Attic Ventilation – It’s Not As Complicated As You’re Making It

Proper attic ventilation is a simple and effective way to improve your home’s energy efficiency, especially in hot climates. That is, it can be if you don’t over-think it. The key is to remember that SIMPLE and EFFECTIVE go together – surprisingly, the more complicated you make your attic ventilation system, the less effective it will be. So before you get carried away with all the different options for attic ventilation (“I’ll take three of each!”), take a moment and learn just how it all works.

Why is attic ventilation so important? The simple answer is that air in an improperly ventilated attic has nowhere to go, causing it to become stagnant and increase in temperature. As this hot air fills your attic, it heats up the insulation and the ductwork that is supposed to be carrying cool air throughout your house. Air in a well-ventilated attic stays cooler and, consequently, keeps your home cooler with less effort and energy.

Here’s the simplest way to think of it: attic ventilation works like a chimney for your entire home. How does a chimney work? Well, it has a hole in the bottom and a hole in the top, and…that’s about it. Pretty simple, right? Ventilating your attic works on the same principles, and is essentially no more complicated: a hole in the bottom where air comes in, and a hole in the top where air goes out. That’s it. Really!

The holes in the bottom are usually soffit vents, and if you’re like 95% of homeowners your soffit vents are probably a mess – clogged, blocked, painted over, or entirely too small. Air will not leave the attic unless air enters, so check your soffit vents and clean them every couple of years. Try using a dry nylon car wheel brush to clean the vents – something as simple as this has the potential to lower attic temperature as much as 20 degrees.

The holes in the top of your attic are generally ridge vents, wind turbines, static vents or power fans. This is where people get overly-excited and risk undermining the entire attic ventilation system by overdoing the exhaust vents. If you want the air in your attic to move in the bottom and out the top – and trust me, that’s what you want – then you must provide the air with a definite path. Adding an abundance of exhaust vents will, essentially, confuse the air. Air must have a clear destination and will follow the path of least resistance. If you have too many exhaust vents, you’ll find that the most powerful vent will dominate, turning the less powerful exhaust vents into intake vents that will take the place of the soffit vents. This can happen if you mix different types of exhaust vents or if you place a ridge vent on every ridge. The air that should be drawn from the soffit vents will instead come from the less powerful exhaust vents or the ridge vents about halfway up the roof, and you will have air flow only in the top part of your attic.

So how do you ensure proper attic ventilation? Keep it simple! Think of your attic as a chimney: air enters from the bottom through the soffit vents, and exits the top through the exhaust vents. Stick with one type of exhaust vent, and make sure that all exhaust vents are installed within just a few feet of each other at the top of the attic. This will keep the air flowing throughout the attic, rather than just at the top. Combine proper ventilation with a radiant barrier to drop surface temperatures of your attic insulation, and you will have an attic that is cooler during summer weather and drier in the winter months. Keep it simple and you’ll be just fine.

Improving The Indoor Air Quality Of Your Home or Business

We all know that smoking in the house releases cigarette smoke which can cause problems for other members of our household, but did you know that items like furniture can give off emissions which reduce the indoor air quality in your home? There are actually several pollutant sources that we would never even recognize such as cupboards with pressed wood product, wet carpet or furniture that causes mold buildup, our gas stove, or even our wood burning fireplace. All these pollutants conspire together to reduce the healthy quality of our air, and some even cause major health problems like asthma, allergies, or pollutant-related diseases. Recognizing and eliminating (or at least reducing) problem pollutants in your home are essential to your family’s health and wellbeing.

Indoor Air Pollutant Sources

Combustion sources like oil, kerosene, coal, wood, gas, and any tobacco products send both smoke and other pollution into the air when you use your stove, oven, or fireplace. Material used when your house was built like insulation (especially if it contains asbestos). Things like once damp carpet or kitchen cabinets constructed from pressed wood can accumulate or give off certain toxins. Household cleaning chemicals cause indoor air pollution. Central heating and air conditioning systems as well as humidifiers can circulate poor air throughout your house. And of course, pollutants from outside enter your house through windows cracks and other openings.

Reducing Indoor Air Pollutants

Indoor air quality can be improved through three different venues: controlling the source of pollution, improving ventilation which will consistently cycle your indoor air outside and bring fresh outdoor air inside, and using air cleaners to remove pollutants from your home.

Source control is probably the most effective way to improve the quality of the air in your home. Old furniture that may be aggravating your allergies can be replaced, insulation, tile or other items containing asbestos can be covered and sealed, and stoves, ovens and heating or cooling systems can be adjusted to minimize the amount of pollutant released into the air.

Improving the ventilation of air into and out of your house is more expensive, but also well worth the effort if your home tests high for indoor air pollutants. Most heating and cooling systems simply circulate the same air throughout your house instead of drawing fresh air from outside, but you can find current energy-efficient models that bring in outdoor air. One of the best ways to bring in fresh air from outdoors is to open your windows, run window fans or air conditioners which pull outdoor air inside while pushing indoor air to the outside, and run your attic fans.

Air cleaners are also an effective way to improve the indoor air quality of your home. Air cleaners range from inexpensive table top models designed to clear a small amount of pollutants from one room, to sophisticated whole-house systems which effectively filter all the air in your home. If you or your family members suffer from allergies or asthma, a whole-house air cleaner is well worth the extra expense!

It’s important to improve the indoor air quality of your home, and with several options, you’re sure to find a way that fits your lifestyle and budget.

Introduction to Attic Insulation

When it comes to finding ways to keep your heating and cooling costs down, there is nothing better than installing attic insulation. This is especially true for those who have problems with their heating bills climbing through the roof.

While attic ventilation is an extremely important issue to address, you want to make sure that the insulation in the attic is up to par or else you will continue to see your heating bills climb at a crazy rate. With the cost of everything else on the rise and the economy looking a little shaky, it is important to make sure that you are doing everything you can to make sure that you are saving money.
Installing an attic ventilation system will be easy and take you only about a day. The attic insulation could be a different story depending on the current set up of your attic. If you have a finished attic with drywall or plaster up then you can pick one of two ways to get the insulation in.

You can rip out all of the drywall or plaster, install the insulation, and then put the walls back up. Or you can cut small holes throughout, fill the walls with insulation that is blown in and then simply repair the holes in the wall.
If you are trying to figure out which way is best for you, simply think about the money and the time involved. If your walls in the attic are pretty beat up but it is a big enough space that you could transform it into an active room then you might as well tear out the old walls and install new ones once the attic insulation is properly installed.
But if your attic is nothing more than a crawl space that no one is every really going to see then you may want to cut holes in the walls to blow insulation in, even if the walls are not that pretty to look at. This is the time to think about pricing though.
If you are able to rent the machine to blow the attic insulation in yourself then that is great. But if you are looking at having to hire someone to come out to do it then you will be looking at a project that just doubled in cost.
For those who have a limited budget and know how to drywall on their own, going the route of ripping out and replacing walls may be the option that makes more financial sense, even if it does mean you are going to be spending a little more time on this particular project.

You need to make sure though, that no matter what you do, that the attic insulation is not left exposed. Too many times, people have done this thinking that they will get back up there later and complete the project but find that they never do. Even with an attic ventilation system in place, tiny pieces of that insulation can get into the air.
This is not something that you or your family needs to be breathing in as major health problems can occur. If you have to take a break between installing the insulation and the drywall make sure that you are at least covering the walls with thick and heavy plastic.