Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our office is open 8:30AM-5PM M-F

703-324-7136
TTY 711

12000 Government Center Pkwy, Suite 533
Fairfax, VA 22035

Kambiz Agazi,
Director

From Top to Bottom: Summertime Attic and Basement Projects

Summer is finally here. As the heat index rises and the humidity climbs, we will all be looking for ways to balance our time in the sun with some sweet relief indoors. In addition to yard work, gardening and other outdoor improvement projects, summer is a good time to deal with basement and attic upgrades. Though these may be spaces you use only for storage, they are very important when it comes to the overall energy efficiency of your home, as well as environmental health. Here are a few ideas and resources:

FOR YOUR ATTIC

One of the most common culprits when it comes to heat transfer from your attic to your lower floors and vice versa is the stair hatch. You can buy or build an insulated attic stair cover box to help reduce the flow of air, lowering your energy costs and increasing the comfort of everyone in your household. More information on attic stair covers is available here.

You might also consider adding radiant barriers to your attic to help reduce heat gain from the sun. Radiant barriers are made of reflective material, like aluminum foil, that serves to redirect heat from the sun away from the interior of your attic. These barriers are best installed by a professional, but if you are an experienced do-it-yourselfer, you may be able to do this on your own. More information on attic radiant barriers is available here.

FOR YOUR BASEMENT

If you have an English basement or a walk-out basement, installing door sweeps and weather stripping around windows and doors is a great way to reduce your energy use. Just as you would do for any other window or door in your home, first identify where the air leaks are and then purchase the best type of stripping for your situation. More information on how to find air leaks, select weatherstripping and install it is available here.

All basement types are susceptible to increased humidity, especially in our area. Monitoring and addressing humidity is very important for indoor air quality and general environmental health. Mold, mildew and dust mites thrive in moist environments and can cause problems for both your property and your respiratory health. An overall rule of thumb is that drier is better in a basement. Investing in a humidity meter and/or a dehumidifier is a good move.

FOR BOTH YOUR ATTIC AND YOUR BASEMENT

Though they are far apart, many attics and basements suffer from similar problems with cracks and insulation. Addressing cracks in your walls or foundation as well as gaps around pipes and other fixtures can go a long way toward improving the energy efficiency of your home. In the attic, air sealing can take care of most major leaks. This can be an involved process and may be best accomplished with the support of a professional contractor. If you choose to hire a contractor to support your attic or basement work this summer, please remember to ask your contractor to wear a mask in your home and maintain at least six feet of distance from your contractor at all times. More information on attic air sealing is available here.

In your basement, using caulk or spray foam to fill in any foundation cracks or openings around joists can take care of air transfer between indoors and outdoors and help save energy in both the summer and the winter months. More information on sealing cracks in your basement is available here.

Together, these improvements to the attic and the basement can help prevent a phenomenon known as the chimney effect. In the winter, as your heating system works to keep you warm and comfortable, hot air can rise to your attic and escape through holes and cracks. Cold air from outside is then pulled into the basement via leaks to take the place of the air that has escaped. This keeps your HVAC system cranking and inflates your energy bills.

You may also want to improve the insulation more generally in both your attic and your basement. Replacing or installing insulation can be a big job, so if you plan to do it yourself, be sure to read up on health and safety considerations and give yourself plenty of time to complete the project. Alternatively, you can hire a professional to install new insulation for you. More information on insulation projects is available here.

From top to bottom, it’s important to pay attention to all areas of your home and how they can contribute to energy efficiency and savings. A few improvement projects in your attic or your basement can have a lasting effect on your comfort and your energy bills. For more home energy savings tips and tricks, check out Energy Action Fairfax.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant