warmer and less windy, not enough air may enter, resulting in poor indoor air quality. Air leakage also contributes to moisture problems that can affect occupants’ health and the structure’s durability.” 

Strategies for plugging up air leaks across your home include: 

  • Caulking and weatherstripping leaking doors and windows that leak air 
  • Caulking and sealing air leaks near where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring travel through walls, floors or ceilings. 
  • Installing foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls. 
  • Inspecting dirty spots in your insulation for air leaks and mold (sealing leaks with low-expansion spray foam and installing house flashing may be needed). 
  • Locating soiled spots on ceiling paint or carpet (possibly indicating air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists). 
  • Covering single-pane windows with storm windows. 
  • Installing more efficient double-pane low-emissivity windows.  
  • Injecting foam sealant on gaps around windows, baseboards and other leakage sources. 
  • Covering the kitchen exhaust fan to prevent air leaks when not in use. 
  • Replace inefficient door bottoms and thresholds with models that offer pliable sealing gaskets. 
  • Sealing leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials such as sheet metal or sheetrock and furnace cement caulk. 

In addition, your home could also benefit from solar-powered attic ventilation systems that not only improve comfort across all season but also protect your roof. During the dog days of summer, an attic can reach temperatures of 160°F or more. Solar-powered attic fans expel hot air, returning the attic’s space closer to the outside ambient temperature.  

As implied by the name, the fans operate entirely off solar energy, pulling the outside air in through existing static and soffit vents. By pulling from this external air source, the attic fan will extract the hot, humid air up through the fan and create a constant exchange of air in the attic. 

Contact us today to discuss how we can help shape up your attic for the coming “Dog Days Daze.” 

* Wondering why we call them the Dog Days of Summer? You may have heard of Sirius (the star, not the satellite-radio company). Dubbed the “Dog Star” by the ancient Greeks, the word Sirius means “searing” or “scorching” – a reference to its brightness in the night sky. During the hottest months of summer, Sirius is one of the most prominent stars in the sky – hence, dog days.  

The Greek poet Homer, writing in The Iliad, was no fan of these dog days either:  

Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky 

On summer nights, star of stars, 

Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest 

Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat 

And fevers to suffering humanity. 

 We wonder if a well-insulated and sealed attic may have changed Homer’s mind? Don’t wait for the melting heat to hit. Contact us as Attics and More and let us show you how we can help keep your home cool and your air conditioner working at maximum efficiency. 

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Affordable Financing Available for Insulation and Solar Power

The most significant and most important investment most of us have in our lives are our homes. Much of our time will be spent there, and it is the place where we seek comfort. When it comes to the energy efficiency of a home, energy lost equals dollars lost. A chance to invest smart dollars into your home, making your environment more comfortable year-round with the least out of pocket costs, and doing something positive for the environment just makes good sense.

The NEIF or National Energy Improvement Fund is the nation’s only certified “B corporation” energy efficiency and resiliency lender meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.

Loans are based on credit scores and range from 7.99% to 12.99%. A credit score of 720+ would place you in the 7.99% interest bracket. The average credit score for most Americans is 680 to 699, placing them in the 9.99% interest bracket. A credit score of 640 to 679 would put you in the 12.99% interest bracket, which is still cheaper than a credit card. Terms are 3, 5, or 10 years, and loans may be paid in full at any time without penalty. Credit scores are pulled from TransUnion. The loans are unsecured, and the percent is static and will never increase. The loans can be applied to primary residences, vacation homes, condominiums, and trailers on a fixed foundation. The amount clients can borrow ranges from $2,900.00 to $25,000.00.

To put things in a clearer perspective, 7.99% and 12.99% is only about $6.00 difference per month, and in the loan space of less than $10,000.00, 70% of the applicants will qualify. Only one loan can be taken at any one time, so we encourage homeowners to choose to perform the job wisely and seal, insulate, and ventilate. Doing one or two without the third will not provide the savings, comfort, and environmental impact you will desire. We invite you to play with the calculator on our website portal to see what your payments would be. Additionally, Attics and More does not require a down payment. This is really a win-win for the consumer all the way around.

Steps to Applying for NEIF:

1. Visit our website www.atticsandmore.com.
2. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
3. Click on the NEIF symbol.
4. This brings you to the Attics and More portal.
5. Scroll to the bottom to the Monthly Payment Estimator. By sliding the blue dots to the amount you are
interested in financing, you can compare what the monthly payment amounts would be.
6. Click on “Learn More About the National Energy Improvement Fund.”
7. Click on “Learn More” or “Apply Now.”
8. Click on “For Homeowners” at the top of the page to apply online or pay online.

Some important information for consideration:
Customers can apply individually or jointly, but if a joint application is chosen, the person with the lower credit score is the score the NEIF uses. For this reason, clients should file individually first to see if they can qualify for a better interest rate. If someone applies and the application kicks out, a message will explain what is missing. No down payment is required by Attics and More or the lender. If you finalize an application, the loan approval is good for 120 days from the date completed and electronically signed by the applicant.

After you apply for a loan, a decision is made immediately. If you are not working due to being retired or disabled, the client must choose “other income” on the application requiring additional time for the income to be verified.

We are proud to partner with the NEIF. We take your relationship with our financing company just as seriously as you do. We want our customers to feel comfortable entering into an agreement with this reputable company. Now is the time to take advantage of this fair and transparent financing relationship and show your home and our Earth a little love.

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How Climate Change Affects Home Energy Use

According to broad scientific consensus, annual average temperatures across the U.S. have increased over the last century with the trend expected to continue.

A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes:

“Extreme high temperatures are projected to increase even more than average temperatures. Heat waves are projected to become more intense and cold waves less intense. The number of days above 90°F is projected to rise while the number of days below freezing is projected to decline.”

And as the world experiences more extreme climate changes – notably warmer temperatures – energy consumption and costs will increase as well.

An EPA study reveals:

“If the nation’s climate warms by 1.8°F, the demand for energy used for cooling is expected to increase by about 5-20%, while the demand for energy used for heating is expected to decrease by about 3-15%.

Net expenditure in annual heating and cooling could increase by 10% ($26 billion in 1990 dollars) with a 4.5°F warming by the end of the century, and by 22% ($57 billion in 1990 dollars) with a warming of 9.0°F.”

And, while efforts to mitigate the damaging effects of climate change continue in some nations, homeowners will bear the brunt of increased energy costs for at least the next decade.

The EPA suggests homeowners can battle climate-change increased energy demand by reducing air leaks and drafts, primarily by sealing their home’s building envelope. [A building envelope is the physical separator between the conditioned and unconditioned environment of a building including the resistance to air, water, heat,[1] light, and noise[2] transfer.] The agency also notes that adding  insulation to attics can “save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs and significantly enhance home comfort with comprehensive sealing and insulating measures.”

Roughly 90 percent of existing homes are considered under-insulated, according to a 2009 survey. “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 and lead researcher, said.

Home energy-analysis experts agree that homeowners should pay attention to the mantra “Seal, Insulate and Ventilate” when it comes to optimizing energy savings. However, some homeowners think they can only pay attention to one or two of these methods. Neglecting any one area of energy loss is like suddenly finding three holes in a boat while on the high seas. The question would never be: “Which hole should we plug first?” Plug them all at once, Captain! The great news is that Attics and More offers affordable financing with great ease of confidential application right from our website.

SmarterHouse.org points out that hidden air leaks in your home can account for significant heat loss: “In the average home, small openings in the outer shell of a house account for almost 30% of total heat lost.”

In addition to enhanced energy efficiency, proper sealing reduces the amount of drafts, noise, and moisture inside a home and will equalize temperature differences in rooms. Ventilation goes hand-in-hand with sealing techniques. The Department of Energy notes: “Ventilation for cooling is the least expensive and most energy-efficient way to cool buildings. Ventilation works best when combined with techniques to avoid heat buildup in your home.”

As noted above, nine out of 10 American homes are underinsulated. Heat loss due to insulation issues in walls, roofs, and flooring combined can account for 45% of total house loss.

An energy audit of a home’s insulation can not only discover energy savings but also uncover dangers from unsafe material.  Also, some energy providers may offer rebates for a professional home energy assessment and air sealing and insulation projects. A qualified specialist will begin such an audit with an attic inspection. EnergyStar recommends considering a professional attic-insulation inspector if a homeowner experiences:

  • “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.

Climate change is real science, and it’s really happening. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you create an energy strategy for climate change on a complimentary basis.

 

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My Grandmother’s Attic

When’s the last time you went into your attic? I did not give my attic much thought until I started a new job. Now I am amazed to discover how rare people go in their attics. I have talked with homeowners who have not been in their attic for 20+ years.  One new homeowner said that she purchased a home 8 months ago and has actually never been in her attic.

Here’s my attic story:

When I was a little girl, I remember seeing magic stairs pop down from the ceiling in one of my grandmother’s bedrooms in her tiny rancher. Kids who see stairs always wonder what’s on the other end. I was so small and the stairs so large that I never went beyond just looking up.

As I got older and saw those stairs descend each Christmas to bring down decorations, I would beg my mother to allow me to go up. It was always a firm “no,” and I lived with it.

After my grandmother passed away, I was at the house with my mother and my aunt. We were packing up boxes and reminiscing. I walked into the spare bedroom, where I saw the stairs to the attic had been pulled down. I was 32, and I had my own attic with pull-down stairs by that time. But the lure remained. I HAD to see what was up there. My aunt heard me step up the first three rungs and yelled out, “Don’t go up there! It’s full of asbestos!” As I am apt to do, I said okay and went up anyway, but stealthily and quickly. It was gross. “Stuff” hung from the rafters, my eyes burned, I couldn’t breathe, and it felt like I was inhaling particles.

A dirty attic with poor insulation, similar to what was in my grandmother’s home.

But I did see my Fisher-Price castle with the working castle gate. I ran and snatched it like a thief in the night. The Lincoln Logs were covered in the debris that was hanging everywhere. On the floor, I saw what polite people would not refer to as “rodent turds,” but it most assuredly was. I ran to the kitchen with my castle and washed it off while my aunt looked at me unfavorably and told me that I should not be handling something covered with asbestos. Plus, I hadn’t listened to her and went up in the first place. She was right, of course.

It ended up that my aunt had specialists come out in hazmat suits and respirators to remove the toxic material in my grandmother’s attic and had it replaced with safe insulation. The lesson that I learned is that if you don’t know what’s in your attic, it can hurt you. I also learned that if you are pigheaded enough to ignore the pleas of your aunt and mother to stay out of an attic, you can score a childhood toy, but at what cost?

I’ll end this by saying: Know what’s in your attic. If you don’t know or don’t want to know, hire a professional to do this for you. Attics and More will provide a free complimentary home energy analysis, which includes inspection of your attic and crawlspace.

As for my Fisher-Price castle? It’s now safely inside my attic. I feel content, and some redemption, knowing it’s there.