Left unattended, your attic is one of the biggest drains of energy in your home. And perhaps, the biggest (besides your basement).
It’s due to a natural phenomenon called “Stack Effect.” Because of temperature differences between the indoor and outdoor air, the air inside your home becomes more buoyant. As a result, it naturally wants to flow up and out of your home and outside, where it can settle.
If the rest of your home is sealed up quite well (and even if it isn’t), one natural place for your air to flow is through your attic door and out the vents, windows, and other cracks and crevasses in your attic.
So you can view sealing up your attic much like slamming a lid on a plastic Tupperware container. The air inside has nowhere to go when you close it.
What do you need to seal in your attic to prevent Stack Effect from destroying your efficiency and energy savings?
If it’s been several years since you’ve had insulation blown in your attic, it’s time at least for an inspection. You could likely benefit from new insulation because over time, the air pockets present in insulation disappear due to it settling. This actually reduces your energy efficiency.
Many of these come from wiring, pipes, and air ducts that enter and exit your attic. Some can come from poor craftsmanship. Others happen from your home’s foundation settling over the decades, and those can be the hardest to find.
You can use an incense stick to find the difficult gaps. Pass it around the exterior of your attic, and when you notice the smoke blowing in a direction, you’ve found a leak.
Expandable foam or caulk will take care of those leaks for you.
Out of everything you can do to help with efficiency, this is the greatest opportunity for savings. You’re basically putting a cap on the Stack Effect from working. Of course, some air will get through because no seal is perfect. So, that’s why you still seal the rest of your attic.
You can actually find special kits at stores that allow you to seal your attic door. Or, there’s plenty of YouTube videos and blog posts about the topic.
You may want to save this one for the professionals, or take it on if you’re a highly capable DIYer. A radiant barrier simply reflects the heat right back outdoors. And that certainly makes a big difference for us Texans.
Sealing your attic does take hard work. But, you get massive energy savings in return when all is said and done.