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attic fan on roof

What’s the Best Temperature for Attic Fans?

At what temperature should I set my attic power vent fans to keep my attic cool? I live in a hot and humid climate, where temperatures are often in the 90s. The roof gets full exposure to the sun throughout the day.

Our Answer

Attic ventilators generally turn on between 90 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  That said, attic fans are not the best choice for cooling attics, especially if you have central air conditioning.  The reason is that attic fans depressurize attics and can rob air conditioned air from the main body of the house, greatly decreasing efficiency.  It essentially pulls that cooled air through cracks and crevices in the attic floor, and also through holes that allow for wires and pipes.
A much better cooling option is continuous ridge and soffit venting.  Basically, you cut a slot in the top ridge of the roof and put a vent right over it.  As the wind blows over the roof, it depressurizes the ridge and sucks the moist warm air from the attic.  Everything you want to vent from the attic gets sucked out of that ridge through the depressurization that happens through the normal wind cycle.

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solar panel cost, solar energy

Does Adding Solar Increase Home Value?

I'm seeing a lot of advertisements for solar energy claiming that it adds value to your home.  Is this true?

Our Answer

Mark, that is a really good question. I love the idea of using the sun to help power my home but I'm frustrated that it is so very hard to do this given the barrage of misleading information being put out by those selling solar energy, and your question is only one of the very many claims being made.

In short, the answer is "maybe."  Certainly some buyers will be interested to know that the home generates some/all of its own electricity.  But others, frankly, won't care and see all those panels as another thing they have to maintain.  Worse yet, if the solar panels have been "leased" instead of purchased, buyers may not be willing to take on the added lease payment on top of what they pay you for your home, or may want to negotiate a reimbursement for the total amount left on the lease before they buy.

Aside from the value question, I'm finding solar energy companies pitch a wide variety of proposal and payment schemes from purchase to lease to somewhere in between, softener with overly enthusiastic estimates of how much energy you'll generate.  Plus, its not exactly clear what rebates are available, tax credits, and SREC, or solar energy renewal credits - where you earn credits based on how much energy you generate and then sell those credits which are market priced and hard ot predict.

Lastly, it's also important to consider how quickly technology is changing in the solar industry before making a big investment.  For example, ss battery technology improves and prices go down, the shift will be not so much on how much you collect but how much power you can store to use when you need it. This would enable you to have a solar array sized perfectly for year round collection, and the storage capacity to save energy in the summer to use in the winter.

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insulate finished attic

How to Insulate Finished Attic

I have a large attic with a ridge vent, but no soffit vents or other vents for air intake. As such, the attic gets very moist and cold/hot. I would like to finish the attic for additional living space. As such, would blow-in insulation be suitable to insulate and seal the attic prior to finishing? As I live in the Northeast, would I need to extend the rafters to get adequate insulation? Also, would I remove the ridge vent and leave in the floor insulation?

Our Answer

Insulating in small spaces is often tough. When your rafter is only 8" deep, you can use only 6" of fiberglass insulation as the rest needs to be saved to allow for ventilation, which is hardly enough. Additionally, it is very difficult to get insulation into such a tight space.

However, spray foam insulation can fill in the entire cavity. It has a higher R-value and doesn't need to be ventilated, and in my view, the best way to insulate a finished attic or cathedral ceiling. The Money Pit Guide to Insulation might be a useful resource. Good luck with the project.