Attic Ventilation is the Real Key to being more energy efficient
The effectiveness of your radiant barrier will be vastly improved with proper attic ventilation. Be sure you have what you need for the system to work efficiently.
Forget attic insulation for a minute and focus on balance. No, not balancing on your roof inspecting the damage from snow and ice build up, but maintaining the balance of air flow inside your attic space.
Attic ventilation works on a simple system. The air up there naturally gets heated from the radiation of the sun, so adding insulation is not necessarily going to help the situation. What you need is to move that hot air up and out. When the hot air can’t get out, the whole thing goes stagnant and causes any number of problems with your roof.
This is especially true with your radiant barrier. In the winter time, condensation will move up from your home and into your attic. It can build up on the underside of your barrier, getting the insulation and even the framing moist. Wetness decreases the insulating value and moist framing is the fastest route to rot. Big damage will be done if that condensation is not carried out of your attic.
When you have properly sized, clear soffit vents, you’re providing a source of colder air. It gets sucked into the attic space, runs along the trusses and pushes out rising hot air through the properly sized, clear roof vents (ridge or static vents, turbines or power fans). Voila, efficient flow and an attic that’s approaching ambient temperature. This system will give you a cooler attic in the summer and a drier attic in the winter.
So, when ice dams appear or you suspect your fan is “broken,” check out the venting system and maintain balance. Keep that moisture build up off of your radiant barrier.
Watch for soffit vents that have been clogged or painted over. Make sure the holes behind the vents are big enough (or even there at all). Clean them out with some elbow grease and a decent nylon brush. This is a simple, low to the ground job that will give your attic ventilation a huge boost.
Keep the top venting plan simple. Pick one type of vent and be loyal. Ridge vents work well as they sit on the peak and the highest point of your roof is where all of the hot air will eventually go.
For some roofs though, ridge vents won’t work and static vents or power fans are used. Check local building codes to find out the calculations on how many you need based on your roof size. Too many and you’ve upset the balance again.
If you have lots of holes in the top, or holes too close to each other, they’ll short circuit the flow you need. The air will come in your attic, only to get out quickly without running through the right path. Create a path that starts at the bottom, heads up the roof and out the peak. Don’t give your flow too many options or the system fails.
Take some time to work out the balance in your attic ventilation. Get the soffit vents clear and the roof vents working and properly spaced. Your radiant barrier will do its job, the insulation and framing will stay dry and your air flow will keep on track.
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