Your attic can tell you if your home is energy efficient

Your attic can tell you if your home is energy efficient. As we start to transition into the cold weather, take a moment and look at what is going on in your attic space. If you have fiberglass insulation – I can almost guarantee that your home is leaking conditioned air into the attic. This costs you money on your monthly electric bills and comfort in your daily life.

Harrisonburg Green Architect

Look for fiberglass insulation that is black. This is air movement coming to or from the attic. Stop the leak and reduce the energy wasted. Stopping the leaks also improves your home comfort. If you have cellulose insulation it is much harder to see the air leaks. You may need to schedule an energy audit to locate the path of air movement. It will most likely still be there, but harder to find. If you have open cell spray foam installed correctly, your attic is most likely performing very well so your energy challenges will be in other locations.

Summer Garden

If you can see the metal of your duct work and it is in an unconditioned space, you are creating a warm moist habitat for mice. I have seen this in so many attics and there is always traces of mice around these thermal bridges. Get your ducts into a conditioned space or at the very least insulate the duct.

wet crawl space

If your attic access is not sealed like a door – weather stripping and fixed insulation – you are wasting money.


If there are any pipes venting into the attic, black growth on surfaces, or excessive dirt, your attic is not performing the way it should and you are paying for it monthly.

Does My Attic Have Enough Insulation?

This time of year we always add a blanket to our bed to stay warm at night. It is cold! In order to have a more comfortable home and improve your energy-efficiency, you should add a blanket to your home as well. The code minimum insulation allowed in new construction is R-49. As you can see in the next picture, the bottom of the truss is exposed (3 1/2″ of insulation) minimum installed in this home. This is fairly typical. It means this home has R-19 max, but probably R-13 insulation. Certainly another blanket would help with comfort issues in this house.

attic insulation

attic insulation

In the below picture you can see additional insulation has been added in some places. Perhaps they are adding as they have time and money – not sure. The duct work that is located above the insulation could also hurt comfort and energy-efficiency. This duct work is sending conditioned air through a duct is in an unconditioned space. There is a minimum amount of insulation around the ducts. These two combined issues could lead to moisture in the duct, perhaps contributing to mold in addition to the comfort and energy issues a typical home experiences. Further there is an attic fan in the eave. Using an attic fan sucks air out of the attic pushing it outside. This is done in the summer to cool the attic, but where does the make-up air come from to replace what is being sucked out? Usually through the gaps and cracks in the home’s thermal envelope further hurting comfort and energy-efficiency. It sucks conditioned air out of your home and sends it outside, only cooling the attic a few degrees on a good day.

attic insulation

A properly insulated attic has all the ducts inside the thermal envelope. It also stops air movement from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces. R-49 is the minimum level of insulation. As you can see in the below picture the insulation has been moved to the underside of the roof sheathing and the ducts are inside the thermal envelope. This is the best possible solution.