Posts

Some states have a year-long summer. Others are cold for 12 months.

In New Jersey and the Delaware Valley, homeowners experience all four seasons. Under these circumstances, there are specific actions homeowners can take to get the most out of their home.

One of these actions is improving the attic — specifically, the attic’s energy efficiency.

Keeping the attic energy efficient helps keep the home healthy during all four seasons.

Here are 4 of the best ways to improve your attic energy efficiency.

1. Improve Your Attic’s Access Point

The attic access point — you probably see it every day without thinking twice about it.

Your scuttle hole and/or attic door could be wasting your home’s energy.

If the attic access point is not optimized for energy efficiency, air will be leaking between your living area and your attic. Your conditioned air can escape through the attic access point, wasting energy and money on conditioning the lower levels of your home. It doesn’t matter what season it is either — whether you are trying to keep your home toasty in the winter of cool in the summer, your attic access point can contribute to energy loss.

The solution?

We recommend two things:

  1. Weatherstripping
  2. Attic access cover

Attic accesses often have gaps between the door and the ceiling/attic floor. When these gaps are present, weatherstripping is a simple do-it-yourself solution.

For homeowners looking to get the most out of their time and effort, installing an attic access cover could be the perfect remedy.

Attic access covers are a simple installation made for attic scuttle holes and latches. They insulate the attic access and prevent the air from escaping in the same way that weatherstripping does. Other benefits of attic access insulation covers include:

  • Prevents bugs from entering the living area
  • Saves money on monthly energy bills
  • The material is durable and built to last

Weatherstripping and attic access covers are both excellent options. However, for the strongest means of insulation and energy saving, attic access covers provide the best results.

2. Improve Your Attic’s Sealing

After you tackle your attic access, the next step to improving attic energy efficiency is to improve the attic itself.

The first part of that is sealing.

The main goal of improving sealing is to prevent air leakage from the attic.

As mentioned in part 1, air can leak out of gaps and cracks in the attic access. However, the concept of air leakage can be a problem elsewhere.

Polyurethane foam seals gaps in wooden frame construction conserving energy.

Air can leak in gaps in windows, walls, and the floor especially. Take a look around and examine if you have gaps around the following:

  • Wire holes
  • Can lights
  • Ducts or vents
  • Cracks in the floorboards
  • Spaces where walls/floors/ceilings meet

If you find spaces near these elements, materials such as sealant, caulk, and/or weatherstrips can often be good solutions. All three will help limit the amount of air leakage in the attic.

For those with duct-work in their attic, air sealing can be critical.

When your air is leaking from ducts, all of the air that would be funneled directly into your living room may not be leaking up from your attic access, but directly from the ducts themselves. Thanks to something know as the “stack effect” (rising heat in the house), air leakages from ducts happen constantly, even when your air is not running. The joints that hold the ducts together leak air, the space in between the ducts and walls leak air, and you end up paying for it (literally — in utility bills).

When it comes to sealing duct-work, a materials such as spray foam, duct mastic, or duct tape can be a homeowners best friend.

Homeowners should also consider the importance of insulating the ducts as well. This concept should actually be applied to the entirety of the attic.

3. Improve Your Attic Insulation

Thanks to infrared technology, we are able to further see where homes need insulation.

When our technicians go into homes, the attic is one of the usual suspects for under-insulation.

In the Delaware Valley, where recommended R-Value (resistance to heat) ranges from R38 to R60, having the right amount of insulation is a necessity if you want good whole-home health. R-Values vary by material, but to get a better sense of what kind of R-Values you may already have, check out this chart. For the most accurate measurements, it’s always best to have a healthy home professional inspect your attic and determine what R-Value will work best for your home.

So how do you insulate your attic?

First, consider R-Value.

Next, identify what kind of insulation and what amount of insulation you will need for optimal insulation.

Some of the most popular attic insulation materials include:

  • Fiberglass (comes as batt)
  • Cellulose (comes blown)
  • Mineral wool (comes batt or blown)

Your walls, joists, and attic floors may all need better insulation. You may be able to judge this with the naked eye, but we recommend having an expert take a look. Experienced technicians will be able to give you more insight into R-Values, identify every spot that needs insulation, and offer actionable advice on the best way to handle any under-insulation.

Bonus Tip: Use Multi-Layer Reflective Insulation.

Multi-Layer Reflective Insulation (MLI) is the hidden gem of insulation materials.

MLI reflects radiant heat from the sun that permeates through the roof to keep R-Value consistent, and the temperature in the living area contained.

While most MLI installations take place in the attic, we can apply our reflective insulation products anywhere in your home to better insulate your home. Attics, crawl spaces, garage doors, below your floors—we even have wraps for old hot water heaters. MLI can help you improve your home’s energy efficiency levels and enjoy increased savings and comfort.

4. Improve Your Attic Ventilation

Ventilation, often thought of as “airflow”, tends to be overlooked.

Unlike other parts of the country like the southern and western states where it is hot year-round and attics can reach deathly high temperatures, the northeast only experiences high-heat for about two months. Likewise, the importance of airflow in the attic can easily escape the minds of homeowners.

Plus, most people aren’t really hanging out in their attic. So why does your attic need ventilation?

The truth is, ventilation is needed during every month of the year.

If you don’t have a healthy stream of air in your attic in the summer, you could be looking at moisture damage and mold.

And if you don’t have that healthy airflow in the winter, you could be looking at different yet similar issues. The potential for mold growth will be there, and excess moisture could cause warped joists, unsafe ice damming on the roof, and rotting wood.

The solution?

We recommend using a solar attic fan in New Jersey.

Solar attic fans — as the name implies — run solely on the power of the sun. That means less electricity is needed and more energy efficiency is earned.

They regulate your attic by expelling hot air and circulating fresh outside air to maintain healthy, consistent air quality.

To learn more about the benefits of installing a solar attic fan, click here.

Take Action — Improve Your Attic

If you want to improve your attic, we recommend seeking out the advice of an expert. Our technicians offer free attic inspections and can give you personalized advice based on the condition of your house and the climates that your house will be going through. To get an expert’s perspective, contact us today for a free inspection.

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.

With climate patterns growing more chaotic each winter – from record lows in 2019 to record highs this year – evaluating your attic’s insulation needs has never been more important. As unpredictable seasons become “the new normal,” it’s important to prepare your home for a bumpy weather ride. 

According to EnergyStar: “The attic is usually where you can find some of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home.” Additionally, a review of your attic insulation status may also reveal the presence of dangerous materials – especially in older homes. Let’s examine the ABC’s of dangerous insulation and also determine (if our insulation is safe) how much your attic may need. 

Know the Dangers

Older homes may contain a variety of insulation materials that have been determined to be hazardous to your health. If your home has been sold in the past several years, chances are good such materials would have been discovered during an inspection. Some of the key culprits include:

Asbestos

Banned in American homes since the 1980s, asbestos can still be found in older homes. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to increased risk of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

Appearance: Asbestos insulation has a flat, loose appearance and is usually gray.

What to do: Do not attempt to remove asbestos yourself! Immediately contact a professional removal firm. 

An attic in West Chester, PA with asbestos filling. 

Vermiculite

In its natural state, vermiculite is a gray/brown/silver mineral. When exposed to extreme heat, it puffs like popcorn, expanding to create an effective insulator.

On its own, vermiculite isn’t dangerous. However, vermiculite produced in the U.S. before 1990 probably came from one mine which, was later found to contain a significant asbestos deposit. If your home was built before then, it might contain vermiculite (which is often marketed under the Zonolite brand). As such, asbestos-laced vermiculite could pose the same health risks as asbestos insulation. 

Appearance: Pebble-like granules of a grayish-brown or silvery-gold color.

What to do: The EPA recommends these guidelines:  

  • “Leave vermiculite insulation undisturbed in your attic or in your walls.
  • Do not store boxes or other items in your attic if it contains vermiculite insulation.
  • Do not allow children to play in an attic with vermiculite insulation.
  • Do not attempt to remove the insulation yourself.
  • Hire a professional asbestos contractor if you plan to remodel or conduct renovations that would disturb the vermiculite in your attic or walls to make sure the material is safely handled and/or removed.”

Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI)

As if the name didn’t sound unappealing enough, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) has been found to emit toxic formaldehyde vapors, which can cause numerous nasty health effects – especially respiratory. UFFI can mostly be found in homes older than 35-40 years. 

Appearance: Yellowish, dull foam, or loose particles. Inspectapedia notes: “Look for small amounts of soft crumbly foam insulation at tiny openings in wall cavities such as at knot-holes or gaps between siding boards … in the attic you may find the same oozing insulation shown at the top of gable end walls.”

What to do: Follow the guidelines in previous entries above. Contact an attic professional. 

How much insulation?

Once you’ve determined your insulation material is safe, your next task is to discover if you have enough to handle the ups and downs of modern climate change. 

Diagnosing insulation shortfall can be tricky. EnergyStar notes the following symptoms: 

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

If you suspect insulation issues, examine your attic floor. Is the insulation level even with or below the top of your floor joists? In either case, it’s time for more insulation. 

But what if the insulation rises above the joist level? Use a ruler to measure the depth of your insulation. From there, you can estimate what’s known as an R-value. 

Our old friend, EnergyStar, tells us: “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.” 

  • Cellulose and fiberglass insulation measure about R-3 per inch. 
  • If you live in the Southern United States, you should have at least R-38. 
  • Northern dwellers need around R-49. 
  • If your attic measures R-13 below these figures, consider adding more. 

An attic in Cherry Hill, NJ containing very old insulation. 

Before starting an installation project, make sure to check for air leaks that will require sealing. The Department of Energy offers tips on detecting air leaks and assessing ventilation needs. 

Have A Pro Inspect Your Attic

As you can see, understanding the in’s and out’s of attic insulation can quickly grow complicated. An inspection by a qualified attic professional can save time and money. 

Using a pro will save you from the nasty task of crawling around a dark, dusty space. An inspector will often uncover overlooked issues, including pest problems and undiscovered leaks. And, an inspector knows the warning signs for dangerous attic materials. 

Getting serious about the state of your attic is not only a matter of cost savings. A proper inspection can save money and – more importantly – save your health.

Here is what a properly inspected and insulated attic can look like when you go with the right professionals:

 

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you define exactly what your attic, and home, needs to be healthier.

The Impact Of Poor Attic Ventilation

As we complete more and more attic inspections, it’s becoming a concerning reality that many homeowners have no idea what kind of shape their attic is in.

Not knowing what’s going on with your attic is careless. There’s really no excuse. We understand it can be a “pain” or a “hassle”, but your attic requires the same attention and maintenance as any other area of your home.

We’ve seen health concerns such as fiberglass emitting a synthetic material called styrene, a possible carcinogenic per the American Lung Association. We’ve seen depleted insulation: aged, compressed, and saturated. We’ve seen infestation from sealing issues.

How Hot Attics Impact Your Home’s Health

Even with the aforementioned issues, the one attic issue we see and feel the most is from insufficient ventilation. HOT ATTICS POSE PROBLEMS. Elevated attic temperatures can result in overheated ducts and an overworked air conditioner. Let’s not forget to mention that attic-heat build up radiates into your living space making you hot, resulting in you blasting your air condition. How does that wallet feel?

The photos above show what can happen when you don’t have proper ventilation. Turns out you may not be the only one sweating. Your attic can sweat too. These photos document a hot attic and the residue of tree sap dripping from the rafters. Essentially, the attic was so hot that it was deteriorating.

How Homeowners Can Improve Attic Ventilation

Fortunately for this homeowner, we were able to address the issue in a timely manner. The installation of our solar fan will continuously exchange attic air to avoid future heat build up. In turn, a more efficient air conditioner, cooler ducting, cooler living spaces, and lower cooling costs. They say “don’t sweat the small stuff”. That may be sometimes true, but in your attic’s case, the small stuff can lead to big time problems.

Want to receive a no-cost solar attic fan?

Contact Michele DuCoin at 856-809-2744 to schedule your free attic inspection and learn how to receive a no-cost solar attic fan!