Improvements from the Top Down

I’m sure as soon as the weather cools off, your first instinct will be to head up into the attic to start an energy efficiency overhaul. No? Well, even if it’s your second (or third…or tenth) choice, giving a day or two of attention to this space can have a beneficial impact on your comfort, indoor air quality and utility bills. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1.Use caulk or expandable foam to air seal holes for wiring or piping.

2.Any non-horizontal surface in an attic that adjoins an indoor space should be air-sealed with rigid foam board and foil tape. Areas that need air sealing include skylights, 2nd floor walls (also called kneewalls) and cathedral ceilings.

3.Inspect insulation covering the attic floor. Make sure it forms a fluffy, continuous layer over all of the indoor spaces with no crushed or compacted areas. Attic decking on top of the ceiling joists is fine as long as it does not compress the insulation.

4.Install dampers on bathroom exhaust fans and add ducting to vent them through the nearest soffit.

5.Use a stick of incense to locate leaks in the HVAC system. While the system is running, hold the incense near duct connections, register boots and different areas of the HVAC cabinet and plenum. Supply leaks will blow the incense smoke away, return leaks will draw the smoke in. All leaks should be sealed with UL 181 rated mastic which can be purchased at any home improvement store. If using incense is a problem, look for telltale signs such as mold, rust or waterstaining. All of these are caused by condensation formed when the cold, conditioned air leaks from the system, mixing with the hot, humid attic air. Areas of dirty insulation indicate return air leaks where dust and dirt has become trapped as it is drawn into the system.

6.Build an attic box to fit over your access panel (see instructions at this website) or insulate and weatherstrip the attic access door.

7.Insulate the evaporator drain line around its entire circumference for its entire length.

Hopefully these simple ideas will spark your enthusiasm for bigger, whole-house energy improvements! The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement….

This blog was written for Paul LaGrange’s BuildWrite website and was originally posted on November 4, 2009.


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