Solar Attic Ventilation – Improved Energy Efficiency Powered by Renewable Solar Electricity

Solar attic ventilation is a great way to introduce both energy efficiency and alternative energy into your home in a simple and affordable way.

How does it work?

This is a pretty simple system. In the most basic terms, an attic fan is powered by a small photovoltaic solar panel. The solar panel provides the renewable energy, and the cooling capacity of the attic fan provides the energy efficiency by reducing the demand on the homes air conditioning system.

A cooler attic allows your air conditioner to work more effectively, focusing its effort on the space you live in, rather than the added work of cooling a hot attic space (warm attic air will migrate to cool spaces even when there is insulation separating the spaces).

Solar powered attic fans are an efficient way of improving your attic ventilation with a mechanical system (the fan) powered by renewable energy. Even roofs that are well ventilated can benefit from mechanical ventilation.

Why is roof ventilation important?

There are many areas that are effected by poor roof ventilation, including:

  • Air Conditioning Cooling loads
  • Quality of Indoor Air
  • Life Span of Materials
  • Ice Damns and Water Damage

In warm weather months an overheated attic will lead to increased demand on your air conditioning system as the heat from the attic will move to the cooler areas of your house.

Overly moist and warm air which is not vented out of the attic will also effect the air quality of the house (often via mold and mildew). An overheated attic will also shorten the life span for roof shingles. And a roof which is too warm in cold weather months, often will lead to excessive snow melt, ice damns, and even water damage.

The big advantages of solar attic ventilation:

  • It’s relatively inexpensive (about $400-$500 per unit).
  • It uses renewable energy (the sun).
  • It costs nothing to operate.
  • It reduces other energy needs (a great benefit).
  • It improves the home’s air quality.
  • It extends the life of your roof.
  • It’s easy to install.

Installation and retrofits:

These units are relatively easy to install, often taking only about 30 minutes to put in. And a big plus: they don’t require any electrical connection beyond connecting the fan to the solar panel.

You can even get units to convert existing fans to solar power. This is a great for attics which already have roof or gable fans which can be removed from electrical power and converted to free solar energy. It’s as easy as connecting the small solar panel to the existing fan.

Start on the path to renewable energy and energy efficiency by adding a solar attic ventilation fan to your home today!

How to Clean Attic Mold, Kill It, Or Maybe Forget Attic Mold Remediation – It Could Be Cheaper

House attic mold is one of the most “popular” items in my property inspection reports. And now is time for an explanation of how to kill mold and / or how to clean mold in the attic. But before I do that, let me give you a little advice, something to consider before you sign a few (if you’re lucky) thousand dollars contract agreement with a mold remediation company.

Attic mold remediation TIP – an alternative (to consider):

Let us assume that you are in the middle of a real-estate transaction, and the home inspector just revealed to you, that your entire house attic is contaminated with mold.

If you have a brand new roof, you can only blame yourself or try to blame the roofing contractor for not checking the attic before replacing the roof (he will laugh at you unless you’ve actually asked the guy to check the attic before the roof replacement). If you have an older roof, the importance of this advice is even greater.

Call at least 2-3 mold remediation companies for an estimate – specify to the representatives, that you not only want to have the mold removed, but also attic ventilation system corrected / installed if necessary / ask if the attic insulation requires replacement.

With the numbers from the mold remediation contractors, call 2-3 roofing contractors, and ask them for a quote on the roof replacement cost including decking boards / plywood (ask the roofer to check the attic area), attic ventilation improvement, and insulation if necessary.

Be cautious if they only suggest humidistat controlled power vent installation – without properly functioning soffit vents or any type of vents along the lower portion of the roof this might not be an adequate solution.

If the attic insulation replacement is not required (it most cases it will not be possible to tell without laboratory testing), make sure it’s sealed with plastic foil before the roof and its decking replacement. Fold the foil sealing its contents after the contaminated decking has been removed, and dispose of as a regular waste (EPA recommendation).

If you only have a small area of attic contaminated with mold, the roof replacement option would be more expensive. But with an entire attic that needs mold remediation, it might be cheaper (or even much cheaper) to remove all contaminated decking, install completely new roof and correct ventilation issues.

I have seen $3,000.00 – $10,000.00 invoices for the attic mold remediation process in approximately 1000 square feet of attic area.

Benefits of the roof / decking replacement over the mold removal:

  • roof and decking replacement might be cheaper than cleaning of an entire attic contaminated with mold
  • the real-estate transaction killing mold is gone
  • attic ventilation improvement is much easier during the roof replacement and often handled with no significant / additional cost
  • the buyer gets a brand new roof

Even if the roof replacement price is slightly higher than the mold remediation process, it is still worth to take it under the consideration because you are gaining a valuable house update (new roof), that will be disclosed on a real-estate listing.

In some cases, the roof decking and framing are contaminated, and replacement of the decking only would not entirely solve the problem. In such case, you’d have to clean contaminated joist or trusses.

How to kill mold and how to clean mold in the attic.

This is not a mold killing or mold cleaning case study, it is just an explanation based on my observations and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommendations.

Even if you are dealing with a small contaminated attic area – 10′ x 10′ is the maximum area recommended by the EPA to be treated by non-professionals, forget about killing mold with spraying it with bleach or other disinfectants. It ‘s been confirmed by laboratory testing that it does not kill all of the spores and in most cases you’ll be just making a mess.

The best way to kill the attic mold (just like any other mold) is to remove it from the surface it’s growing on, or remove the contaminated surface!

EPA recommends four mold cleanup methods and all of them can be applied in the attic, assuming that it is a small area (up to 10 sq. feet).

  1. You can clean the surface by using a wet vacuum – the type you can fill its tank partially with water to contain mold residue from the contaminated surface
  2. Wipe the surface with a damp sponge or rag – use clean water or wood cleaner
  3. Use high efficiency HEPA vacuum cleaner on thoroughly dried surfaces, and dispose of the picked-up contents in well-sealed plastic bags
  4. Remove all contaminated material, seal it in plastic and dispose of as a regular waste. They recommend using HEPA vacuum after this, but in the attic you’d most likely have to remove the floor insulation (if contaminated). You can also cover the insulation with plastic foil, and fold the foil sealing its contents after the cleaning process.

You may or may not have any allergic reactions to mold. However, always use protective equipment, especially in the attic area where you are exposed to the insulation fibers and dust.

As a minimum protection during the mold removing procedure EPA recommends: Gloves, N-95 respirator and eye protection (preferably fully enclosed goggles). As an additional protection you can add half face respirator or full face respirator with HEPA filter, disposable full body clothing, head gear, and foot coverings.

How to clean mold if large section or an entire attic is contaminated

I personally wouldn’t even attempt to do it myself, so my suggestion is:

Use a professional mold remediation company:

  • check their background and check it manually by calling their clients
  • ask for clients who had their attic mold remediated approximately 1 year ago – it usually takes a winter for the mold to start growing again if the job wasn’t fully completed
  • Insist on removing the mold completely instead of encapsulating it (Media Blasting methods give the best results).
  • Encapsulation is simply a process of covering the mold contaminated surface with paint (paint like product) that contains (or at least some of them do) mold killing chemicals

If your attic mold is properly removed and all of the issues responsible for its growth corrected, which is even more important than mold removing, it will not re-grow / no need for encapsulating.

  • Hire a different contractor for mold testing and mold remediation to eliminate conflict of interest.
  • Make sure that you perform an independent clearance test after the mold remediation process completion.
  • Clearance test is to determine if there are any mold spores remaining in the previously contaminated area

Extremely important – examine the attic (or have somebody do it for you) after the mold cleaning procedure is finished.

All wood (framing and decking) surfaces should be perfectly clean (like brand new), unless there was some rotting that resulted from leaking roof or extremely humid conditions in the attic – those sections of wood should be either replaced or reinforced from underneath. You don’t want anyone to fall through the roof while servicing it or just inspecting.

Baffles – An Attics’ Money Saving Device

Are attics supposed to be hot? What about the air movement? Mold in your attics? All three questions have one thing in common. The answer to all three is to improve the ventilation in the attic. Proper installation of baffles in the attic can improve ventilation, increase air movement and eliminate or greatly reduce the chances of mold in your area above the top floor.

Baffles are inserts that improve the air flow from the soffits, or lower vents. Sometimes called overhang vents. They are constructed of plastic, a Styrofoam type of material or cardboard. The design of the baffle can be in a “U” shape with “ears” or square. Square ones are normally constructed of cardboard.

How do they work? As stated earlier, baffles are inserted at the soffits vent to increase air movement from the bottom of the attic to the venting system at the top of the roof. Baffles can also save money in the long run by:

• Decreasing utility bills.

• Extend the life cycle of your roof

• Reduce the chances of ice damming or mold formation.

• Keep the area below the attic in a more comfortable temperature.

Installation of baffles is relatively cheap and can be handled by the homeowner. It is rather labor intensive, plus you must use all safety precautions when installing these. Safety measures include long sleeve shirts, long pants, hard hat, eye protection, and a respiratory mask. Utilizing some sort of board system to use for flooring is also a good idea. You don’t want to put your foot through the ceiling below. I suggest this be done in the early spring or mid to late fall as it does get pretty warm in the attic. Even during that time frame, hydrate often!

On installation, the first thing you need to do, after getting all of your supplies in the attic, is to bring back the insulation above the soffits vent about six inches. Insert the baffle as far down as it goes, push the insulation against the baffle, then tack the top of the baffle to the roof decking. Use staples not nails. Insert the baffles at each section between rafters or at a minimum at every other section. Whether the baffle is constructed of cardboard, Styrofoam or plastic, they all contribute to a better ventilated attic.

The use of baffles can and does save the homeowner money over the long haul. Sure, installation can be a bit tedious, but you will be glad you spent the weekend or a couple of days in the attic with the payback in costs. While you may feel the cost of the baffle is a bit more than you thought, utilizing baffles will pay themselves back multiple times.