An attic bedroom can be a quaint living space, especially for those who like to get away from everyone. If you're fortunate to have attic space that can be turned into extra living space, you may be wondering the best way to keep it cool. We've done some research and found some options. Keep reading to find out more about cooling down attic space.
Attics are one of the hottest places in a house but often a source of extra space that can be renovated and utilized when you need a spare bedroom. While the extra space is a bonus, it remains a space that no one wants to use if the temperature is uncomfortable. Luckily, several options are available for cooling down an attic to make the temperature suitable for a full-time living space. Options include the following:
- Portable air conditioner
- Split ductless air conditioning unit
- Attic fan
- Ceiling fans
- Proper ventilation and insulation
- Reflective roofing and radiant barriers
To properly regulate your attic space temperature, you'll most likely need to combine more than one of the methods referenced to find the optimal solution. While some options only solve the immediate problem of cool air, others will increase the energy efficiency of your house, providing long-term cost savings.
Whether or not you use your attic space, you should be concerned with excessive heat in your attic. Extreme heat deteriorates roofing, causes moisture damage within the home, damages items stored in the attic, and overworks the A/C causing high electric bills.
How To Cool An Attic Bedroom
Portable Air Conditioner
If your attic space has a window, installing a window A/C unit is probably the easiest and most economical choice. They are readily available, relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and just as easy to remove.
Once you find a unit with adequate output for your square footage, pop into the window, secure it, and install the kit to seal any air leaks around the opening. You'll need to have an electrical outlet installed near the window if not already there. Then, in a short time, your space will be cool.
If there's no window, units can be installed by cutting a hole in the wall, but that's more invasive, leaving a permanent alternation to your house. If this is your situation, then you may want to consider a freestanding portable unit. These units don't require any alterations.
Portable units are generally considered a temporary solution or reserved for use in only occasionally used spaces. It might not be a viable solution for long-term everyday use. Other disadvantages are that they take up floor space and require a visible vent hose.
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Split Ductless Air Conditioning Unit
A split ductless air conditioning unit is like a central air unit but does not require ductwork. One part of the unit is installed inside the house, and the other part is outside. These units are energy efficient, have fewer air leaks, and don't have the security issues of a window unit. If you plan to use your attic space continually for many years, your best option might be to go ahead and invest in this type of unit.
Attics fans are designed to push out the hot air that accumulates under the roof through vents while pulling in cooler air from the outside. In the winter months, attic fans keep the warm air from the home and the outside cold air from meeting and forming unwanted moisture that can cause rot and mold.
An attic fan isn't a substitute for air conditioning. It will not provide cool air relief, but it will provide air circulation, keeping the attic temperature closer to the outside temperature. In turn, your A/C won't work so hard while cooling down your living space.
It's recommended that attic fans be installed by a professional with both electrical and roofing experience. If not done correctly, attic fans can be counterproductive. For best results, install at the highest point in the attic.
Attic fans are available in electric and solar. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but if energy and cost savings are important, you may want to consider installing a solar unit.
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Ceiling fans circulate air within a room, so cooler air is always moving. Depending on the climate you live in, a ceiling fan may not generate enough cool air to make an attic space comfortable, but don't underestimate its usefulness. While it might not be a stand-alone option, it can help your A/C and save on your electric bill.
Don't forget to reverse the direction on the fan in the cooler months to circulate the warm air so you can optimize your heat and continue the energy savings year-round.
Proper Ventilation and Insulation
While ventilation and insulation are not a complete solution, if not present, any A/C will not perform as expected. Heat needs to vent out in the warmer months and be retained in the cooler months. Proper ventilation and insulation are ways to make sure your optimal room temperatures stay regulated.
There are two sides to the ventilation process - exhaust and intake. Both are important and need to be balanced for ventilation to work properly.
Soffits are the most common type of intake vent. They can be continuous or individual, but both are installed under the roof's eaves and contain small holes that allow air into the attic. They are favored by builders for their ease, effectiveness, and cost.
Ridge Vents are the most common type of exhaust vent. They sit at the peak of a house and extend along the entire roofline. They provide the best vertical ventilation. They are often combined with soffits to create intake balance.
Insulation is important because it creates a protective barrier to guard against extreme temperatures. When installing insulation, moisture build-up is a concern, so vapor barriers, air space, and ventilation must be considered within your plan.
Insulation's efficiency is rated by an R-value, determined by the thickness, density, type of material, and where it will be used. R-30 is typical for a hot climate, R-38 for a moderate climate, and R-49 for cold climates. Common materials include fiberglass, cellulose, mineral wool, cotton, or foam.
Insulation comes in many forms, including loose-fill, blankets, boards, panels, spray, and injections.
Reflective Roofing and Radiant Barriers
One of the easiest ways to reduce heat is to stop it from coming entering a home. Reflective roofing deflects sun rays so that there is less heat to be absorbed. This is an option that you would need to discuss with a professional roofer.
Radiant barriers work much the same way. They use reflective materials to prevent the electromagnetic transfer of heat. The most commonly used material is aluminum foil. There are specific requirements for installation that must be followed for this method to be effective.
Can you run an attic fan with the A/C on?
It's counterproductive to run your attic fan with the A/C on. The attic fan might be more of a hindrance than a help to your A/C when doing so. This mistake could eliminate any energy or cost savings expected from the attic fan.
When using an attic fan, make sure that the house is sealed correctly. A solid seal with no leaks between the top floor of your home and the attic, including the access door, must be in place. Otherwise, the fan will pull the cool air from your main living space into the attic, overworking any A/C in use.
Is it OK to run an attic fan all night?
Since the best time to run an attic fan is when the outside temperature is cooler than the inside air, nighttime the natural choice. The goal is to cool the entire house, not just the air. It takes time to pull the heat from structural components of the house, so all night is probably needed.
How hot is too hot for an (enclosed) attic?
Attics accumulate heat, especially if they are not adequately ventilated. According to one expert, if the outside temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature in your attic may easily exceed 125 degrees Fahrenheit. It's not uncommon for attic spaces to reach temperatures between 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit in climates with extreme heat. When this occurs continually, the excessive heat causes damage to your home, wastes energy, and results in high bills.
It's essential to monitor the heat and humidity levels in your attic. The attic temperature shouldn't exceed more than 10-20 degrees above the outside temperature. The humidity level should remain between 15-50%. If you find your readings outside the recommended levels, you need to consider installing additional ventilation and insulation.
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Attic spaces are naturally hot, but with the proper ventilation and insulation and added air conditioning, the extra square footage can become a comfortable and charming living space.
For additional information, be sure to read, How To Improve Air Circulation In A Room Without Windows.
Also, make sure to check out, What Is The Best Insulation For An Attic?