How Energy Is Wasted?
Even if it is out of view or out of reach your attic door will be silently letting out the warmth from heaters in winters and cold air from the air-conditioning in summers. So, it makes sense to have proper attic door insulation in order to minimize the energy loss both during summers and winters. By insulating and air sealing the entrance to the unconditioned attic you will be saving on your energy bills. Did you know that even a small quarter inch gap is enough to leak out all the heat being supplied by a heating duct to a room? It would be a waste to lose so much energy every day. There are several different options to cover or insulate the attic access point without compromising on a reasonably hassle-free access to the attics.
Most people do not consider attic door insulation important as they consider it too insignificant to bother with. But, as we saw even small gaps are major source of heat and cold loss from rooms. It is important to make a proper effort to seal the attic access point which could be an attic hatch, knee wall door or pull down stairs.
Location Of Attic Access Points
After finding out the R-value recommended for your local area research the options for attic door insulation. If its a new home you are constructing then try to locate the attic access at some part of the home which itself will not be where the general heating and air-conditioning is not used like for instance the garage or a covered patio. This way you can altogether not bother with insulating attic doors.
Hatch Or Scuttle Door Insulation
The hatch or scuttle whole is just a removable section of the ceiling located in some general area of the home. To seal this area weather-stripping is placed on the inside of the trim or the base. An air seal gasket around the hatch area effectively seals of any air-leak. Around the hatch usually barriers to prevent the loose-fill attic insulation from covering the opening are installed. It can also be installed on the hatch itself. By adding a bolt you also get a tighter seal of the access point. All these measures help make the scuttle hole leak less of energy from the home than if you left it without an air seal.
Once the hatch is air sealed, it is time to add attic door insulation to the top side of the hatch. Usually some sort of rigid insulation is used. Leave a small clearance of 1/4th of an inch all around to help in the opening of the hatch door. It is recommended to apply around 3-4 inches deep insulation on the attic door with strong adhesives used in construction and screws to keep the whole thing in place. To make it extra secure for insulation stick some batt insulation using the Kraft-paper side to the top of rigid insulation. If you have reached the recommended R-value for your door with these measures then that should be fine.
Pull Down Stairs Insulation
Some homes have pull down stairs to access the attics. Attic door insulation is a must as these are even bigger energy sinks than hatch doors. They have big gaps all around with a rough opening that allows a lot of energy from the home to escape through the gaps into the attics. Use caulk to seal the gaps if it is small say less than half an inch. For bigger gaps foam or backing material and caulk are generally recommended. Make sure to use non-expanding foam as the usual foam tends to expand and fill the whole area causing the frame to bend and make opening and closing the stairs difficult or impossible. As for the hatch the frame around the stair hole should be air sealed using a rubber gasket. Tight fitting latch bolts will make the air seal tighter.
Once, it is done a simple a light-weight box made from insulating materials like rigid foam that can be easily moved around can be placed over the access hole from the attic side. When entering the attic this moveable box is pushed out of the way and when coming back down into the home the box is pulled back into place. The box itself can be covered by insulation materials to the recommended r-value. Ensure that the box remains light-weight or moving it would be difficult.
Knee Wall Door Insulation
Another type of access found in attics is the knee wall door. These are some of the worst offenders when it comes to leaking energy. As for the other types of attic access points insulation is a must. Attic door insulation for knee-walls is similar with a proper air-seal for the door frames, latch bolts and recommended r-values of insulation covering the door on the attic side.
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