Hot attics aren't just uncomfortable, they can be dangerous to you and the structural integrity of your home. Here is how to keep an attic cool during hot Texas summers.
Have you ever been so overwhelmed by your hot attic air that you couldn’t withstand it for more than a few seconds? Are you tired of the vicious cycle of not wanting to pay an eye-watering electric bill but needing the cool air from your AC unit to survive? Maybe it's time to make a shift with the change of seasons.
Summer heat does more than give you a tan. Extreme and unsafe temperatures of over 100 degrees can cause a melting hot roof which leads to the deterioration of roofing materials, the need for a premature replacement of your roof, roof leaks, water damage, shorter lifespan of your air conditioning unit, and an attic too hot for AC.
A hot attic is a source of uncomfortable heat in your living spaces as well. So how do you keep an attic cool in the summer?
There's a wealth of advice on how to cool an attic, such as getting passive vents like ridge vents and switching to a light-colored metal roof. But the big four hot attic solutions are: installing a radiant barrier, attic insulation, attic ventilation, and sealing cracks & air leaks.
Shingle roofs are known to absorb the heat from the sun. Not all people have the luxury of changing their entire roof to the better slate, clay, and metal roofing. Even then, experts recommend installing a radiant barrier to reflect solar rays and stop the warm air from getting into your home.
If you're concerned about the storage and walking space, certified attic specialists will install a radiant barrier on the underside of your roof. They make your attic cooler by trapping the heat between the air space of the roof & the barrier, and allowing the hot air to escape through your exhaust vents. A radiant barrier can cool an attic by up to 30-degrees and contributes a yearly utility bill savings of up to $150.
Cooling an attic means less work for your air conditioner and a more energy-efficient home.
Please note that a radiant barrier's effectiveness relies on proper installation, so using a certified attic specialist is best. When handling radiant barriers, professionals avoid bare electrical wiring as the reflective foil can conduct electricity. Certified attic specialists also warn about installing a radiant barrier directly on top of attic floor insulation, resulting in trapped moisture and dust accumulation.
If you have to pick only one solution on how to cool the attic, attic insulation would be non-negotiable. Like insulation in freezers and refrigerators, insulation seals your attic and home to keep the cold air inside during summer and the warm air in during winter. Insulation is very good at slowing down the heat transfer that can occur when summer temperatures pass through the ceiling and into your house.
Forget about new windows and installing more AC units. All of these are futile without a properly insulated attic. Without up-to-date insulation, you won't be able to maximize your HVAC system, and your home will be prone to energy waste.
Insulation keeps your interior walls cool, is responsible for maintaining your house at a steady temperature regardless of the exterior climate, and reduces noise pollution.
As a guide, experts advise insulation to be at least a foot thick, have the right amount and quality, and have the recommended R-value. The recommended R-value for attics is to insulate to R38 or about 10 to 14 inches.
Depending on your need, you may choose blown-in insulation or spray foam insulation. Blown-in insulation is best for irregularly shaped & sized attics and tight spaces, while spray foam insulation is more suitable if you need that extra sealing power against any ceiling cavity, gap, or crevice.
How else can you keep the attic cool? Remember the cool attic trifecta: radiant barrier, insulation, and attic ventilation. A complete ventilation system consists of exhaust vents, intake vents, and solar attic fans.
Proper ventilation improves airflow and air circulation within your house. Solar attic fans blow away any excess heat while intake vents allow cooler air to enter your attic and home.
Having a solar attic fan is considered the cheapest way to cool the attic. Solar attic fans run entirely on solar power and don't need costly wirings.
It saves you even more money by lessening your need for air conditioning, keeping your family healthy on account of better air quality, extending your roof life, entitling you to federal tax credits, and lasting for a minimum of 25 years.
Solar attic fans save you time and effort as well by automatically switching on whenever temperatures go over 80 degrees, regardless of cloudy days and extreme weather.
Finally, it saves you space by taking up only a tiny portion of your roof.
Finish off Operation: Cool Attic by sealing any gaps and leaks. Leaving any open areas will allow hot air to seep into your attic during the summer. Allowing cracks and holes to stay open throughout the attic area also raises the possibility of moisture entering your attic, and this can cause rot and water damage.
If the gaps, cracks, or holes in your attic space are less than 1/4 of an inch, you can use caulk to seal them.
For your chimney area, use a heat-resistant caulk to fill these gaps.
You'll want to use spray foam insulation for holes larger than 1/4 of an inch.
Did you know air leakage accounts for over 40% of all energy waste in your home? You can usually find air leaks in recessed lights, gaps near pipes & plumbing, wiring holes, dropped-ceiling areas, spaces where the ceilings & walls meet, and slanted ceilings. It's best to rely on a certified attic specialist's expertise and professional equipment to adequately address air leakage and any cracks.
We've discussed the core ways to keep your attic cool in the summer and the consequences if you don't.
The other ways to have a cool attic and home are:
When all else fails, do the "Texas Cool" technique by opening the windows at night and letting the cool air in using a whole-house or window fan. During the daytime, shut all doors, shades, and windows.