One of the many nice things about living in Sacramento is the day trips to San Francisco and the rest of the Bay. I myself have never wanted to live there—a bit too busy for my tastes. I do, however, like venturing into San Francisco on a Saturday to see the sights, take in a Giants Game, or just spend an afternoon getting lost in the crowds.
I never know how to dress for the weather, though, despite the fact that San Francisco is only about an hour and a half’s drive away. Do I bring a heavy jacket, a light jacket—no jacket? Inevitably, I always end up doing that Bay Area thing where I wear a lot of layers, but once I start taking off layers, I’ve got to carry them all.
If only dressing for a day trip to the Bay Area was as easy as keeping a house warm or cool. Insulation in your attic, for instance, is essential for keeping you comfortable during both the winters and the summers here in Northern California.
With that in mind, it’s really important that homeowners understand how a properly insulated attic benefits your home in both seasons—and what the best attic insulation for California’s Mediterranean climate is.
Why Insulate Your Attic Anyway?
If your attic is anything like mine, it doesn’t receive many visitors—except during the holiday season when you’re fetching your Christmas ornaments. But just because you may not spend a lot of time up there doesn’t mean you don’t have to insulate it. In fact, the attic is probably the most important part of your home to insulate here in Northern California.
You may have noticed if you’ve ever poked your head up there during the summer that your attic is boiling hot. When attics aren’t insulated in the summer, heat makes its way inside quickly and effortlessly, creating what I liken to a giant oven on the top of the house. The hot air from the attic then makes its way into the rest of the home, raising the temperature dramatically. Likewise, in the winter, the cold air from the attic acts as a freezer for all the toasty warm air to escape to.
In addition to playing an integral role in regulating temperature in the home, insulating your attic has the following benefits:
- A more efficient home: Did you know that the simple act of insulating your attic can reduce your home’s energy output by 20-60%? It’s the single most effective thing you can do to cut down on your energy consumption. Not only will you be having a positive impact on our beautiful Northern California environment, you’ll be saving a lot of cash! I’m sure you can imagine how a 20-60% reduction in energy output could impact your energy bill.
- A longer lasting HVAC system: When hot air is infiltrating your air-conditioned home via the attic all summer long, your HVAC system is put under a lot of pressure. It will have to be constantly working to cool your home in order to offset the heat coming in through the attic. And when your HVAC unit doesn’t get a break, it’s bound to run into some issues. Not only will its lifespan be a lot shorter if it has to work around the clock, but it will also need more frequent maintenance and repairs. It’s the same in the winter with your furnace! If it’s constantly working to heat your home because the warm air is escaping through the chilly attic, it’ll get tired—and you could end up with some serious problems.
- Better duct functionality: If your HVAC system is in the attic, or you’ve got a lot of ductwork up there and your attic isn’t insulated, condensation tends to form on your ducts. This can cause dripping and leaking into your ceiling and walls, which then invites mold growth. Trust me when I say you do not want this to happen. An insulated attic, though, prevents temperature fluctuations that cause condensation. Insulation will also help prevent energy loss through the ductwork.
Choosing the Best Attic Insulation for Your California Home
Now that you understand just how important insulating your attic is for your home, it’s time to talk about what kind of insulation you should install. Here are the three main types of insulation best for Northern California homes, and the pros and cons of each:
- Loose insulation: Made of cellulose, this type of insulation is common in a lot of older homes, but you don’t see it used much anymore. It’s cheap and cheerful, but it tends to settle over time, which means that its insulating power deteriorates as it ages.
- Fiberglass batting: I’m a big fan of fiberglass batting for Northern California homes because it’s easy to install and it’s waterproof. This is typically my choice for most new homes, as it’s great for helping regulate home temperatures in both summer and winter.
- Blown-in insulation: This type of insulation has a long lifespan and, although it’s more expensive, it’s worth using for historic homes that have unique features that are hard to reach with other types of insulation. Blown-in insulation also seals air leaks nicely and reinforces the strength of attic frames, so it can be a great support for aging wood. It’s really quite tricky to install, though, so don’t DIY this one; have an experienced professional come in and do the job for you.
Remember, you don’t have to decide what type of insulation to use for your attic all on your own. I recommend having an experienced professional come to assess your home and determine what kind would be most suitable. They’ll also make sure that your insulation has the right R-value for our Northern California climate. The R-value rates how effective the insulation is at preventing the conduction of heat. Since we’re in Zone 3, the insulation they’ll recommend will have an R-value rating between 30 and 60.
It’s truly amazing just how well an insulated attic is able to help regulate the temperature in your home, while at the same time saving energy, money, and protecting your precious ducts. I suppose that as long as I have a nice warm home to return to in the winter and a nice cool home in the summer, struggling to regulate my temperature on my trips to the Bay isn’t such a big deal after all.
At Bell Brothers, our trained HVAC and insulation experts would be delighted to come have a look at your attic, determine which insulation you need, and professionally install it for you! Contact us today to schedule a free in-home consultation.
Wondering how to finance new insulation—or even a furnace or window upgrade? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.
Image courtesy Unsplash user Alex Robert