I spent nearly 3 years in the Georgia Weatherization Program, a program that helps income eligible people receive energy upgrades to their homes. I had the opportunity to see a large portion of our great state including Decatur, Atlanta, Athens, Alpharetta and many more and saw some pretty awful, common construction practices that left the occupants suffering from high energy costs while being horribly uncomfortable. Oddly enough, I found myself in a similar situation with my then current home, and if you are in a similar situation; have no fear! There are some simple solutions that can make a huge difference. By using cheap materials and a little bit of elbow grease, you can increase comfort and lower your energy bills.
So where can you apply these cheap materials and elbow grease? You want to seal large “holes” in your home’s shell as they are the largest drivers on infiltration and exfiltration. These two terms result in the same thing but they are opposites. Together, they simply mean air is leaving and entering your home wherever these holes are located. So, the air that you are paying to condition is escaping your home while outside air is coming inside.
Just about every house has an attic. The ceiling between the living space and the attic generally has the most holes, with the biggest one being the pull down stairs or attic access hole / door. While this is the biggest hole you can see, there are many hidden ones. Have you ever heard of the term chase? No, not the game you played when you were a kid. A chase in the building industry is where you can “hide” vents, pipes and other things people don’t want to see inside their homes. These are generally associated with plumbing pipes and mechanical equipment. When left open, they are huge hidden holes that allow cold or hot outside air to gain access to your interior walls. Is your bathroom cold in the winter? This could be due to a plumbing chase nearby that you may not know is even there.
I’ll give you a warning: you more than likely have one of these in your attic.
Do you have a fireplace or chimney? Does this look familiar?
Not only is insulation missing in all four of these locations, but all that hot air in your attic has free reign to move where it wants to. Hot air doesn’t always rise; it goes from high pressure to low pressure, so this means it moves from hot to cold. I’d be willing to bet your roof vents aren’t as big as these holes and that means the hot air is coming inside to find you and your wallet!
You can take back your living space and keep that nasty hot attic air where it needs to be by capping off these chases with cheap materials and just a little bit of effort.