Insulating and Air Sealing an Attic with Spray Foam (Short Version)
On this episode of Dr. Energy Saver’s “On the Job” series, Larry Janesky, founder of Dr. Energy Saver discusses the importance of an energy efficient attic, and shows us why it should be the number one priority in terms of energy-efficient upgrades with this spray foam attic insulation project.
The typical attic is vented and not considered part of the conditioned space of the building. Attics are typically very hostile environments, as temperatures change drastically, year round, according to the seasons. In the winter time, the attic can get very cold, with freezing air getting into the space through open soffit and ridge vents. In the summer, the sun radiates heat through the roof, raising temperatures in the attic to scorching hot levels, much higher than the outside temperatures.
If the attic lacks adequate insulation and proper air sealing — and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, a significant number of homes in America have this problem — these dramatic temperature variations will be transferred to the living areas, either conductively through the ceiling, or through air leakages.
In homes that have HVAC ducts running through the attic, energy losses can be even greater. During the winter, heated air will lose temperature as it passes through ducts that are housed in a freezing cold attic. During the summer, the cool air running through a scorching attic will get warm before reaching the rooms that need to be cooled.
Consider that an average of 40% of your home’s total energy consumption going toward heating and cooling! With such large percentages of energy consumption going toward heating and cooling you will easily understand how important it is to conserve as much energy as possible in these areas.
The typical attic insulation job involves isolating the attic from the house (conditioned space). To do so, we utilize spray foam, to air seal any gaps that may cause air from the conditioned space to leak into the attic. Spray foam is applied around gaps around light fixtures, plumbing, wires, wall partitions, and chimneys in the attic floor. After air sealing is complete, blown insulation — fiberglass or cellulose — is commonly used to bring attic insulation R-Values up to the U.S. D.O.E. recommended values for attic insulation for each specific region of the country.
In this particular home, however, the attic wasn’t a typical attic. The multi-level ceilings stood over walls that protruded from the attic floor, making it very hard to seal and insulate. This attic also included over 100 can light fixtures, posing some difficult challenges when it came to insulation and air sealing. To make matters even worse, the HVAC ducts ran through the attic!
For special cases like this, the best approach is to include the attic into the conditioned area of the home, and establish the roof, not the ceiling, as the thermal boundary. While there are a number of different materials that can be used to transform a vented attic into a conditioned space — including Dr. Energy Saver’s Super Attic System, this particular job, spray foam became the insulation material of choice.
Spray foam expands when applied and fills gaps and voids, so the space is air sealed and insulated at the same time. With our job complete, this homeowner now has a more comfortable home and already reports big energy savings from the newly insulated attic.
Would you like to have a more comfortable home and save money on energy bills? Let Dr. Energy Saver help! Call us or visit our website to locate a Dr. Energy Saver energy specialist in your area, and for a free consultation!