Summertime heat is around the corner. Attics can get insanely hot under the summer sun —as high as 150°F. That heat adds onto your home’s air conditioning bill. Now, before the heat hits hard, is the best time to get your home’s attic ready for summer.
While not all attics are the same, most share the same problems and it can be confusing what to do first. To help get you started, here are seven steps to getting your attic ready to handle summer cooling more efficiently and help reduce your electric bills.
1. Look for Leaks. Ice and snow can slowly cause roof leaks, silently damaging insulation and causing mold and mildew growth until it’s too late. Attic leaks can be difficult to find. Look areas of wet insulation and for signs of whitish water staining on the roof decking or along rafters near vent or chimmney openings and valleys.
2. Check for Unwanted Guests. Be alert for animal droppings, plant material, or even feathers. Mice, rats, birds, bats, squirrels, opposums, and raccoons carry a morgue-full of contagious diseases in their saliva, urine and feces. If you discover a raccoon or opposum has moved into your attic, call your local animal control office. After the animal is removed, you will need to thoroughly clean the space by removing any insulation that is contaiminated by urine or feces.
Common entry points include gable vents and eaves soffiting, particularly the intersection between roofs and dormer eaves.Newer ventilation soffiting tends to have track-mounts which allows climbing pests to push, gnaw or claw their way inside. Securing hardware cloth over vents and soffiting will help keep them out.
3. Check for Adequate Ventilation. Summer sun can heat up your roof and attic to 150°F. Much of that heat will radiate into your living space. Ventilating your attic circulates air to cool off that heat. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends 1 square foot of ventilation opening should be provided for every 150 square feet of ceiling area. Check that your eave soffits are open and free of any obstructions. If you just have gable vents consider adding more ventilation such as installing solar powered roof vent or gable fans, or installing ridge venting.
4. Install a Radiant Heat Barrier. Radiant heat barriers can reduce attic temperatures by as much as 20°F. They reflect back 90 to 97% of the heat that radiates through the roof. However, they are most effective in the southern US where the summer sun shines in a more direct angle.
5. Air Seal to Save Energy. Air leaks moves through holes for wires and plumbing or gaps in wall joints inside your home’s walls as well as through ceiling light fixtures. Fortunately, these leaks can be sealed with expanding foam and caulk in your attic.Seal all leaks before you add insulation because the insulation will just hide them.
6. Add More Attic Insulation. The US DOE recommends a minimum of R30 for all home attics, about 10- 12 inches thick. The more insulation you have, the easier you home will be able to keep cool in summer and stay warm in the winter. Remember, you don’t need to insulate all at once. Start in the center of the attic and then add more later, moving towards the edges. You’ll notice the change in comfort and efficiency right away.
7. Uniquely Southern. A few building practices in southern states differ from those in the north due to heat and high humidity. Attics in southern states often house the home’s water heater, air handling system, and ductwork. If your home is in the south, remember to check over these systems in your attic, too.
- Flush your water heater to remove sediments at the bottom of the tank.
- Inspect your AC or heat pump system’s condensing coil for dirt and dust. Turn off the system and remove the access panel. Gently use a dust wand vacuum attachment or spray some foaming AC Evaporator Coil cleaner to clean dust from the A-frame shaped cooling coils. Clean out the condensate drip pan and drain with a little bleach or vinegar to keep working properly.
- Check the ductwork for loose connections or breaks. Seal with aluminum tape or duct mastic. Good places to look are at turns, junctions, and along seams.