Reducing the Attic Heat

skylight2

As I mentioned in this previous article, our utility bills continued falling every year that we’ve lived in our current home and have now reached the same level that we were paying at our previous home that was full 1,200 square feet smaller.  This is despite the fact that there are 4 of us living in this house while only 2 of us lived in the smaller house.  Although that might not be a big factor since the additional occupants are a baby and a cat 🙂  Anyway, I concluded that the main reason for this unexpected trend is our continued tweaking and optimizing as we learn and adjust to the house.

I am going to start with the latest small tweak just to show that even after more than 5 years living here we are still finding things to improve.  The spring here was unexpectedly mild this year and we got pretty spoiled with several months of beautiful weather.  Usually we go from 40’s and 50’s and right into 90’s.  This time we actually had a nice long spring with plenty of 70 degree days and low humidity.  All good things come to an end and a few weeks ago we returned to our normal 90+ humid weather.

In our home we have a dual zone HVAC which does a pretty good job during really hot weather.  There are 3 floors in the house and an attic that was converted to a conditioned bedroom with a bathroom.  We use that area as our exercise room with an elliptical machine and some free weights.  Problem is that this room gets significantly hotter than any of the rooms below.  Obviously the HVAC was not designed to cool this additional space which was insulated and sheetrocked after the house was built.  Previous owners ran the additional duct work and vents into the attic and connected it to the existing system.  There is one window in the room as well as two skylights in the ceiling.  I always close the blinds on the window but have long suspected that the sun shining through the skylights did not help the room to stay cool.

Here is how the skylights look:

skylight1

There is a mesh bug screen that goes on the inside of the window but there is nothing to stop the baking sun from early in the morning to the late afternoon.  I always meant to do something about it but was not sure what to do… I figured we’d need to get some sort of custom blinds or something like that.  But I also did not want to cover the skylights up in anything permanent because during the winter it was nice to have the solar gain to help heat the room.  A quick Google search shows a ton of skylight blinds for sale, but who wants to spend $200+ on this experiment!

blinds

Being insourcelife and all requires creative solutions and I think this one qualifies.  Lets see if we can DIY some skylight blinds!

  • Tools: Scissors
  • Supplies: Aluminum foil, clear tape, existing window screens

I took each screen out of the skylight, cut pieces of aluminum foil and taped them to the screens.  Now put the screens back and viola we have us some kick-ass skylight blinds!  The best part, besides being free, is that these DIY blinds require no drilling and can be easily removed in the fall when the attic can benefit from some solar gain heating.

Here are the screens with the aluminum foil installed…

skylight3skylight4

… and here it is installed:

skylight5

After doing this small tweak I noticed that the temperature in the attic dropped the next day and it continued to be cooler up there since then.  It is not a night-and-day difference but certainly enough to notice and to feel more comfortable.  I plan on keeping the screens in during the summer and then taking them out for the winter.  Hopefully this will also result in yet another small decrease in our electric bill!