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Heating & Cooling

Insulation - Rule Your Attic!

No one likes a cold house in the winter or higher heating costs, so what can you do to make your heating season more enjoyable and not drain your pocket book? Insulate, Insulate, Insulate!


If you do one thing this year to improve your home, consider adding insulation. Adding insulation can be the most cost effective, least involved and rewarding projects you can do yourself.

If your home is experiencing any of the problems below, then you might be a ready for an energy improvement to your home:


• Ice dams in the winter

Hot or cold ceiling, wall, or whole rooms

Uneven temperature between rooms

Drafty rooms

High heating or cooling

Inspection Tips, Tools & Safety


Safety first! Before inspecting the attic to see what you have & how much of it, remember to exercise caution. Be prepared with the following tools & materials:

1. Safety glasses, gloves and dust mask

2. Hard hat - watch out for nails pointing up through the ceiling or down from roof deck

3. Wear shoes or boots (no flip flops or sandals) - walk on joists or floor boards, not exposed ceiling drywall or insulation, to avoid falling through the ceiling

4. Tape measure

5. Flashlight or even better a headlight—it will keep your hands free

6. Boards to walk on if you have none in the attic

The above safety precautions will come in handy, especially if you are going up in the attic to inspect for the first time (or if it’s been awhile and you’re not sure what’s up there).

Vermiculite Insulation

Depending on the age of your home, you may have vermiculite insulation, which may contain asbestos. Vermiculite is a lightweight, pea-size, flaky gray mineral. Do not disturb vermiculite insulation unless you have had it tested by an approved lab to be sure that it does not contain asbestos. Contact your local health department for the name of an approved lab.

Measuring Insulation

The graphic below shows  how much insulation is recommend by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Note: if you can see the tops of the joists, you don't have enough insulation.


The lack of proper insulation in an attic can cause heating & cooling bills to skyrocket in multiple ways.  Looking at the graphic below you'll notice that air can be pulled into the attic through improperly insulated areas such as exhaust pipes in the bathroom, the attic ladder hatch, venting pipes that run between the wall, recessed lighting, exterior wall plates, etc. An improperly insulated attic can also aggravate or promote Ice Dams.

Proper Ventilation

Proper attic ventilation is not just a good idea, it's critical. Your attic needs to breath, it takes air in from the soffit vents and expels that air through the ridge or roof vents in your roof. Proper ventilation can help prevent damage and premature aging caused by moisture in the winter and excess heat in the summer. 

Ventilation benefits:

  • Help allow outside air to flow naturally upward and out of attic
  • Promote a cool, dry attic
  • Help prevent moisture from becoming trapped in insulation, structural wood, shingles and roof deck
  • Help prevent rotting, mildew, drywall damage, peeling paint and warped siding
  • Provide year-round performance for consistent ventilation without energy consumption

Proper attic ventilation systems allow a continual flow of outside air through the attic, protecting the efficiency of the insulation and helping to maintain temperatures in the living space. It consists of a balance between air intake (at your eaves or soffits) and air exhaust (at or near your roof ridge or mushroom vents). Attic ventilation can impact the longevity of your entire home.


In the winter, various household appliances such as bathtubs, showers and cooking vapors, can contribute to excess moisture build-up. Improperly ventilated attics will allow this moisture to collect and cling to the underside of the roof. The moisture will condense and fall, soaking the attic insulation and reducing its efficiency.

Cold air leaking into your house around windows, doors, electrical outlets, light fixtures and gaps in corners, can cause rooms to feel drafty and uncomfortable. As cold air is coming in through leaks, warm air is escaping through other leaks. The biggest leaks for escaping air are often found in the attic; recessed lights are a common location.

In order to better understand why the attic is the key to eliminating a cold, uncomfortable and drafty house, you must be aware of two basic concepts of building performance.

The first concept is the "stack effect." Here the warmer air inside your home is forced to rise to the uppermost portions of your house.

A "building envelope" is the physical separator between the interior and the exterior environments of any building. As the warm air in your home forcibly rises it will meet the upper envelope, or in this case, your upper ceilings. If this envelope, or ceiling, has been penetrated (recessed lights, bath fans, attic access panels are great examples of penetration) and left unsealed, the warm air will be forced to escape. This will produce a "giant vacuum effect" throughout your home, which will forcibly suck the cold, outside air into your home through the weaker, and more susceptible parts, of your lower building envelope (like doors, windows and anywhere else that is not properly sealed.) This "giant vacuum effect" sucking cold, outside air into the home can most likely be the cause of the drafts in your home, not your doors and windows.

In the summer, improper ventilation can cause attic heat to build in excess of 160°F. This super-heated air eventually penetrates the ceiling insulation into the living area below. A properly ventilated attic can help reduce the load on your air conditioner by moving the super-heated air out of your attic before it builds up and causes damage. If you only ventilate your attic then you're half way there, you still need to insulated, adding ceiling insulation in your attic is just as important in the summer as it is in the winter. 

Ready to get this job done? Insulation is available for pick up at your local Home Depot store today. If you're interested in The Home Depot completing the job for you, check out our insulation install services.

For more info on Proper Ventilation visit

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Posted 2015-09-04T18:59:46+0000  by Angelo_HD_CHI Angelo_HD_CHI