You hear me talk a lot about the importance of insulation in the home, especially at this time of year and with our recent, frigid temperatures. But even if you’re the one in every four houses I visit that actually does have the right amount of insulation, chances are that your ventilation is inadequate, which can be harming both your home and your personal health in more ways than you think.
In the winter, we crank up the thermostat, sending more heat and moisture into the living quarters of our homes. We all know that heat rises to the top, which means a lot of what we’re pumping into the house will quickly find its way through the ceiling and into the attic. Now, think about when you’re in a car and the windows fog up. What do you do? Usually, you’ll increase the airflow either by using the vents or just cracking a window. A house works much the same way, except that if you don’t have airflow in the attic, the heat and moisture just gets stuck there. If the attic is very warm, that moisture will develop into mold and mildew which can fester in your insulation and rot the wood. If the attic is cold enough, the moisture will freeze into little domes or even icicles until the temperatures rise enough for the water to thaw and then be absorbed into all the places it shouldn’t be going. Neither is a good scenario.
So what’s the best way to protect your home? Start by investing in a hygrometer which measures water vapor in the air. A comfortable humidity reading is 30-60%, but 45-55% is an ideal level to maintain. If you’re seeing higher than 60% humidity in any area of your home, you’re going to be susceptible to mold, mildew and bacteria growth.
Remember, attic ventilation allows your home to “breathe” so you want to balance your intake and exhaust to ensure that what is coming in is going out equally. The best ventilation system will include soffit vents which are installed underneath the overhang of the roof to take in the air and ridge vents which are installed at the top of the roof for the hot air to escape. For this method to work efficiently, all louvered vents must be sealed off and you have to ensure that your insulation isn’t blocking the airflow. Believe it or not, most roof manufacturers will void the warranty if a proper ventilation system is not installed. Luckily, new roofing technology enables contractors to add intake ventilation directly into the roof as opposed to using soffit vents so if you’re in the market for a new roof, be sure to ask for that option.
It’s important to note that homes have different characteristics and what works well for one may not work well for another. With the right balance of air, homeowners can optimize their roof and maintain the overall health of their home and their families, but it’s always a good idea to get advice from a professional before taking on a big remodeling project. Stay warm friends.
Bob O'Donnell is the owner of O'Donnell Bros, Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro”. All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O'Donnell Bros, Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.