Attic Insulation – Protecting Your Home from Heat Gain and Loss
Attic insulation can seem like one of those mundane, extraneous details of home maintenance. Fluffy stuff in your attic crawlspace? Why even worry about it, right? As it turns out, attic insulation is a very big deal and can have a significant impact on your home’s energy efficiency and your general well-being. Let’s take a closer look at attic insulation and how it helps your home maintain a comfortable temperature all year long.
To understand insulation, you first have to understand how heat gets from place to place. Heat travels through three means:
- Convection: The way heat circulates through liquids and gases. It’s what creates steam in a cup of coffee and is the reason that hot air rises while cold air sinks.
- Conduction: When you dip a cold spoon into a cup of tea, it grows hot. This is an example of conduction—one thing sharing its heat with another thing to balance out the energy.
- Radiation: One of the main sources of heat in the summer, radiant heat travels in a straight path and heats up anything in its way. The sun is the greatest source of radiant heat.
Your attic deals with a combination of all three. Furthermore, heat is quite the pervasive little force. It has a constant need to spread. Heat naturally flows to cooler areas, so in the winter, the heat inside your home seeps outside. In the summer, the sweltering outdoor air finds its way into your cool abode.
But it’s more than just air moving from inside to outside, or vice versa. Heat moves within your home as well. During the winter, you turn on your heater to try to beat the chill, but your home isn’t as airtight as you think.
Considering that hot air naturally rises, a lot of the toasty air blowing from your heater seeps up into your attic. In an uninsulated attic, the air cools down. Remember how cool air sinks? Well, once it cools down enough, it moves its way back down to the rest of the house. That air eventually heats back up and moves back to the attic, and so on. It’s an awful cycle that wastes precious energy. Some sources suggest that your house loses up to a quarter of its total heat from your attic alone.
Insulation isn’t just important in the winter. In the summer, your attic is pretty much a storage space for heat, reaching ungodly temperatures. It may be a bearable 90 degrees outside, but your attic could reach upward of 150 degrees—more if your ventilation isn’t working properly.
The heat doesn’t stay in the attic either. It spreads into the rest of your home, which is why your ceiling may feel so hot. That heat forces your air conditioner to work overtime. Worse yet, if your air conditioning ducts run through the attic, your vents will do nothing but blow hot air.
Then there’s the sun itself. It shines down on everything, including your roof. Unfortunately for your home, most building materials soak up heat like a sponge and radiate it back in the process. Without insulation, the wood in your roof and ceiling warm up. That heat then radiates down to the rest of your home.
Insulation comes in a wide range of materials, including foil, foam boards, cellulose, and fiberglass. Bulky materials help control heat gained through convection and conduction, while rigid boards trap air to resist conductive heat flow. Foils and reflective insulation systems reflect radiant heat away from living spaces, keeping the sun from bearing down on your home.
Loose-fill and batt insulation are the most common forms of insulation installed in attics. When installed properly, loose-fill offers excellent coverage and is cheaper than batt and other types of insulation. Before you install any insulation, make sure you seal up any air leaks and repair damage in your roof if there is any. You should also combine your insulation with a radiant barrier to keep the sun off your roof.
Keep your attic insulated and you’ll save money on your air conditioning bill and stay cool all summer long. Call or contact Bob Jenson A/C for a free inspection and quote for attic insulation today!
For over 45 years, Bob Jenson has been providing quality heating and air services to the San Diego community.
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