Attic Insulation -Many questions

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  #1  
Old 10-17-10, 10:43 AM
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Attic Insulation -Many questions

Our home has very little insulation (maybe 2-3" loose) in the attic and I am trying to figure out the best approach and one that is a reasonable cost. We have only been here less than a year and there are many "interesting" issues to deal with. I am guessing we will live here about 10 years. I am in Northern Virginia if that helps in the determination. In my mind there are so many different issues, I have not started because I do not know the best overall way to handle everything.


Issues:
1. There are no soffits but there is a gap where the roof comes down of about 1/2-1 inch. I guess they wanted airflow. Insulation has blown away from sides in some cases.
2. The house has an in-law suite so there are actually two a/c units up in the attic. Neither is built up, so I think insulating underneath would be impossible or very limited.
3. Cable and electrical wires all over. I see open electrical boxes laying on the attic floor so this is a mess. Three fans to circulate air but none are working. Two fans appear to have no current in their wires. A/C could not keep up in summer and house regularly was in the mid 80's when mid 90's outside.
4. Probably about 15-20 recessed lights added. I doubt they are insulated. How can I tell what type and if I can insulate around them?
5. Two chimneys and a boiler pipe extend through the attic and not sure how to address. Seems like they kept insulation away from each and the boiler duct is not even closed - needs blocking.

What is economically worthwhile to tackle? What approach is best in my situation? (I thought about using foam and making it an unvented space, but not sure if the expense is worthwhile or if that is a good approach.) I am concerned about the roof opening that critters can get in, but not sure I can get to all the cracks around the whole roof. Also not sure how well I can insulate the floor given all the issues mentioned above.
Appreciate your thoughts on what to tackle first and any overall strategies with cost in mind (rough cost guesses would be helpful).
 
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Old 10-17-10, 12:59 PM
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Check out buildingscience.com and read everything on unvented roof assemblies. With two air handlers in your attic, I think it would be a good candidate for this type of attic. That's not to say there could be other reasons why you a/c couldn't keep up this summer. The system may be poorly designed. I have a similar situation with my a/c. It turned out the return duct wasn't large enough. I had a second one added and it helped a lot, but it still doesn't keep up on days over 90.

You should definitely work on getting that wiring squared away. It shouldn't cost you too much money to button everything up and get it organized.
 
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Old 10-18-10, 04:53 AM
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Since you plan to stay 10 years in this place, it is worth fixing all the problems you discovered. Donít get overwhelmed with the amount of work because they all can be fixed one at a time. Make a plan and stick to it Ė try to address the easier work first to get it out of the way. Here are some suggestions:

First I would try to make the attic space safe to work by attacking the electrical wiring. If you donít know about wiring hire an electrician to organise the wiring and put covers in all open boxes. At the same time the electrician can check the recessed lights and repair what has to be repaired.

I donít see the reason to have 3 air circulating fans in the attic. Attics are normally very hot spaces in the summer and very cold in the winter and just natural ventilation is enough. Perhaps you can eliminate all fans or just leave one. Check with neighbours to see what they have in their attics.

You should cover to gaps in the soffits but donít block them because the cross ventilation is required. Buy some sheets of aluminum or plastic soffit covers and install them the best you can. These covers come in various widths / lengths and are sold by the piece or in rolls.

Hire an A/C technician to check the system

I donít understand what you mean by the boiler duct in not even closed- needs blocking. Perhaps the A/C man can also have a look at this problem.

To my opinion, it is not a good idea to make the attic an unvented space.

Lots of work ahead of you but try to tackle one issue at a time and all will be fine
 
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Old 10-28-10, 06:05 PM
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Thank you for your help. The building science site has some great material. One document on attic air sealing is perfect.

What I meant by: "the boiler duct is not even closed - needs blocking." The chimney chase is not closed around the boiler vent pipe. I now know it needs metal around it with a collar to seal.

Good news is I got a great deal on insulation this week. Bad news is that I had to lug a bunch of bags up to the attic and now actually need to complete the sealing and insulation work rather than just sit, study, and write blogs.

I had one other idea regarding the A/C air handler that I would appreciate your comments. Is it possible and practical to build an insulation box around the air handler or should I be concerned about air circulation or other issues? Note: air handler is only used for cooling in the summer.
 
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Old 10-28-10, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by LearningB View Post
I had one other idea regarding the A/C air handler that I would appreciate your comments. Is it possible and practical to build an insulation box around the air handler or should I be concerned about air circulation or other issues? Note: air handler is only used for cooling in the summer.
I think its better to place your question in the A/C & Duct Section of the forum. I have on similar unit in my attic and I think the unit is built with insulated aluminum or galvanized walls. Only the ducts coming out from the unit and going thru the ceiling to the house are insulated
 
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Old 10-29-10, 05:28 AM
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i see you already bought bags of insulation but i was going to suggest blowing in green fiber. I had the same situation as you. some part of my attic were 2-3 inches of loose fill and in some areas i could see the ceiling. it was like they were almost done for the day then just gave up or ran out of insulation when they built the house. i spent a few hours last weekend blowing in 60 bags and except for a broken machine, it was very easy, even fun.

if you already notice insulation blown away, the baffles are a must for the venting. home depot had 2 sizes of soffit baffles. i think i have the same 'cracked' roof as you. just misc splits in the roofline but all my soffits were decorative, not vented. of course if you decide to go unvented, that's gonna be an entirely different situation, one i'm not familiar with at all.

regarding recessed lights, you need to build baffle boxes around each one. But looking through that document you probably already saw it. i think i read 3 inches of clearance all around the boxes is what is required. They do make lights that can tolerate insulation on top of them but i forget what they are called. maybe you'd get lucky and already have them, but you know how things are with luck sometimes.
 
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