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Venting is Good for Mental Stress … and Attics

For some homeowners, most unfinished attics receive the “out of sight, out of mind” treatment. Besides storing holiday decorations, old college textbooks, and grandmother’s antique steamer trunk, an attic tends to get a good leaving alone. As long as the roof hasn’t sprung a leak and there are no critters running roughshod up there, some people figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However, the attic does play a pivotal role in terms of HVAC efficiency and home comfort. To the extent that overall home heating or cooling is manipulated by attic space depends largely on the attic’s ventilation, or lack thereof.

Ventilation is primarily about expelling stagnant, moisture-laden air to the outside and replacing it with fresh air inside. Because it wouldn’t make any sense to run HVAC vents into the attic to control airflow and temperature, installing attics fans are the best alternative. There are different types of fans on the market to choose from, but their goal is the same: export stale air, import fresh air. To ensure optimum ventilation, it’s necessary that a tight seal be implemented, separating the attic and the main house; if not, air circulating in the attic could suck cooled or heated air up and out of the home via ceiling gaps or cracking.

Think of your attic as a buffer zone between the roof and a home’s occupied living space. During summer months, roofing absorbs heat emitted from sunlight, and that heat infiltrates the attic. Without adequate ventilation and proper insulation, that heat can permeate the living quarters. In addition, stagnant air is usually high in moisture content and if the humidity is quarantined in the attic mold and mildew spores can colonize - a significant health hazard - devastating some insulations.

It may seem counter-intuitive at first glance, the deliberate intake of intemperate, outside air, but the vent(s) and insulation work in tandem to optimize HVAC energy efficiency. Amidst the dog days of summer, a well-vented, suitably sealed and insulated barrier, will thwart hot air from seeping into the home, and simultaneously prevent cooled air from accessing attic space where it isn’t needed. During a frosty winter, cold air intake will keep the attic cool which inhibits potential ice dams from forming. Ice damming can cause major damage to roofs, walls, and gutters. Here again, a properly sealed and insulated boundary will stop warm air from entering the attic and keep it where it’s needed. This stop-gap measure of restricting airflow exchange from the living area to the attic, and vice versa, means the HVAC unit will not have to work overtime to produce extra heating or cooling. Efficiency will be maximized, which reduces power consumption, translating into a lower monthly energy payment.


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