One of the things we love most about our job as attic solutions and insulation professionals is our role as educators. From household to household and business to business, we spend our days sharing information about home energy efficiency and the essential players in the whole-home energy equation: insulation, ventilation, and air sealing.
Everybody understands the role insulation plays in energy efficiency, keeping temperature-conditioned air inside the home, and minimizing the time the HVAC works to honor the thermostat setting. Most people don’t know that a poorly ventilated home compromises insulation, messes up humidity levels, and forces the air conditioning/heating systems to work harder.
There are three ways ventilation supports energy efficiency:
A well-ventilated home enhances heating and cooling efforts because it supports balanced indoor humidity levels. The more moisture there is in the air, the hotter it feels during warmer months and the cooler it feels during winter. That’s why heat indexes in hot, humid climates are always higher as humidity rises and why areas prone to damp weather feel colder.
The largest portion of utility spending goes toward heating and cooling costs. Here in California, utility bills tend to be the highest during summer, and ventilation goes a long way toward minimizing A/C use. During the summer months, roofs absorb a significant amount of heat. If they are not properly ventilated, even an attic with adequate insulation experiences higher temperatures than one with the right ventilation. The ability for hot air to move out of the attic prevents that warmer air from permeating the interior living spaces, minimizing HVAC usage.
We touched on humidity levels above, but it’s worth a special mention. Most Bay Area homes benefit from a whole-home humidity system. These work in tandem with the HVAC system, maintaining ideal humidity levels inside the home (between 30% and 50%). Without them, most homes in this area lean towards above-normal humidity levels, which causes the HVAC (or portable systems) to work extra.
The EPA writes:
In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.
With the increase in work-from-home lifestyles, this is a scary reality. Your HVAC, attic, insulation, and ventilation systems are integral to healthy indoor air quality (IAQ). For example, you could be doing more harm than good if you emphasize air sealing to improve energy efficiency without optimizing the home’s ventilation system. If you use an air purification system, it will have to run longer and with more frequent filter replacements.
Some of the most common signs a home needs ventilation include:
There are different types of ventilation, from passive to active or working to vent air out of the home (exhaust) versus fresh air into the home system (intake). Most homes use a varied combination depending on the home size, design, and lot orientation. If your home is 10 years old or older, or you haven’t had an attic inspection in three or more years, odds are it’s time to schedule an inspection and evaluate whether or not your home is adequately ventilated.
Attic Solutions works day in and day out, helping homeowners improve and maintain whole-home energy efficiency with optimized ventilation, insulation, and other attic improvements. Contact us to schedule a consultation.