Mother Nature has decided to turn that heat dial up this weekend, leaving many people with nothing to do but crank up the air conditioning. Sure, a little A/C is a great way to provide fast relief, but keeping it blowing all summer long can do a number on your energy bill and your home. So this week I thought I’d put together a few simple tips to help you keep cool, but first, here is a story that might make you rethink your current set up.
A few years ago, I was called to a house in Bristol for a leak repair. When I got to the home, I found that the entire ceiling had fallen onto the dining room table. We hadn’t had rain for weeks, so I was confused how the leak occurred. It turns out that the home had no insulation or ventilation, and to combat the stifling heat seeping into the house from the attic, the homeowner had two window air conditioning units set on full blast all day. The cold air from the units and the hot air from the attic created so much moisture and mold that it completely deteriorated the plaster, causing the ceiling to fall in.
Having little or no insulation and ventilation in the attic will heat up your home like you wouldn’t believe. Most people think insulation and ventilation are only important in the winter, but they work as regulators, controlling air in both the warmer and colder months. Did you know that an attic can easily get up to 150 degrees on a hot summer day? Stand on a chair and put your hand as close to the ceiling as possible. Feel that heat? It’s a telltale sign that your house doesn’t have proper air flow, which, in addition to making you uncomfortable this summer, can also become a breeding ground for mold.
So what should you do? 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 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 home’s health but it’s always a good idea to get advice from a professional before taking on a big remodeling project. Stay cool friends, and have a Happy 4th of July!
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 http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.