Home Tips for the Winter
New Year is a time to revel in the glory that is yet to come. A new day – and new opportunities! But, the New Year also brings with it icicles and chilling cold weather that make mittens more important that just about anything else.
Many of us get to see the coldest part of the season represented by beautiful strings of icicles fanned out along deck rails and roof overhangs – and how beautiful they are. But there is a side to these magnificent creations of Mother Nature that we need to more clearly understand, so that we can continue to enjoy them WITHOUT experiencing the great cost that often is a “silent partner” in their formation.
Snow melts, drips off the edge of the roof and is almost immediately frozen solid. We all know how icicles are finally created, and what most often causes them – snow-melt. The sun melts the snow, it drips over the edge of the roof and the rest is history. Right?!? Nope, this scenario isn’t always correct. Often, warm air in the attic melts the snow on the roof and the water that results travels beneath the snow and down over the edge forming the glistening and beautiful spikes we all know as icicles.
What we’d like to talk about in this week’s offering is the snow that’s melted by causes other than Mother Nature – like the warm attic that we just mentioned. There are actually 3 reasons why roof snow melts – other than because of Mother Nature:
- Poor attic ventilation
- Air leaks between the house and the attic
- Poor ceiling insulation
Poor Attic Ventilation
When attic ventilation ports are blocked warm air is held inside the attic and the heated air can cause roof snow to melt. When the water hits the overhang it is instantly cooled and can turn into both ice dams and icicles. Although ice dams cannot be seen they can build up to the point where future run-off is diverted back into the attic and finally into the home. Substantial damage can be caused when this occurs.
Air Leaks Between The House And The Attic
Air leaks from the home also can heat up the attic. The leaks to which we refer usually occur at penetrations where electrical wires, plumbing pipes and heating ducts and flues traverse from living space into the attic. Even with the best attic ventilation this warm air can raise the attic temperature enough to melt the coldest snow. Today’s building practices involve sealing these penetrations as a standard procedure. However, older homes were not managed in the same way. And, major leaks may exist.
Poor Ceiling Insulation
Poor ceiling insulation is another of the most common reasons why heated air is allowed to escape from the home into the attic. Gaps in the insulation can allow heat to pass. Also, old insulation that has packed or compressed can allow great amounts of heat to penetrate that layer of insulation. By the way, old insulation doesn’t need to be removed in order to add new. Simply cover the existing – no problem!
By cooling down the attic you can solve two major problems:
- Winter waster leaks
- Energy waste
Both of the problems we just mentioned can literally equate into thousands of dollars in unnecessary expense. And don’t forget your own personal comfort. No one likes a home filled with drafts, chills – or hot spots.
Many folks are under the assumption that it is a good idea to seal roof vents during winter months. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The fact is, it is extremely important the attic be properly ventilated all year long. If the insulation in the ceiling is properly installed, then proper attic ventilation will not have a negative impact on the inside of the home. Keep in mind that proper insulation includes sealing all penetrations. These can be hard to find beneath a thick layer of insulation, but telltale pipes, wires and ducts traversing up from below are dead give-aways.
Expanding spray foam in a can is the best way to properly seal the penetrations we have described. Although stuffing insulation (or most anything) into the holes can help, nothing is more effective than expanding foam. It’s very inexpensive to purchase, extremely forgiving during installation and results in a most permanent seal.
Sounds crazy doesn’t it? The air from within the home must be prevented from getting into the attic, but the air from outside should be allowed to pass freely. It really is important for your attic to be properly ventilated. To insure that this is the case check all the vents at the eaves – from within the attic – and make sure there is clearance between each eave vent and the attic insulation. Special cardboard baffles can be placed in the attic near the vents to hold insulation back. The baffles are normally held in place with staples but you also can use nails or screws if you prefer.
It may difficult to make the decision to climb up into the attic – especially now that it is so cold out. However, if there is even the slightest bit of warmth in your attic it could cost you big time this winter.
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