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Air conditioned attic or not?


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By Richard in Malabar, FL on 6/12/2006


I am in the planning stage in Malabar, Florida, working with a plan designer.

Recently I heard of the Icynene product, which is blown onto the underside of the roof sheathing, thereby lowering the heat of the attic.  The concept of moving the insulation closer to the source of intrusion makes sense to me, as opposed to insulating the ceiling in the attic.

I am building a single-story home, of block construction and trusses.

Some local sources do not like the Icynene product because they claim that it causes premature deterioration of the roofing, owing to the lack of uninsulated space in the attic which would otherwise dissipate heat absorbed by the roof.

It is my intention to use roofing with the highest possible albedo (reflectivity).

The metal roof solution is very costly, compared to dimensional shingle that are very light in color.

I have looked on the web for case studies in a hot climate to verify, one way or the other, that Icynene does or does not degrade shingle prematurely, and that the metal roof is the only solution to this (other than replacing a shingle roof much more often).

I would really appreciate hearing from someone who can shed light on this dilemma.

Thanks in advance.

Richard


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By Randy in PB, FL on 8/10/2006


Richard:

I'm just up the road from you in NE Palm Bay. I'm building 2,800 sf block and wood truss home. I too am very interested in this topic but can't quite get a handle on the "right" thing to do. I'd like to exchange notes with you. I called the salesman at Gale insulation. He gave me a rough estimate to do 1,800 sf of roof at around $4,500. But when I quizzed him on R-values, closed vs. open cell, and what soffits I should use... He went blank and could not help me.

My plans just went to the structural engineer this week for stamps. I should be ready to go to permitting within a week according to my engineer. I'd be glad to provide info on my subs.

Randy


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/22/2006


Richard,

Lets go back to science 101. If the heat generated by the suns radiation acting on the roof tile is not being dissipated into the attic space because the underside of the roof deck is now very well insulated, it can only be reflected back out through the roof tile. That means that the roof tile will get hotter and therefore the asphalt component of the tile will tend to dry quicker than a well ventilated attic.

In other words, you will pay less for your initial roof, but will have to replace it more often. And one more caveat, make sure your roofing contractor lays down that roof with no leaks in it. Because a leak is extremely difficult if not impossible to locate when you have a sealed attic. I personally would not consider anything less than a good quality metal roof over a premium membrane put down by a professional metal roofer.

Here is a study about unventilated attics in hot-humid climates: nrel.gov/docs


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By Randy in PB, FL on 8/22/2006


Richard:

Out of fairness here's a link to "The Top 10 dumb things to do in the south." Ironically, it's from the BSC web site which is referenced in the study as having done " the most extensive research in this area"

Furthermore, while I did not get into the nitty gritty of the study, the conclusion says you can save energy using an unvented attic. So bottom line is... here's a little bit of data for future readers... now let them decide.

Me? I'm just about 100% that I'll spray my roof sheathing and walls with polyurethane foam (my masonry and above crawlspaces too). As you say, I plan to use a good sealer and metal roofing

For more reading check this web site out: alpinefoam.net

Randy


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By Randy in PB, FL on 8/22/2006


The NREL study is for hot-dry climates like Tuscon and Vegas. Doesn't really apply to southern home building

Randy


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/22/2006


Randy,

As far as I know, there are no arguments as to whether it is a good idea to seal an attic or not. All the studies point to the fact that sealing your attic will save you money on cooling and heating costs.  As Jason aptly pointed out on another thread, here in the south, you will do well to focus in on the insulation in your attic, much more so than your wall insulation. 

The only argument that I have seen is the open cell vs. closed cell foam insulation. There is a lot of information (do your own due diligence) favoring closed cell foam insulation for hot climates, humid or dry. There is little scientific information on the subject of open cell insulation (Icynene). Here is one web site: buildingscience.com

What I have noticed is that companies that sell closed cell foam argue in favor of their product and vice versa.  This is the web site of the only company that I know of that offers both open cell and closed cell insulation: insulstar.com And since they sell both, I would imagine that they have no bias one way or the other.


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