Let’s talk about staying cool this summer. I’ll run through a variety of cooling tips later. Today, though, I want to discuss insulation. Not that exciting, perhaps, unless some of the itchy stuff get down your shirt! But important.
Many people think insulation only helps you stay warm in the winter. It also helps you stay cool in the summer. Anybody who has ever been in an attic in the summer knows how hot it can get. 140 degrees or even higher. That might be 70 degrees warmer than you want it! Well, that heat conducts and radiates down into your home and bakes you. And simply stated, insulation stops the flow of heat. So by increasing your attic insulation levels you block that tremendous heat in your attic and you stay cooler in the summer.
Of course, the insulation works in the other direction in the winter, keeping heat in the house—so you save twice. You stay cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, and you save energy and spend less on utility bills year round.
As I’ve discussed before, insulation really only works if you air-seal first. A good contractor will carefully air seal any leaks between the attic and the area below before installing insulation, leaks such as around recessed lights, attic access doors, and exhaust fans. In fact, the U.S. DOE found that air infiltration can account for 30% or more of a home’s heating and cooling costs and contribute to problems with moisture. Air sealing saves you money and keeps the cool air inside during the summer—and the warm air inside during the winter. While the contractor is in the attic, he should make sure that any ductwork up there is sealed and well-insulated. Increasing attic ventilation can also help, but that can increase winter heating bills if air-sealing isn’t done, too.
Even if you have air-conditioning, be sure to upgrade your attic insulation. You’ll use the AC less, and if you’re getting a new air-conditioner, you’ll be able to downsize a smaller, less expensive system (with AC, bigger isn’t better!), and you’ll save twice, first on the cost of the smaller unit and then on the cost to run it.
I’ll get into some other cooling tips later. Meanwhile, insulate and stay cool. And check out the tax credits available to help make that happen.