Every summer homeowners face the same dilemma of trying to keep their homes cool without breaking the bank on their energy bills, with the average energy bill totaling about $137 a month.
What many homeowners don’t know is that their attics can be a big culprit to wasting energy.
Heat often collects in the attic from the roof and radiates into the lower living spaces. This forces homeowners to crank up the AC, raising energy bills. So what can you do?
Luckily, there are several ways homeowners can cool their attics and make their homes more energy-efficient. Through air sealing, insulation, or ventilation, you can finally cool your attic the right way.
One of the easiest and best ways to help cool down a hot attic is with proper air sealing. This is particularly effective when used in tandem with insulation and other strategies.
What is Air Sealing?
Air sealing is the process of finding and closing air leakage points in and around your home. In your attic, this is usually your walls, floors, entrances, and spots in between ventilation units. These pockets of air leakage can be big or small, accounting for over 40% of all energy lost in your home.
For more information on attic air sealing, including cost savings, check out our guide: Is Air Sealing the Attic Worth It?
How Air Sealing Cools Your Attic
By properly air sealing your attic, you’ll prevent cool air generated by your AC units from escaping to your attic. It’ll also prevent heat and warm air in the attic from radiating down into the lower levels.
It also prevents the formation of ice dams on your roofs in the winter. This is relevant in the summer because ice dams can cause moisture buildup which damages your attic insulation. If your insulation is weak or insufficient, your attic will allow more heat to transfer into your home in the hot summer months.
How to Air Seal Your Attic
Before You Start
If you can, obtain or create a sketch of your attic. This will help you pinpoint areas of air leakage. Pay close attention to areas like dropped soffits over kitchen cabinets, slanted ceilings over stairways, areas where the walls and ceilings meet, and other dropped-ceiling areas.
See where your attic is leaking air. Schedule a free attic inspection.
Wiring holes, gaps near plumbing and pipes, and recessed lights are also common areas for attic air leakage. Write these spots down and make sure you have the right equipment to seal them.
Alternatively, we recommend getting a professional attic inspection complete by a licensed contractor. This will provide you with detailed insights, including thermal images of your attic. Use an attic inspector’s experience and professional equipment to pinpoint the exact spots where unwanted heat transfer is taking place.
Air Sealing the Attic
Start by filling in the big holes. You can do this by wrapping insulation in plastic bags and plugging areas like open stud cavities, making sure it fits tightly.
For dropped soffits, remove the insulation and add a piece of reflective foil or rigid foam board that’s a few inches longer than the opening. Seal it in place using caulk or other adhesives.
For pipes that have small air pockets, use caulk or foam to fill the space around them. Make sure you seal the attic hatch as well with new wood stops and adhesive foam weather strips.
Insulation is usually the most common method of cooling down your attic and preventing the heat from transferring downstairs. It both prevents heat from radiating downwards while simultaneously keeping cool air from escaping to the attic.
What is Attic Insulation?
Attic insulation creates barriers between the roof and your attic, as well as the attic floor to the rest of the home. It comes in a variety of materials, including fiberglass, cellulose, and even reflective surfaces similar to foil.
How Insulation Cools Your Attic
Insulation keeps the sun’s heat from radiating into the lower floors, meaning your home will be noticeably cooler. This means your AC won’t have to work quite as hard to maintain a cool internal temperature.
Insulation also prevents cool air from downstairs from escaping into the stuffy attic since it reduces the movement of air. Overall, the EPA estimates that you can save over 15% on your annual energy bills just by adding insulation to your attics and other areas.
How to Apply Attic Insulation
Before You Start
Always check your local building code recommended R-values, or your insulation’s ability to reduce conductive heat flow. It’s also recommended that you seal any air holes prior to installing insulation.
Take note of areas in your attic with plumbing, ductwork, and wiring. For your own safety, make sure there aren’t any cracks in your attic’s foundation.
If you’re applying rolled-up batts or reflective insulation, make all the necessary measurements so your insulation fits properly. Purchase safety goggles and masks, since materials like fiberglass can be dangerous to your lungs and eyes.
Insulating an Attic
If you’re using batt or roll insulation, target areas like your skylights and cut out the necessary amount of insulation. You can secure it between the framings with staples and house wrap.
Get an attic insulation estimate. Schedule a free attic inspection.
Make sure not to compress the insulation, or else it’ll become less effective. Whether it’s the stud walls or the joists, make sure you gently fit the insulation without leaving any gaps.
If you’re using blown-in insulation, plug in the machine and feed half a bag of insulation into it. Turn the machine on and fill any areas that need insulation. Be careful not to spray the loose fill in the rafter vents.
Reflective insulation requires you to measure out the surface area of the places you’re covering and stapling the material to the wood.
Ventilation allows your home to breathe. In the attic, it pulls fresh air through it and lets the heat escape on a regular basis. Let’s explore how attic ventilation works to cool down your home.
What is Attic Ventilation?
A balanced ventilation system occurs when the amount of air coming into the attic equals the amount leaving it. The cooler air from the intake vents pushes the warm air up and out through the exhaust vents near the ridge.
Without proper intake ventilation, the exhaust vents don’t work and the heat doesn’t have a way to escape. This can cause permanent damage to your roof, which as we discussed, can damage your attic insulation and affect your home temperature.
How Attic Ventilation Cools Your Home
In the summer, an improperly vented attic can generate a lot of heat through hot outside air having nowhere to go. This means your upstairs rooms will be uncomfortably hot until the sun goes down.
As such, poor ventilation causes hotter attics. This means hotter upstairs rooms and more stress on your AC units. By installing proper ventilation and letting the air circulate in and out of your attic, less heat will be trapped in the attic.
How to Ventilate Your Attic
Before You Start
First, look for signs of poor ventilation by either looking at your home yourself or calling a contractor. These signs include:
- Curling shingles
- Roof damage
- Excessive attic heat
- High summer energy bills
- Rust on metal components in the attic
Keep in mind that every attic has different ventilation needs. Calculate the right amount of ventilation for your attic beforehand. There are a few different equations you can use to determine this number.
Ventilating an Attic
Generally speaking, installing attic ventilation isn’t a DIY project. You should call a trusted professional to install the different types of attic ventilation common in most homes.
There are several different types of attic ventilation that you can use to improve the air circulation in your attic. These include turbine vents that can remove over 300 cubic feet of air a minute.
Active, power vents are smaller vents that can pull hot air out of the attic using electricity or solar power. Passive vents, such as box vents or ridge vents, can use natural winds and convection to move air through your attic.
Best Solar Attic Fans
Check out our list of the best solar powered attic fans.
Lower Your Energy Bills With Cooler Attics
Your attic is a literal hotspot for summer heat, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank trying to pay your energy bills. Leverage the three different strategies in this article to create a much more energy-efficient attic today.