I love teaching and talking to homeowners about their homes. Attic hatches seem to be one of those items in a home that people want to forget is even there. When I go out to do an energy evaluation I can’t tell you how many people have told me they have never been up there through that hole in the ceiling! That’s fine, not everyone is handy, and let’s face it, no one really likes to play in the insulation in the attic, some of us just do it to fuel our curiosity!
If it does I’m sure you’ll be happy to know, and i’m embarrassed to say, this is mine. But I digress, let’s talk about why this little 2ft by 2ft hole in your ceiling is so important. Some of you with knowledge in the building industry might say that the standards set for attic hatches by the building industry revolve around firefighters being able to get into the attic with their gear on. I don’t know about you, but every firefighter that I know says they are just going to put a hole in the ceiling – they don’t have time to worry about the hatch and the size that it is. Others might have said – it’s for the electrician to get into the attic and fix wiring or run new light fixtures. You wouldn’t be wrong about that either. And there might even be some of you out there that had no idea what it was for. That’s fine too! But let’s talk about why am I telling you about it.
From an energy standpoint – that little 2ft by 2ft hole in your ceiling can use more then 15% of your total heat loss through the ceiling of your home. We have always been told that heat rises and that 15% doesn’t even take into account the air that flows through the hatch, it’s just talking about the lack of insulation in this 4 square feet. What does that mean you ask. Well I love to teach my students this example when we are doing heat loss calculations, but i’ll break it down for this post.
Let’s say you did an attic renovation for a home that is 1300SF and you have a 4ft attic hatch with no insulation it would look something like this:
Since I live in Maine we will use oil:
1296 SF with R-49 attic insulation would use 38 gallons of oil. At $3.24 per gallon that’s $123 dollar, but that 4 square feet uses 6 gallons and $19 dollars. Less than 1% of the ceiling area uses more then 15% of the energy consumption. Maybe $20 per year doesn’t seem like that much to you, but this doesn’t even take into account that the little 4ft square on the ceiling also acts like a chimney, allowing heated air to escape to your attic and you have to heat the air that came in to replace the heated air that just went out!
So what should you do about it? First thing – bring the insulation level on the hatch up to R-49 by attaching rigid board insulation directly to the hatch. Then install weather stripping, a handle, and hook and eyes to securely close the hatch on the weatherstripping. I know, sounds simple, and it is. Below is a little drawing that I put together that you can follow or have one of your contractors put together for you.
As heating season draws nearer and cooler every day, happy weatherizing, here is to a more comfortable, more energy efficient home for years to come!