Get into your attic and discover how you can save yourself money and energy with a DIY energy audit.
We’ve covered the benefits that will come to you once you’ve completed your audit, what tools and safety requirements you need to follow and what it means to understand that your home functions as a system; you have even learned about the different mechanical systems in your home. Now it is time to get into the actual how to’s of checking out your attic space. What is your attic and why do you have it in your home. Go back to fifth grade science class. Remember when Mr. Pfaff told you that hot air rises and maybe even had you touch the air around the drafty window in the classroom. Where was that cooler air going? It was settling near the floor and that hot air was rising. Right? In the winter in Northern Virginia, when you have just paid to heat your entire house, do you want your hard earned dollars to float right out of the attic ceiling? I think the answer is a resounding “no.”
Do you want to living in a Swiss cheese house? Realize that when your home was built, more than likely the greatest of care wasn’t taken to prevent infiltration from your attic to your living space. Since hot air rises, you certainly don’t (when the cooler weather comes, and you’re spending money heating air) to pay to send your conditioned air right out the top of your house. How do you prevent this? Proper insulation and proper air sealing.
Here is a chart of the different insulation types which you may find useful:
Now that you have the basics about the insulation types and why you want proper venting, where are the details about getting up into you attic and fixing potential problems on your own. Going into your attic, is there an attic hatch that is insulated and weather stripped properly? You will want to insulate your attic hatch and weather strip it so that you aren’t letting your precious conditioned air into your attic to escape through the venting and possible holes. Look for daylight. Do you see any signs of light in the attic, make note of that, as those are areas that will require more insulation and possibly to be spray foamed. Those cans of Great Stuff that you can buy at big box stores are wonderful for jobs like this, although they can be messy. Make sure you buy the proper product as well- there is a spray foam for small cracks, and windows and doors, and then there is one that is quite expansive. Do your homework before your just start spraying it around.
Now that you’re in your attic, take a look around: look at the insulation on the attic floor; do you see any darkened spots? This is where air has been traveling through from penetrations in the bottom plate from the floor below. You will need to seal that hole. We call this game find hole, fix hole. Fun, huh?! If you can get close to your chimney, if you have one, make sure that it is fully sealed all of the way around with a fire rated caulk, as this is a great place for air to leak out of the home. In your attic, there may be an exposed attic knee wall, which is where there is no insulation applied to a space that is conditioned below. This area needs to be insulated properly with whichever type of insulation you have chosen.
Now that you have reviewed the attic and made proper adjustments to keep your conditioned air where it needs to be, next time, we will be addressing your basement or crawl space and how to inspect that space on your own. If you think that you need professional help doing any of these things, do not hesitate to ask! We are here to help. Of course, if there is anyone you know that you think would benefit from these DIY articles, certainly spread the word and share your experience.