When it comes to reducing energy bills at home, most people think about the spaces they can see. People make changes to windows, draft-proof doors, and change their ceiling fan direction seasonally. The attic, however, is a space that goes unnoticed for the most part. It sits directly under your roof unnoticed. If you can access it easily, it’s where you put stuff and then forget about it. But attics play an essential role in keeping your home comfortable, which is why you should consider the space as part of a home energy audit.
How Heat Enters Your Attic
Your attic is one of your first lines of defense against outdoor temperatures. In Birmingham, that usually means hot, muggy air. When the sun beats down on your roof, your roofing material absorbs heat. That heat then transfers to the framing of your home and resides in your attic space. If there is nothing to prevent it from happening, the heat then builds up and transfers into the rooms below the attic. Over a hot summer, this temperature transfer can seriously interfere with the efficiency of your air conditioner.
Maintaining Stable Temperature & Humidity Levels
In an ideal world, you want your attic to act as a barrier between the cold, air-conditioned air of your home and the hot, humid air outside. That means your attic needs a way to maintain a more stable, cooler temperature without relying on your air conditioning system. It also requires a way to release trapped moisture. When you remove these two energy-draining factors from your attic, your cooling bill sees the difference.
One of the ways an attic can release hot air from the space is proper ventilation. Think of it this way – like taking a breath, your attic needs to inhale cooler air from the outside and push hot, moist, trapped air out. A reliable ventilation system allows this process to happen. There are many types of ventilation systems out there, but a popular option involves a power fan (either using your home’s electricity or solar power) that maintains airflow. Ventilation options like this sometimes include temperature and humidity sensors, so the fan knows when it needs to work and when it can conserve energy. To determine the best ventilation system for your home, an HVAC professional can do an assessment and work with your budget and goals to find a solution.
The second major component of protection from hot attic air is insulation. Proper insulation absorbs extra heat before it makes its way into your living space. Most modern homes have insulation installed in the attic spaces, but some insulation materials can lose efficiency over time. Pink fiberglass insulation, popular because of its low cost and ease-of-installation, has a lifespan of 10 to 25 years, depending on attic conditions. Another popular option is spray foam, which costs more, but has a much longer lifespan. If it has been a while since you last checked on the state of your attic insulation, it might be time for a quick look. Again, an HVAC professional is an excellent resource for assessing the current space and providing recommendations for keeping your energy bills low for years to come.
In addition to ventilation and insulation, outdoor conditions affect your attic space. For example, is your home built on a big open lot with no tree cover? The lack of shade means that the roof is exposed to direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day. The direction your home is facing can also make a difference in how much heat your attic absorbs. To limit factors like this from affecting your energy bill, consider adding a radiant barrier to the interior of your roof. The reflective material helps to bounce back some of the heat absorbed through roofing materials, keeping the interior of your attic a little cooler. Remember, small changes can add up over the long run.
The Bottom Line: Looking for a way to reduce your energy bills? Don’t forget your attic. Proper ventilation and insulation keep hot air outside where it belongs, which means your air conditioner won’t work as hard to create a comfortable environment for you and your family.