An interest in Energy efficiency has again become a concern for American home owners. I say again because in 1973 an oil embargo by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) propelled the United States into an energy crisis.
One energy conserving measure then President Nixon asked of Americans was to lower their thermostats to 68 degrees. As a result of this emphasis on home energy conservation homeowners began probably for the first time to focus on making their homes more energy efficient.
One obvious area that became the focus of energy saving improvements was the attic. The majority of heat loss, as most everyone knows, is through the ceiling. In 1973 - 74 the amount of insulation was very minimal through out the entire house. The ceiling would often, as it is today, have the most insulation.
But the problem or more precisely perceived problem was the attic was cold. Why was it cold? Because of the vents that were installed in the ends of attic. So it was theorized that cold meant more heat loss and industrious home owners began to close off their attic vents in an attempt to save more energy.
As is often the case with homeowner improvements there is more motivation than knowledge. The vents must be open at all times in order to dispel heat in the summer and moisture in the winter. Closing the vents will not slow heat loss; more insulation in the ceiling will accomplish that goal.
So here we are in 2009 and I still find remnants of those old energy saving ideas from the 1970s. The top photo shows a nicely made cover that closes off one of the attic end vents. I find covers like this one a few times a year in homes that predate the oil embargo.
What was a little ironic is I found a meat thermometer in this attic on top of the air handling unit. The day was in the mid 70s and mostly cloudy. The temperature as you can see, and I felt, was over 100 degrees.
The plywood roof decking was beginning to delaminate in a few spots and the newer roofing nails were quite rusted. All this is a result of the vents being closed.
Attic ventilation is necessary for a home to function properly and not become sick. Closing off attic vents is a misguided attempt to improve efficiency. The energy saving effort in the attic should be direct at the ceiling insulation and sealing gaps not at the vents.
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