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You May Not Know This About Recessed Lighting

Posted by John Sims on Fri, Jan, 22, 2016 @ 11:01 AM

Two of the more common complaints we see from homeowners are higher RecessedLighting.jpgheating bills and being uncomfortable. With that in mind, I wanted to 'shed some light' on a topic very few homeowners know about.

The Problem With Recessed Lighting

The nice thing about recessed lighting is it's unobtrusive, making it popular in kitchens and family rooms. Recessed lights replace ugly ceiling mounts. Sure, you’ve got a neat, uncluttered interior look, but the part you don't realize is you’ve traded a substantial amount of conditioned air leakage into your attic for that appearance. The heat is escaping like crazy – with the trade-off being that you’ve punched a hole through the building enclosure.

Here's the problem they can present. Richard Rue, Chief Engineer at EnergyWise Structures (who has engineered over 40,000 Ultra Energy-Efficient homes), says, "recessed lights that penetrate into the attic space can be the “kiss of death,” unless you’ve insulated the attic with sprayed foam. One of these seemingly innocuous little lights represents 1 square foot of uninsulated attic space, and 20 of them is equivalent to having a door open in the attic at all times".

According to tests conducted in 1992 by the Mechanical Engineering Department at Penn State University in conjunction with Juno Lighting Corporation, the air leakage path associated with a single recessed can light fixture may account for $5–$30 worth of energy loss per year. The same study went on to conclude that a single unsealed can light may serve as a conduit for the movement of about 1/3 of a gallon of water daily into a cold attic. Today’s upscale tract homes may contain anywhere from 20 to 40 or more recessed can lights. Yikes!

Suffice it to say that the air leakage associated with these fixtures is a major problem, and you are certainly justified in pursuing a solution.

Why you should avoid recessed lights to begin with

One Energy Auditor states it this way: "I hate to overstate how problematic recessed lights can be, but… they sure are a pain in the 'energy-auditor' butt. There are worse problems (wet basements), more expensive ones (insulating a complicated roof line), and more frustrating ones (the cross-purposes of energy evaluations and homeowner desires). But few elements of the house combine all three in as tidy a package as recessed light cans."

An Indicator On Your Snowy Roof

The patterns that develop as snow melts on the roof are another clue. When you see signs of snow melt, you should ask this question: Where is that heat coming from? Snow melt patterns can reveal a great deal recessed lights. They reveal where heat is escaping from your home. They point to heat-loss clues. 

The Building Science Experts will tell you, not only do recessed can lights leak air, but warm light bulbs also make the situation worse, turning the holes into 'small chimneys'. The heat source accelerates the stack effect, speeding up the flow of air.

The Solutions

The way to fix this situation may be a little more challenging and assuming you have access to the recessed cans in the attic. Recessed light fixtures should be replaced with sealed fixtures whenever possible. Otherwise, only IC (“insulation contact”) rated fixtures should be sealed. The best way to seal these is by building sealed boxes from fire-rated materials such as sheetrock or duct board and covering the fixtures in the attic floor. 

Or, you make the installation of an airtight retrofit can assembly a part of your LED retrofit.

The LED retrofits would solve 99% of any air leaks... and the insulation would be to limit heat transfer where I can. Insulating the fixtures may help with heat loss, but using the wrong type of insulation could cause problems in the event of a fire.

Follow this link for more details and answers to your questions

Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Air Leakage, Attic, Lighting

Energy Efficiency Tips For Battle Creek Homeowners: Attic Ventilation.

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Apr, 16, 2014 @ 17:04 PM

Energy Efficiency Tips: The next logical discussion after talking about slowing the 'Stack Effect' is attic ventilation.

We talked about to minimize the amount of heated air in Winter getting up in the attic throughSoffit Vent the conditioned, living space below. Ventilation works best when air can come in low in the attic, mostly at the eves, and then allowed out at or near the top of the attic as the heat and air in the attic rises.

Here are the key benefits to proper ventilation:

  • Icicle or Ice Dam Reduction – Insulation is the main part of reducing icicles by stopping heat from getting to the attic, but insulating the attic only reduces heat transfer. The other part is letting the warm air that still gets into the attic out quickly, hopefully before it melts the snow on the roof and causes ice dams. A well ventilated attic will be very close to outdoor temperature, reducing any ice formation.
  • Longer Roof Life – If you've ever been up in an attic in the middle of a hot summer day, it can get up  to 140-150 degrees or more. That can “bake” the roof which can lose as much as 10-20 years of life. You may have to 'pony up' for $6000-14,000 that much sooner. If your shingles “curl” at the bottom, there's a good chance it 'baking' your roof. Proper ventilation reduces attic temperatures significantly, which helps your roof last.
  • Reduces Moisture  – When warm air from the house gets into the attic, it can cause condensation, or at least drastically increase the humidity in the attic. If moist air gets into the attic, it will condensate if the temperature is below 37 degrees, possibly causing mold and likely causing some sort of slow water damage. Letting this moisture out of the attic quickly reduces those problems, and is the job of attic ventilation.
  • Utility Bill Reduction – A poorly ventilated attic can get 15 -35 degrees hotter than a well ventilated one. Temperatures can get as high as 145 - 150 degrees in poorly ventilated attics, but well ventilated ones generally top out at 110-120 degrees, even on very hot, sunny days. If the attic is 145 degrees, your air conditioner has to work very hard to maintain 72 degrees in the house compared to a 110 degree attic. A well vented attic translates to lower utility bills and a more comfortable house.

Here's a perspective from a TOP building science expert where he discusses the "Rules for Venting Roofs"

Building Science Fundamentals: Roof, Part 1: Ventilation By Dr. Joseph Lstiburek
Dr. Joseph Lstiburek talks about the not-so-controversial ways to maximize the efficiency and airflow of your roof and attic.
There’s been so much stuff said about roofs that you sometimes lose perspective. I’m going to start off by saying what might seem controversial but really shouldn’t be.
This is a vented attic, and it’s probably one of the most unappreciated building assemblies we have in the history of building science. It’s beautiful. It’s hard to screw this up.
For 20% of the effort, it gets us to 80% of optimal performance, and it works in hot climates, in mixed climates, the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Amazonian rain forest — it works absolutely everywhere. The value proposition of a vented attic, meaning the money that you invest in building one of them — it’s hard to argue with the benefits. But for all kinds of reason, we manage to screw it up.


The single most important thing you have to remember about a vented attic is that the ceiling plane — the gypsum board layer, the drywall layer — needs to be airtight!

1) The ceiling plane MUST be airtight.

Absolutely airtight. Above the airtight ceiling plane, the only thing that should be seen is insulation and air, nothing else. Not last year’s Christmas decorations, not your high school prom dress, not the tuxedo you were married in and can no longer fit in. Nothing but lots of insulation and air. Just an airtight ceiling and nothing else.

2) If you’re going to vent the roof, then VENT THE ROOF.

If you’re actually going to vent the roof, let’s be serious about venting the roof. Wash the underside of the roof deck with air. That means the entire perimeter of the roof needs to have air inlets, meaning continuous soffit ventilation. It’s dumb to have baffles every third or fourth bay, the entire underside of the roof deck should be washed. Where the air leaves isn’t as important — whether it’s a ridge vent, or mushroom caps, or gables. What’s important is that you have continuous air entry at the perimeter of the roof down low.

3) Put more vents down low than up high.

This is where the code tends to have it wrong. You want more entry points at the perimeter than exit points at the top.
People say you want to balance the lower down ventilation with the upper ventilation, and a lot of people interpret the codes to say that if you get it unbalanced you want more ventilation up high. That is absolutely wrong; you don’t want more places for the air to get out than to get in. The reason is, if you construct a house with a leaky attic ceiling and you have lots of ridge vents or you have lots of vents up high, the makeup air is going to be pulled from the house rather than being pulled from the outside. That scenario is a disaster.
Attics should be ventilated with air from the outside, not the inside. That’s why I hate these whirligig turbine vents — because they depressurize the attic, and if your attic ceiling isn’t perfectly airtight, you suck air conditioned air or heated air out of the house.
It’s even crazier when the powered attic fans can actually suck on the roof and they’re controlled by a thermostat. How stupid is that? Of course the attic is going to be hot. You turn them on and they suck all the air conditioned air out.
What you really want to do is make that ceiling plane airtight, make it airtight, declare victory and be done. Don’t mess around with permeability’s and calculations and whatever.

Want some great illustrations, check this out.

Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Air Sealing, Air Leaks, Attic, Ice Dams

Energy Efficiency Tips: Slowing the 'Stack Effect' In Your Attic!

Posted by John Sims on Sat, Apr, 12, 2014 @ 10:04 AM

Energy Efficiency Tips: Slowing the 'Stack Effect' For Energy Savings And Better Comfort!(especially for next winter)

In our previous blog articles, we talked about heat loss, what that looks like and how the Chimney Holestack effect is a primary cause for heat loss,higher energy bills and reduced comfort. Now is a great time of year to fix some of these problems that may be going up in your attic. (even if your home is newer)

Heat Rising + 'Stack Effect' leads to all sorts of problems when it melts snow on your roof. This leads to all sorts of problems in the middle of winter when it's difficult to do anything about it.

Before you buy rolls of insulation or blow more insulation in your attic inspect. Now is a great time to check these areas in your attic. They are typically openings or holes in the ceiling above your top floor.

You need to block, plug, seal, or foam the big holes:

  • Chimney chase(as you can see in the pictureabove)
  • Plumbing vents
  • An unsealed chase. A chase is a cavity through the house that’s meant for ducts, exhaust flues for furnaces & water heaters, and plumbing pipes. Sometimes they go all the way from the basement or crawl space to the attic and are open on both ends
  • Wiring penetrations, 
  • Pull-down attic stairs.
  • Whole-House Fans in the hallway
  • Recessed Can Lights - According to tests conducted in 1992 by the Mechanical Engineering Department at Penn State University in conjunction with Juno Lighting Corporation, the air leakage path associated with a single recessed can light fixture may account for $5–$30 worth of energy loss per year. The same study went on to conclude that a single unsealed can light may serve as a conduit for the movement of about 1/3 of a gallon of water daily into a cold attic. Today’s upscale tract homes may contain anywhere from 20 to 40 or more recessed can lights


You see, rolling out batts of fiberglass won't do anything for stopping the stack effect. Don't insulate your attic until you’ve sealed the air leaks. Most attics have a lot of holes where heat in winter can be lost to the attic. It’s a bad idea and a wasted opportunity if you just call the insulation contractor out to put more insulation in your attic because the air leaks are probably at least as important to your comfort and energy bills as inadequate insulation.

Certainly, upgrading to a much more energy efficient furnace or air conditioner lowers the cost of conditioning the air in your home. The key then is to keep the hot air in Summer and the cold air in Winter from affecting the air you just paid to condition.

Before you do, you may want to make sure your current system is performing right and it lasts longer. Now is the time to schedule an A/C Tune Up.

Air Conditioning Repair

Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Air Sealing, Attic, Comfort, Heating Costs

Energy Efficiency Solutions: Fix The Biggest Holes!

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Mar, 12, 2014 @ 16:03 PM

Energy Efficiency Solutions Starts At The Top -- the Attic.

Staying consisten with the mission statment at Sims Heating & Cooling, homeowners need to understand more principles about energy efficiency; especially, with the winter we are experiencing. Maybe your thinking about adding more insulation to your attic. Before you do, make sure you understand this information.

Let's begin with this statement: blowing more insulation or rolling out more fiberglass batts in your attic won't fix your air-leakage problems. Air can pass through them.
The goal is to dramatically slow the loss of heated air during the heating season, and reduce drafts throughout your house. Heated air tends to rise and leak out in an unfinished attic, which draws in outdoor(cold) air is drawn into the lower levels of the house. In technical terms it's called the “stack effect”; which is a principal cause of air leakage.
Air Leakage The Attic Level
The Attic Floor: The best time to seal an attic is prior to installation of the insulation, but for purposes of retrofit air sealing, the following locations should be addressed. Large openings (flue, duct, and plumbing chases). These should be sealed with rigid material (sheetrock, plywood, foam board, etc.) caulked or foamed at the edges. Note: Always maintain required clearances between flues/chimneys and combustible materials. For sealing around flues, use sheet metal or foil-faced fiberglass ductboard and high-temperature caulk.

Plumbing chase: Vent stacks are those pipes that go through the attic floor right up to the roof. Seal around vent stacks at the level of the attic floor with expanding foam or caulk. Caulk hose bibs where they pass through the band joist or exterior wall.
Plumbing vents passing through top plates into the attic should be sealed with caulk or one-part foam. Larger chases and plumbing walls lacking top plates should be sealed with foam board and one-part foam.

Attic hatch: Doors to walk-up attics and kneewall cavities can be weatherstripped. Small lift-up ceiling hatches (“scuttle holes”) are often relatively airtight, provided that the scuttle board makes good contact with the trim boards holding it in place. A thick layer of foam board insulates and gives weight to the scuttle, and prevents rattling in windy conditions. Hook and eye securing mechanisms can have a significant impact to minimize air leakage. Pull-down attic stairs are usually quite leaky. The plywood “door” itself is often warped, and the springs do not provide tight closure. The best approach is to build or purchase a lightweight removable insulated cover (typically made of foam board) that fits over the stairs in the attic. To work well, this should make good contact with the attic floor; the gap between the ceiling sheetrock and the plywood floor should be blocked with wood or other material.

Do you have a whole house fan? They are typically located in the main hallway in the upper level. The louvered covers of whole-house fans are usually very leaky. These are typically sealed from the attic by building a plywood or foam board box around the fan assembly. The box must be tightly sealed at the attic floor; Remember: the fan cover must be removed each summer and put back in place each winter.

Do you have recessed lights? Here's the problem they can present. When we talk about having a window open in your house all year around….most homes today are like this. Richard Rue, who has engineered over 40,000 Ultra Energy-Efficient homes, says, "recessed lights that penetrate into the attic space can be the “kiss of death,” unless you’ve insulated the attic with sprayed foam. One of these seemingly innocuous little lights represents 1 square foot of uninsulated attic space, and 20 of them is equivalent to having a door open in the attic at all times".
The way to fix this situation may be a little more challenging. Recessed light fixtures should be replaced with sealed fixtures whenever possible. Otherwise, only IC (“insulation contact”) rated fixtures should be sealed. The best way to seal these is by building sealed boxes from fire-rated materials such as sheetrock or ductboard and covering the fixtures in the attic floor. Recessed can lighting – each one leaks 3-10 cfm into the attic. If you have 20 that leak 10cfm, that is equal to ½ ton of air. A home of 2500 sq. ft has about 3-5 tons. Which is about 12% of your HVAC System. Caulk inside the can to seal and use low heat bulbs. Most are not IC rated –
Chimney Chase
Chimney Chase Flue and chimney chases should be sealed at the attic plane(floor)
with rigid, non-combustible material such as sheet metal or foil-faced fiberglass ductboard. Use high-temperature caulk to seal the ductboard or metal to the flue pipe or chimney. If insulating the attic with cellulose, wrap the flue pipe in unfaced fiberglass batting, secured with wires, to prevent cellulose from coming in contact with the chimney.

Hope this helps.

 

Got A Questions, Don't Hesitate To Ask!

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Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Air Sealing, Air Leaks, Attic

Indoor Air Quality Problems: Dust Troubles Part 2.

Posted by John Sims on Fri, Sep, 20, 2013 @ 15:09 PM

Your Home May Be 'Sucking' It All In.

If there are holes, the next question is, "What is the force that would cause the house to suck in the dust?" In your house, the most likely force would be negative pressures caused bySolving Dust Problems leaks or imbalances in the forced air system.
If, for instance, the supply ducts in the basement are very leaky, then the system is blowing less air into the living area of your home than is coming back through the return ducts of your HVAC system. This will cause the house to have a negative pressure relative to the outside (and the attic). It's from your physics class if you took the course. In other words, it will cause the house to suck air out of the attic, if there are holes.

In some houses, this same effect is created by closing bedroom doors. Your HVAC system is either blowing warm or cool air into the bedrooms, but the air can't get back out to the return duct located in your hallway areas. The bedrooms are being blown up like a balloon,so to speak, except the walls don't expand and rest of the house is under a negative pressure, with the return trying to suck in air from wherever it can get it. In many cases, air gets sucked in from your attic, then that's where it will come from, complete with dust, insulation fibers, and whatever else might be up there between the roof and the attic.

Of course, it's also quite possible that these same forces are sucking air into the house from the basement or from outside, rather than from the attic. The only way to know for sure is to have the house tested with a blower door, a device designed to locate the holes in the house and measure their size.

Aside from the dust, the air is probably also hot and wet in the summer, cold and dry in the winter, and contaminated with a variety of pollutants all year round. Identifying the problems and fixing them will not only improve your dust situation, but will also reduce your energy bills, increase your comfort, and enhance the health of you and your family.

At Sims Heating And Cooling Services is to go beyond just repair and installing a new furnace or AC System.

Feel Free To Fill Out Our Online Home Comfort Survey So We Can Help Homeowners Solve Problems In Their Homes!

Topics: IAQ, Indoor Air Problems, Air Leaks, Attic

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