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.