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How to Cool an Attic (and Save on Your Energy Bill)

How to cool an attic cover image

An overheated attic has more significant consequences beyond raising your energy bill and causing you to sweat through a few T-shirts. An unventilated attic can reach temperatures high enough to bake your shingles and damage your roof. The best attic cooling solution is a multifaceted approach, using both venting and insulation. 

If you ever feel hot air coming from the attic, you may ask yourself questions such as: 

  • Should I keep my attic door open?
  • What should an attic temperature be? 
  • Will cooling my attic cool my house? 
  • How to keep an attic bedroom cool in the summer?

The aim of this article is to help you avoid the dangers of your attic overheating, which can lead to higher utility bills and costly roofing repairs in the future. Give these attic cooling solutions a try, and please contact us if you need help from our expert roofing and insulation specialists. 

What is an attic?

An attic is a space in your hom1e that lies directly below the roof and above the ceiling of the top floor. These spaces can range from a small crawl space to a full, open room, depending on the pitch of your roof. Attics are often uninhabitable because they lack proper insulation, flooring, and fire escapes. Small access doors are still needed, however, for routine maintenance and repairs.

Image of an empty attic

How Does an Attic Get So Hot?

Attic temperature is typically controlled through convection, which brings in air from the vents at the roof’s perimeter up through the peak as the hot air rises. Ideally, this would cool your attic to outside temperatures, much like opening all the windows in your house. 

However, since the attic is not insulated like the rest of the house, it receives heat directly from the sun through the exterior walls, which can cause temperatures to soar through a process known as radiant heat. This process will begin heating the shingles, then the sheathing, the rafters, the boxes stored in your attic, and anywhere else that heat can be stored. This stored heat is then transferred to the surrounding air faster than the air can filter through the vents, causing excess heat. 

One common practice to cool down a hot attic is placing fans near the highest vents to help the hot air filter through the vents quicker. Unfortunately, this does little to reduce the radiant heat stored in the structure of the attic itself. This stored heat will continue to radiate throughout the night. Even as the outside temperature drops, your attic will stay hot. For a few quick tips on beating the heat, check out these smart resolutions for your home’s exterior. 

To better understand the primary factors involved in an overheated attic, we’ve broken them down below. 

  • Convection: This is the primary method for how to cool an attic. Soffit vents draw in hot air as it rises and expel it through the peak. 
  • Radiant Heat: This is the main contributor to how hot attics can get. The roof catches and stores the sun’s heat and continuously releases it back into the attic. 
  • Thermodynamics: This transfer of heat takes place between the shingles and interior sheathing and from there to the joists, insulation, boxes, and surrounding air. 

Image of an attic door

Why Is Reducing Attic Temperature So Important?

Reducing attic temperature causes a positive ripple effect. Not only will you be far more comfortable when you need to bring down those holiday decorations, but your roof will be less susceptible to damage, and your utility bills will decrease. 

The negative effects of an overheated attic are numerous and more uncomfortable than a bit of sweat. If you’ve ever wondered how hot an attic can get, consider this: The average temp of an unventilated attic in the summer is 150 degrees. That’s hot enough to cook an egg and bake the shingles on your roof. This kind of damage causes leaks, which can lead to costly structural damage down the road. 

It’s best to learn how to keep your attic cool in the summer before it becomes a more serious maintenance issue. Here at MEI, we have years of experience helping customers find the best way to cool an attic. If you’re tired of the high utility bills and ready to save money, contact us today to get a Home Energy Audit. 

Image of a fan blowing

Will Cooling My Attic Cool My House? 

If your attic is sweltering, odds are some of that heat is seeping into your home through the vents, insulation, or the attic door. Your attic should be hot in the summer, but excess heat can drain the cool air from your home faster than your A/C unit can pump it in. 

Many people go to great lengths to cool their house in the summer, including installing new windows and A/C units. While these solutions can certainly be impactful, some of their benefits will go to waste if an overheated attic is the true culprit. The first step to cooling your home should always be learning how to cool down a hot attic before taking other more drastic and costly measures. 

4 Ways to Reduce Attic Temperature

The best way to cool an attic space is to approach the problem from several different angles. Any of these solutions on their own is enough to reduce the temperature at least a little, but you’ll need all four to achieve the ideal attic temperature. If you want to know how to cool an attic bedroom especially, here are your answers:

  • Roofing
  • Ventilation
  • Insulation
  • Radiant Barriers

Image of a home from bird eye view

Roofing Choice

The next time you need to repair or replace your roof, consider how your choice of roofing material and color will affect your attic temperature. It’s a well-known fact that darker colors heat up faster and hotter under direct sunlight, so if you’re looking for ways to cool your attic, a lighter-colored roof may be a good start. 

A slightly lesser-known fact is that metal can be an excellent heat reflector, and while metal roofs may be more expensive, the savings on energy and maintenance let it pay for itself over time. Other options such as slate and clay roofing can help negate the heat, though they come at a high price and a hefty weight, so it’s essential to find out which roof type is right for you. 

The experts at MEI’s Roofing Services would be more than happy to help you through this decision-making process. If you’re considering a new roof or roofing repair, you may want to consider some additional factors before you decide. 

Image of attic ventilation

Ventilation Check

When most people think of how to cool down an attic, ventilation is typically the first solution to surface. Simple logic supports the notion that the more hot air you can push out and the more cool air you can pull in will cause the temperature to drop. 

There are a few common mistakes with this method. Many people try to cool down an attic bedroom with fans in the window. While this may help some, ideally, you want fans at the peak. This ensures that the hottest air is removed and cooler air from the floor can circulate up without being blown out the sides. If you’d like, you can put fans pointing into the room at the floor vents and fans pointing out at the peak for maximum ventilation. 

Image of attic insulation

Insulate

Insulation is why the walls in your home don’t heat up the same way the walls of your attic do. It creates a protective barrier of air that stops the heat from transferring to your interior walls. If you’re wondering how to cool an attic room enough to make it livable, then insulating your external walls is a must. 

There are many different types of insulation available:

  • Blown-in cellulose
  • Rolls of fiberglass
  • Spray foam
  • Sturdy foam boards

Each will give you a different protection rating and come at a different cost depending on the size of your attic. Before you head to the hardware store and try to do it yourself, contact our insulation specialists at MEI for a free consultation to ensure you get what’s suitable for your home. 

Image of radiant barrier

Radiant Barrier

Radiant barriers are another popular solution for those who seek to keep their attic cool in the summer. They create a solid reflective barrier along the walls of your attic to stop the heat from getting in. 

However, this barrier will not stop heat conduction, like insulation. This can be highly effective for those living in hotter climates where the A/C runs most of the year. However, in cooler climates, it may be wiser to install thermal insulation instead, as it will also help reduce heating costs in the winter months. 

People Also Ask These Questions About Cooling Attics

When it comes to how to keep an attic cool, there are many misconceptions. To dispel some of the myths and offer trustworthy information and solutions, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions. 

How Hot Do Attics Get? 

Without proper ventilation, your attic could reach 150 degrees in the summer heat. That’s hot enough to cook an egg and permanently damage your roof. While it may be nice to have an in-home sauna, it isn’t worth the costly repairs that come with it. 

What Should The Attic Temperature Be? 

The ideal attic temperature should be no less than 60 degrees in the winter and no more than 10 to 20 degrees above the outdoor temperature in the summer. If your attic temperature climbs above 130 degrees, you may start running into issues with your energy bill, as well as the integrity of your roof. 

Should My Attic Be Hot In The Summer? 

Yes, your attic should and will be hot in the summer. Typically, it isn’t an issue unless you have an attic bedroom or need to use the space for something other than storage. Cooling your attic will help cool your home, but make sure you aren’t spending more on fans than you’re saving on A/C. 

Should I Keep My Attic Door Open? 

It is generally not recommended to keep your attic door open unless your entire home is naturally ventilated and not air-conditioned. Even in those instances, it may be better to simply open the windows on either side of the attic and keep the door closed. 

MEI branded conclusion image

Trust MEI to Help Cool Your Hot Attic

Hot attic solutions aren’t always the easiest or cheapest to do yourself. A few well-placed fans may provide temporary relief but won’t stop the radiant heat from being absorbed and held in every box of old nic nacs in your attic. 

Here at MEI, we want to help you find the best way to cool your attic, not just for your comfort or savings but for the health of the planet as a whole. If this is a summer project you’ve been putting off for too long, contact our roofing or insulation specialists to get the ball rolling. If you’d like a second opinion before you tackle this project, then we’d like to help with that too. Check out this article on how to choose between roofing contractors.

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