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On this episode of Dr. Energy Saver’s “On the Job” series, Larry Janesky, founder of Dr. Energy Saver discusses the importance of an energy efficient attic, and shows us why it should be the number one priority in terms of energy-efficient upgrades with this spray foam attic insulation project.

The typical attic is vented and not considered part of the conditioned space of the building. Attics are typically very hostile environments, as temperatures change drastically, year round, according to the seasons. In the winter time, the attic can get very cold, with freezing air getting into the space through open soffit and ridge vents. In the summer, the sun radiates heat through the roof, raising temperatures in the attic to scorching hot levels, much higher than the outside temperatures.

If the attic lacks adequate insulation and proper air sealing — and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, a significant number of homes in America have this problem — these dramatic temperature variations will be transferred to the living areas, either conductively through the ceiling, or through air leakages.

In homes that have HVAC ducts running through the attic, energy losses can be even greater. During the winter, heated air will lose temperature as it passes through ducts that are housed in a freezing cold attic. During the summer, the cool air running through a scorching attic will get warm before reaching the rooms that need to be cooled.

Consider that an average of 40% of your home’s total energy consumption going toward heating and cooling! With such large percentages of energy consumption going toward heating and cooling you will easily understand how important it is to conserve as much energy as possible in these areas.

The typical attic insulation job involves isolating the attic from the house (conditioned space). To do so, we utilize spray foam, to air seal any gaps that may cause air from the conditioned space to leak into the attic. Spray foam is applied around gaps around light fixtures, plumbing, wires, wall partitions, and chimneys in the attic floor. After air sealing is complete, blown insulation — fiberglass or cellulose — is commonly used to bring attic insulation R-Values up to the U.S. D.O.E. recommended values for attic insulation for each specific region of the country.

In this particular home, however, the attic wasn’t a typical attic. The multi-level ceilings stood over walls that protruded from the attic floor, making it very hard to seal and insulate. This attic also included over 100 can light fixtures, posing some difficult challenges when it came to insulation and air sealing. To make matters even worse, the HVAC ducts ran through the attic!

For special cases like this, the best approach is to include the attic into the conditioned area of the home, and establish the roof, not the ceiling, as the thermal boundary. While there are a number of different materials that can be used to transform a vented attic into a conditioned space — including Dr. Energy Saver’s Super Attic System, this particular job, spray foam became the insulation material of choice.

Spray foam expands when applied and fills gaps and voids, so the space is air sealed and insulated at the same time. With our job complete, this homeowner now has a more comfortable home and already reports big energy savings from the newly insulated attic.

Would you like to have a more comfortable home and save money on energy bills? Let Dr. Energy Saver help! Call us or visit our website to locate a Dr. Energy Saver energy specialist in your area, and for a free consultation!

9 Responses to “spray foam attic insulation problems”

  1. qazwas2001 March 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    what did the follow up door blower test show? I was looking forward to seeing that in the video.

  2. Tiberius Shrimpboat July 9, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    If you sealed the attic, won’t the humidity just stay in the attic?

    Also, I saw you sealed the ridge vent, do you also close the soffits?

  3. johnatdrenergysaver July 11, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Humidity in the attic only becomes a structural concern if it cools below the dew point and becomes water. By converting the attic and moving both the thermal and pressure boundaries of the house envelope above the attic space, this condensing will not occur and therefore it becomes a non-issue. The vents can be closed off because they no longer serve a useful purpose in terms of general building science.

  4. GlueFactoryBJJ July 14, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Great video!

    Ditto to @qazwas2001 comment below! Larry mentioned “before” the blower door test was moving 11,500 CFM, but didn’t mention “after” value. Do you have those numbers?

    Also, what % did the homeowner reduce his utilities (gas/electric) by? Even a worst case (low estimate) scenario would be helpful.

    Finally, what was the approximate $/SF cost of this job? Was there anything else done that might affect the cost other than what was mentioned in the video? Thanks for your help!

  5. Christopher Thomas July 15, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    Hey John,
    Is there any problem with using spray foam under an old tin roof (metal partially exposed? I was thinking that condensation would be a concern. I’m waffling between baffles + foiled board foam or spray foam.

    Additionally, I only have two gable vents, without soffit or ridge vents. I have a really old home that definitely needs some work.

    Thanks!

  6. johnatdrenergysaver July 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    We try to avoid putting costs/pricing here because our dealers set their own pricing based upon many factors. This customer had many things including the attic conversion done so trying to isolate this treatment for its contribution to energy savings would be almost impossible. I can tell you they are delighted with both the comfort and energy savings and say they have estimated they are seeing about 17% annual return on the investment.

  7. johnatdrenergysaver July 16, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Spray foam can be used almost anywhere. It is often used on metal roofs commercially, but the roofing must be sealed (caulked) first to ensure that water doesn’t leak into and pool above the foam since it probably won’t dry or drain by itself. Your concern about condensation is valid, not just with spray foam but with any insulation. Enough insulation and proper air seal should keep the interior surface above the dew point and thereby prevent condensation.

  8. Craig Bushon July 25, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    I didn’t see you mention what you did with the soffit vents while sealing the attic.

  9. CharlieWayne2012 July 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Disappointed u didn’t show how u sealed between the top plates and roof deck around the outside walls.

    Also as others said, what was your CFM After your work?