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COOLING OFF THE ATTIC Based on the comments I have received from some


of our readers, you have enjoyed the last few columns about energy origination and the ways heat travels from one location to another. I have included some of these same principles in my energy efficiency presentations, and they have been well received. So, once again remember all energy comes from the sun, heat always moves toward cold and moisture always moves toward dry. In the next few issues, we will discuss how these principles affect the comfort and utility bills of your house. More importantly, we will offer solutions. Since August is usually pretty cotton-picking hot, I


thought we would start with the hottest location in the house, which would be the attic. In my seminars, I often ask, “Where is the hottest place in America on a hot summer day?” Someone may answer, “Death Valley, California.” That is a good answer, but many attics are hotter. I then ask them, “Where is the one location you would not want to put the AC cooling unit or duct work?” It usually gets really quiet at this time. Someone finally answers, “In the attic.” Let me ask you how you would like to sit in your attic on a hot summer day and try to make homemade ice cream? You would probably keel over before the ice cream was ready. It is now obvious the attic may not be a good place for the AC cooling system. It may also now be obvious to you a substantial part of your heating and cooling bill is related to the location of the heating and cooling system. So why is the AC unit and duct work still located in the attic on most of the new houses built in the South? It is mostly because it is more convenient and no one has demanded change. Studies have shown duct work located in attics and


duct work leakage in the attics may be the single biggest waster of residential energy in the South. It is absolutely unbelievable how much energy could be saved if folks sealed the duct work and made the attic cooler. Using our energy principles, how did the attic get so hot, and what are the solutions? Of course it all started at


the sun’s radiant heat. The heat rays left the sun, traveled through space and headed straight toward earth. Some of the rays were absorbed or reflected by the atmosphere and clouds. And some were absorbed into the earth, trees and water, etc. Many of the rays hit the roofs and gable ends of houses. The roofing can get super hot really fast. The hot roof becomes a heat radiator and heats the attic by radiation and convection. All adjacent materials such as insulation, duct work and framing materials absorb the heat and get hotter and hotter until the rays of the sun are reduced in some way. Much of the heat is absorbed by the insulation, keeping it from reaching the cooler living space, which is good. Possible solutions to make your attic cooler: 1. If the duct work is in the attic, the best answer, in


most cases, is to spray the entire sloped roof decking and gables with foam, which encapsulates the entire attic space. By doing this, there is no longer an attic at all. It is now just an odd shaped room upstairs and the duct work is now inside the conditioned space. In this case, the duct work leakage does not matter as much because it is inside the house anyway. 2. If the duct work is in the attic but costs prevent


you from doing the No. 1 solution, you can do what many others have done in the past: make sure the duct work leaks are sealed and add insulation [my preference is cellulose] until you have a total insulation depth of about 13 inches. If possible, cover the duct work with insulation. 3. Another solution you may do yourself is to properly


install a radiant barrier on the bottom or between the sloped roof rafters. This can lower the attic temperature by 20 to 30 degrees on a summer day. Installing or rolling out radiant barrier on top of your existing insulation is not a proper installation method. Doing so will render a negative effect. 4. If your duct work is not in the attic, you may only


need to add cellulose insulation. Yep, at least one of these solutions will be the answer for you when it is so cotton- picking hot. Call me at the office if you have questions.


Reprinted courtesy of Rural Arkansas magazine and Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. Doug Rye, a licensed architect living in Saline County, Ark., is the popular host of the “Home Remedies” radio show and a promoter of energy efficiency building. To reach Doug, call him at 501-653-7931.


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