Moderating attic temperature

sapphire6917November 11, 2012


I am having my attic turned into a closet and I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas for controlling the temperature up there. I live in upstate New York and the attic is ice cold in the winter and blistering hot in the summer. The contractor has installed the insulation already but I know that won't be enough.

Any ideas?

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More insulation? Not really any other answer apart from adding additional heating and cooling. If there's a window, a window air conditioner/heat pump?

Without seeing it, or even knowing how it's configured, it's hard to give a better answer.

Is it walled right to the rafters, or is there still some attic space?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 2:12AM
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foam insulate the roofline.
create an unvented semi conditioned attic.
adding insulation to attic floor doesn't
address ambient gain.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 12:11PM
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Thanks for the replies!

I thought I had a picture of the attic in its current state with the insulation in but I just have these with the framing up. The drywall hasn't gone in yet, nor has the flooring. The side with the window showing will be drywalled and the area with the framing will also be drywalled but there will be open storage in the area past the framing.

I don't know if it's possible to have something that can be controlled by thermostat installed or maybe something electrical with a remote or a timer? It's a very old house so having the closet in the attic was pretty much the only solution without doing some major remodeling. I was just hoping there was something my contractor could install that would keep me from freezing or frying.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 5:45PM
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How is the house currently heated and cooled?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 7:59PM
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The home is heated with a furnace and cooled with ceiling fans.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 8:18PM
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I assume by a furace you have a forced hot air system. Have you investigated if you can extend the duct work into the attic space? It will help in winter.

If you want cooling then you should look into a mini split system. This is the best option if you want heating and cooling.

How much insulation is the contractor planning on putting in the walls and ceiling? It looks the studs are not at 16 inches on center. This is not following code. Are the hanging wires alive? If yes, then you need to address them before you close up the walls.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 9:31PM
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As per the preceding comment, the "framing" does look like toothpicks. The appearance doesn't instill much confidence that it was done correctly. Was a structural engineer involved?

Are you doing anything with the antique (and potentially dangerous) wiring?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 10:40PM
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Thanks everyone!

The knob and tube wiring is inactive. The previous owner had all new wiring put in.

I am a pretty clueless when it comes to contracting terms so does "16 inches on center" mean they should be 16 inches apart? I did have an engineer do a feasibility study but he is not overseeing the project. The work is being done by a licensed contractor that I presumed would work according to code. I will have it looked at before the drywall goes up.

I have not looked into running the heat into the attic because that doesn't address the cooling aspect so can you tell me more about the split system?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 4:11AM
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If you insulate well, the area should be cool enough. Obviously ceiling fans don't actually cool your house so the closet should only be a few degrees warmer than downstairs.

How conditioned do you need this closet to be? A minisplit is basically a really really fancy window unit. It is very efficient and quiet and probably more expensive than you want to spend. I'd imagine the floor on installed cost would be $3000. I can't even imagine the lack of dealers in your area since this is usually something done in more moderate climates. Honestly it is probably more like $5000.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 5:22AM
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"so does "16 inches on center" mean they should be 16 inches apart"

The centers of each stud (2 x 4) are at a minimum distance of 16 inches. Batt insulation comes in rolls which is sized to fit between studs which are 16 inches on center.

There does seem to be much room to install insulation above and there will be no air space. The closet is going to be very hot in the summer.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 7:47AM
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Thanks again!

@david - the attic last summer was MUCH warmer than the downstairs! It was actually like a sauna. I have a high tolerance for heat and it was a bit much even for me. But if the only other option is $3K-$5K, looks like I'll be sweating come summer time!

@mike - I can't believe I forgot to bring the updated pictures again but the insulation is installed and it looks to fit between the studs. I will have to make sure I upload those pictures tonight!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 8:52AM
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Well last summer, it wasn't insulated right? Attic temps without insulation are probably 110-120 in your climate. They get to 140 further south. But insulation should moderate that significantly.

A window unit is always a possibility but they aren't particularly efficient. You can moderate the attic temps a lot with some source of forced ventilation ie - a fan.

They do sell insulation made for things other than 16 OC. Obviously some houses are built with other standards.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 4:42PM
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since the k&t wiring is inactive...I stand
by my foam the roofline statement.
while this will not be conditioned attic,
it will be semiconditioned. storage will
not be a problem as temps will be moderate.

foam would go beyond "toothpicks" (LOL)
to eaves of this area.

roofs gain the most heat/cold. batts @roofline
are against code in my area. for the small area
to be insulated..invest in foam insulation.
just batting the roof & kneewalls will not
keep this area temperate.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 7:12PM
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@david - You are correct, the insulation was not installed last summer! I am glad to hear that it won't be quite so hot up there but, I have to admit, I am much more concerned about freezing to death. I can take quite a bit of heat but I'm a sucker in the cold! Someone mentioned a "cheater heater" as an option but when I tried to Google it, I got nothing. Is that anything you've heard of?

@energy - I had foam priced out when I had to insulate the walls of the house and it was cost prohibitive for me. The home was built in 1881 and still has a lot of its original windows so I've grown accustomed to not being exactly toasty in the winter. As far as the attic goes, the batts are already in so I will have to deal with whatever the temps end up being.

@mike - Here are the pictures that I kept forgetting to post!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 7:44PM
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If you have no windows up there - I can't tell about that one, and the floor of the attic has little insulation (which it probably doesn't), then you will probably be toasty up there.

I think a cheater heater is just a small plug in electric heater.

Insulation and air sealing does a lot. The heat gain from your house at the floor of the attic will probably balance the heat loss at the attic rafters which means your temp up there will probably be close to the house temp. Now if you added insulation at some point to the floor of the attic (or the ceiling of the floor below), then it will get chilly.

But come on - this is going to be a pretty comfortable spot compared to the rest of your house....

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 6:17AM
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Let's try these photos again. Don't know what happened there.

David, I did have insulation put in under the floor a couple of years ago while insulating the whole house and there are three windows up there. One will be part of the finished space and the other two are back in the storage area. I don't have a problem using a plug in heater! If I could hook up a timer to it, that would be ideal!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 9:19AM
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