This story happened to me. After living in an apartment for years, I moved into a small old house. I called a few professional companies to price out adding additional insulation to the insufficient layer of insulation that was already on the attic floor. I did not provide any information as to my profession or background.
As one company representative looked over my attic with me, I was appalled by the lies thrown at me just to make more money. However, before I share with you what was spoken to me, let me first provide you with the 2 square feet of knowledge I learned years earlier. [Also remember the facts I shared in my previous Blog post]
At a 1986 conference with engineers from Canada, rules and facts were discussed for proper ways to insulate attics. One rule was emphasized over and over:
You need 2 square feet of open air space for every 100 square feet of attic floor space.
This is so your attic can expelled heated air in the summer and keep your attic dry in the winter. Having insulation with the R Value of at least R-30 will protect the living space in the house below from the cold winter attic and the hot summer attic. This is true even with the 2 square feet of open air space for every 100 square feet of attic floor space.
In addition, you must take into consideration the amount of space occupied by screens or chicken wire that is on the attic vents. A two square foot vent with a screen is actually offering less open air space, because the screen may block up to a half square foot of space when condensed. For example: When you feel a breeze through a window screen, that breeze becomes stronger when the screen is removed. Thus more open space for air movement.
Now back to my attic and what I was told by this insulation expert - I am using the term lightly. This insulation company Rep was sizing me up since he arrived. An old house, a new homeowner without much house maintenance knowledge... so he thought. He went all in for the kill and the big bucks.
“You know,” the Rep said as he looked across the dimly lit attic at me. “You should also put insulation up here between the rafters [wooden beams] on the roof. This will cost twice as much, but you will save double the amount.”
“Double of what amount?” I queried, since no numbers on savings were presented to me as of yet.
“The amount you pay for oil to heat your house.”
“I don’t think so.” I calmly stated.
“No,” he quickly rebutted. “It will lower heating bills and save you more money! In fact, you should also close off your two attic vents and cover them with insulation.”
“Please leave,” I spoke softly as I found the blatant lie agitating.
“What? No, having vents allowing cold air to come into the attic will make your house cold and cost more to heat.”
“That is why I want to increase my insulation to a level of R-30, so the cold air won’t be an issue.”
“The cold air won’t be an issue only if you insulate R-30 on the floor and on the roof, plus close up your attic vents.”
“Please leave my house now,” I said with more determination and headed toward the attic ladder to go down.
After the Rep followed me down, before he could start his phony sales pitch again, I gave him the rule of 2 square feet and presented my credentials. I stated how insulation with the R-30 size can't fit between the beams on the roof and if you squashed insulation into any space, you destroy the integrity of the insulation by compressing it. Plus having two Vapor Barriers was so wrong, I couldn't understand how he didn't know these facts or did he? Once I stated that I was considering contacting the Better Business Bureau, he left immediately.
This is what every American is up against and if I didn’t have the knowledge from my passion, my career, I would have been just another statistic added to the scammed pile. An attic needs air flow to breathe, if not, you will sacrifice the integrity of the wood structure holding up your roof.
Give credence to the old adage, Buyer beware!
Bill Lauto, at Going True Green
International Sustainability and Energy Consultant
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