Three Tell-Tale Signs of an Energy-Wasting Attic

Blog entry by CyFree posted 01-20-2011 12:01 AM 10347 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch


If you are not among those who use the attic as an additional living or storage area, you might never realize how much it can impact your daily life.

Thanks to current developments in building science, we now understand that a house is a system, comprised of smaller systems, all connected to each other. Thus, what happens in one area, deeply impacts what happens in others.

This holds especially true when it comes to attics, thanks to the laws of physics and the way air moves inside buildings.

We all know that heated air rises. Inside a closed building structure, that warm air will escape through any openings in the upper levels. In your home, that usually means your attic.

As the hot air leaks out, more is needed to replenish the indoor supply. New air is then sucked in from the outside, through openings in the lowest levels of the home: usually the basement or crawl space. In building science, that phenomenon is known as “stack effect”.

All the while, the air you paid to heat and cool is leaking out, and you are making your HVAC unit work much harder to keep up with cooling or heating the new air that is being consistently sucked in. Get the picture?

Can you imagine how much energy is being wasted every minute of every day through your attic? If you have ducts or HVAC equipment running in the attic, the energy loss can be tremendous.

Consider this:
The average home in America consumed today 2 to 3 times more energy than it needs.
Also, 40% of what Americans pay in energy bills every month goes toward heating and cooling costs.
An energy efficient attic will help keep your cooling and heating costs down by keeping the conditioned air where it belongs: in the living areas of your home.

But how can you tell if your attic is an energy-waster?
Below are a few tell-tale signs:

1 – Scorching Attic Temperatures during the Summer
Attics are heated by the sun. The roof shingles absorb the sun’s heat and transfer it into the attic through radiant transmission.
The problem is that when your attic is hot, so is your home. Your A/C unit is working much harder to keep the temperatures comfortable.

2 – Damming on the Roof and Icicles
As pretty as they look, icicles are a clear sign of energy waste. They indicate serious warm air leakage through openings in the roof and attic.
Also, pay attention to snow melt patterns. If the snow melts quicker in some spots, or around chimneys, there is possibly some air leakage there, too.

3 – Dampness in the Attic or Mold Growth in the Attic, Ceiling or Walls Damp or moldy attics are a clear sign of a mix of air leakage and improper attic ventilation. It indicates that air from the conditioned area might be leaking into the attic. Differences of temperature cause any moisture present in that air to condensate over the surfaces, soak insulation, drywall and wood, and inadequate ventilation will prevent it from drying out.
I wish I knew this one a few years back, when I had this moldy spot on my ceiling that would not go away, no matter how many times I had the roof checked for leaks, and had shingles and drywall replaced.

It is important to note that even without all the above noticeable signs, your attic might still be wasting energy and the only way to fully assess its performance band its impact is by having a home energy expert perform a full house evaluation.

Using state-of-the- art testing equipment and procedures, these professionals will help you understand how your home and family consume energy.They will then build an energy performance improvement plan with a series of recommendations, customized to suit your needs and budget, giving you the best results for your money.

You can have it all fixed, or you can pick just the ones that will bring you the best rate of return first.
If you live in Connecticut, you will not need an army of contractors to get the job done: Dr. Energy Saver of CT is your one-stop-shop for all your energy efficiency needs, from a complete home energy evaluation to a full range of home energy saving services.

-- "All truth goes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Then it is accepeted as self evident." - Schoppenhauer

View CyFree's profile


9 posts in 3553 days

Basements, crawl spaces and foundation

View Blog Archive
Subscribe to blog entries (RSS)

By subscribing to the RSS feed you will be notified when new entries are posted on this blog.

6 comments so far

View dustygirl's profile


321 posts in 3422 days

posted 01-21-2011 05:20 PM

Thank you for the very informative blog.I was just noticing the house across the road yesterday and saying wow look at all the icicles hanging from the roof.They don’t have eaves troughs so I am assuming they have a big heat loss problem.

-- Dustygirl Hastings,Ont. Life is too short to sit around doing nothing

View MsDebbieP's profile


632 posts in 3649 days

posted 02-04-2011 04:39 PM

Excellent information
I, too, was “admiring” the pretty icicles on someone’s home yesterday.

-- ~ Debbie, Ontario Canada

View Houston's profile


48 posts in 2760 days

posted 02-10-2011 10:04 PM

This is truly one of the biggest boofs in the system of building ecology. Unfortunately, down in Texas, folks aren’t usually as energy conscious as those up your way. I hope that in the next few years the building standards (and understanding!) increase 3 fold to make up for that 2/3rds of wasted energy.

-- If you need an electrician in Houston, we'll do a great job and respect your time. http://www.ontime-electric.com

View MsDebbieP's profile


632 posts in 3649 days

posted 02-10-2011 10:15 PM

A little off-topic (not attic related, but still energy related), I was recently reading about heating system (can’t remember the name of it) that is like a giant wood stove but uses a very minimal amount of fuel. The “ceramic” (?) material stores the heat and disperses it throughout the day so that you could heat a home for the entire day with a single block of wood. (or something like that).

Why, if this has been used “in the old world” are we not using it today? Why are we using such wasteful heating systems when this knowledge and ability is at our disposal?

Why, if we can use geo-thermal heating to almost eliminate the need for additional heating or cooling, why aren’t all new homes being automatically made with such systems?

Why (going back to the attics), if we know what must be done, why aren’t we using this knowledge in the construction of new homes? (I guess this where the building permits come in play – if they standards were lived up to).

-- ~ Debbie, Ontario Canada

View CyFree's profile


9 posts in 3553 days

posted 02-11-2011 06:47 PM


Consider that modern, “civilized” human have been in this planet for roughly 5,500 years (estimate time of wheel and writing invention) yet only in the past 180 to 200 years (fossil fuel revolution, industrial revolution) we began to have access to comforts we haven’t imagined possible the previous thousands of years.
We were like kids after a grocery shopping trip. If you don’t keep an eye on them, they will eat all the treats you provided for the week, in one day. We didn’t know any better and we didn’t have time to think on the impact that our choices would have.

The good news is that we are beginning to think about this behavior and slow down our energy consumption. Government,cities, towns, builders and the industry as whole are coming together, and there is a huge push for building greener, more energy efficient structures with tighter envelopes. Today we have codes and official certification standards.

Yet, it also all boils down to the consumer. If we begin to demand certified energy efficient homes, whether we are buying or renting, we will create a demand that builders will eventually have to tend to. How many of us today, even with the soaring energy prices, ask for a year’s worth of energy bills on a property to see if it is an energy waster before closing a sale or signing a lease?

-- "All truth goes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Then it is accepeted as self evident." - Schoppenhauer

View MsDebbieP's profile


632 posts in 3649 days

posted 02-11-2011 06:59 PM

that’s a very good analogy. I like it.

When working with clients, I speak of the process of change as the following: Awareness, Belief, Motivation, Skill, Self-Control
  • Awareness is the first step – awareness that there is a need for change; awareness that there are options.
  • The next step is belief—belief that the “I” can make a difference and the belief that it is “my” responsibility.
  • Motivation is the next step – the change takes priority over old habits and other desires;
  • Next is “skill” – we know what to do, how to do it. We have the resources and abilities.
  • The final step is “self-control”. The follow-through.

The consumer has the ability to create the motivation for builders, manufacturers etc to follow-through with the awareness and skills to build “greener”.

Baby steps – there is a growing demand for locally grown and unadulterated food; there is a demand for energy-efficient homes and vehicles. Hopefully this demand will grow in leaps and bounds over the next few years.

-- ~ Debbie, Ontario Canada

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: All views and comments posted by members are not necessarily those of HomeRefurbers.com or of those working on the site.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

LumberJocks.com :: woodworking showcase