By: Doug Anderson
Happy summer! While the season brings trips to the beach, vacation, and barbeques, summer also brings the heat and humidity. Now is the perfect time to make sure your house is well-prepared for the summer weather, so you can leave the sweating where it belongs– outdoors.
To start, get your air conditioning (AC) unit or heat pump system checked and tuned to make sure it’s running efficiently – it needs regular maintenance just like your car. If your AC is working well but your house still has warm walls, hot ceilings, or uncomfortable humidity, your home may have air leaks and low levels of insulation. Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation can improve home comfort by keeping the cool air in and preventing pollen, dust and pests from entering.
Getting Started – Identify Problem Areas
In most homes, air leaks and low levels of attic insulation are one of the biggest sources of energy waste and summer time discomfort. While it’s important to check your home’s attic insulation levels, be aware that any attic in the summer is usually extremely hot and uncomfortable.
Tips on Checking Insulation levels:
– The best time to do a quick check your attic during the summer is in the morning when it’s cooler. If you start to feel overheated at any point, get out of the attic right away.
– Take a yardstick or tape measure, pen and paper, a flashlight, and a digital camera or cell phone with you to measure your insulation and take pictures.
– Measure the depth of the insulation in a few spots with your tape measure or yardstick and jot the levels down. You should have about 13 inches of typical insulation (fiberglass or cellulose) if you live in the southern United States and about 17 inches if you live in the central or northern United States. If you don’t have those levels, you are paying for it with higher energy bills.
– A good rule of thumb is that if the insulation level is just up to the top of the attic floor joists, you have only about half the insulation you should (see illustration).
– While you are looking around, take pictures of the insulation level, different corners of your attic, and of any ducts or air conditioning units you see. The pictures are a good record for future reference and to show to a contractor.
Next Step – Call a Contractor
If you found you have low levels of attic insulation – what’s next? EPA recommends calling a contractor or planning a Do-it-yourself project for the fall when it’s not so hot. Unless you have some experience doing this type of work, a contractor is your best bet. They are trained, have all the right tools, and will work quickly to get the job done. In our next post, we’ll talk about how to select and work with a contractor.
About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including insulation products and energy efficient residential windows.