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Hot attic? Here’s another affordable energy-effi ciency tool for you

receive many, many calls about hot attics, so I’m going to give you a short course on residential radiant barriers. But fi rst let me explain why the attic gets so hot.


The rays of the sun hit the roof. The roof gets hot. Some rays are refl ected back to the atmo- sphere, but others go right through the roofi ng materials. The attic air is heated, and the attic insulation absorbs much of the heat, thereby creating a super-hot attic.

A residential radiant barrier is any product that can stop the radiant heat. It usually consists of sheets of aluminum foil, although it can be an aluminum-type paint. Some folks say it’s okay to just place that foil on top of the attic insulation. That may actually help some, but it does not prevent the attic from getting hot. And if you have ductwork in the attic, it will still get hot. It’s also my opinion that the product will lose its effi ciency as it gets dusty.

The best location for the radiant barrier is at the roof deck. For new construction, it’s best to use roof sheathing that has the radiant barrier actu- ally laminated to the sheathing. It’s simple and certainly feasible and it’s being installed on many new homes in the south, where cooling costs are a major consideration. Our testing shows that it performs magnifi cently. If a radiant barrier is so helpful, then why don’t more folks install it in their existing house? The answer is because it’s diffi cult to install it properly.

To do it right, the radiant barrier should be fastened to the bottom of the roof rafters. This is not always a simple process and will probably take at least two people. This past summer, I was introduced to a product that was much easier to install and could be done by one person—and no tools are needed. It looked good to me; but just

By Doug Rye

like the window tinting, I don’t suggest a prod- uct to others until I have used it and have total confi dence in it.

We found a house that really needed a radiant barrier. We installed the product early in the morn- ing on a day when the temperature at noon was 100 degrees. We came back to the house two days later when the temperature was even hotter, 102 degrees. We were happy to fi nd that the attic tem- perature was nearly 30 degrees cooler than before.

When the attic temperature and the ductwork are 30 degrees cooler, one should have better comfort and lower utility bills. The product is called “Enerfl ex™ foil” radiant barrier. The cost of the product is about 70 cents per square foot, which makes it feasible for many homes. For more details about this product go to www.ener- fl or call my offi ce at 501-653-7931. OL

Doug Rye works as a consultant to promote energy effi ciency to electric cooperative members. To order Doug’s videos or ask energy effi ciency-related questions, call Doug at 1-501-653-7931. Find more energy-effi ciency tips, as well as Doug’s columns, at

If you have a question for Willie, send it to:, ATTN: Willie.

Dear Willie,

My refrigerator is old, and I have been wanting to replace it for a while. As a responsible con- sumer, I’m trying to do my “homework” before purchasing a new one. Any words of wisdom?

—Meg Dear Meg,

If your refrigerator dates from the 1980s, replacing it with a new model could cut your electric bill by $100 per year, according to ENERGY STAR. If you bought your refrigerator in the 1970s, your savings could be as much as $200 annually—but only if you dispose of the old unit. (Recy- cling an old appliance is prefer- able because it allows the metal, plastic, and glass to be reused, and prevents toxic chemicals from ending up in landfi lls.) When shopping for a new refrig- erator, look for one that has a top-

mounted freezer, which will typically use 10 to 25 percent less energy than bottom-mount or side-by- side models, according to ENERGY STAR. Also, a larger refrigerator will require more energy, so pur- chase the size you really need to fi t your lifestyle. Once your new refrigerator is up and running, you can do some simple things to keep it operating as effi ciently as possible. Cooling coils, on the back or underneath the unit, act like dust collectors. So make sure to vacuum them once or twice a year. Over time, the gasket around the fridge door will loosen. If you notice that the gasket seal is loose or discolored, replace it.

To estimate how much energy your refrigerator consumes, visit and search for “Refrigerator Retirement Calculator.” Type your refrigerator’s model number into the calculator, and you’ll receive an estimate of how much energy it uses and how much money a new one may save.

Brightly yours, Willie

Tip of the Month

Does your home have a win- dow air conditioner? Make sure that your window unit is properly weather stripped, and clean the fi lter monthly. Keep “fresh air” vents on window air-conditioning units closed.

By replacing your fi ve most-used light bulbs with ENERGY STAR– qualifi ed bulbs, you could save $70 a year.

Source: Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

JUNE 2011 5 Ask Willie! Ask Willie!


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