It’s summertime. It’s hot. And you’re sitting in your living room with a bead of sweat on your brow. The air conditioner is running. In fact, your electric bill reflects the fact that your air conditioner must be doing one heck of a diligent job trying to keep the house cool. So what’s the deal? Is there something different that can be done to help beat the summer sizzle and cut those fuel bills?

You bet. If your home has an attic, it may be trapping in the very thing that you’re spending big bucks for the air conditioner to combat: heat. The principal source of summertime attic heat is direct sunlight on the roof of the home. This is radiated heat, and even on a cloudy day, there is an appreciable amount that can be transmitted to the roof.

The solar heat on the roof is then transmitted through the roof material and, in turn, is radiated to the attic floor or to the top surface of the ceiling insulation. The attic air in contact with the underside of the roof and top of the insulating material also becomes heated. Convection then allows some circulation of air so that more and more of the attic air is heated.

In an unventilated attic, the roof sheathing may reach a temperature in excess of 160 degrees Fahrenheit (F), and the attic floor 150 degrees -- and far more when the outside temperature is in the 90’s. The ceiling (attic floor) acts as a “hot plate,” not only warming the air in the rooms below but radiating some of the heat to the occupants as well.

Attic heat adds to your air conditioning requirements -- both in the size of the unit needed and in operating costs. So as you sit in your living room with a bead of sweat about to roll down your forehead and drip onto your last dollar bill, consider incorporating some basic attic ventilation measures to help reduce your home cooling costs.

  • Attic insulation. Adequate insulation in your attic creates a barrier to help reduce the transmission of heat from the attic space to the attic floor (or the ceiling of the room below) and consequently to the room below.
  • Attic fan. Installing an attic fan helps regulate the temperature by exhausting excessive heat directly to the outside of the home.
  • Ridge vent. A ridge vent helps provide air circulation in the attic and allows for excessive attic heat to escape through the top of the roof.
  • Soffit vent. Soffit vents, usually found along the bottom perimeter of the attic space, work well in conjunction with ridge vents to promote the circulation of attic air.
Any of the above, or combination thereof, would certainly provide some relief for your home and pocketbook as you endure the summer heat.

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