According to the Energy Information Administration, almost one-third of households in the U.S. struggle to pay their energy bills. A common issue that contributes to heat loss and high energy bills is the stack effect, which results in the air flowing from the lower level of your house to the top and vice versa.
Most houses experience the stack effect because of pressure differences and faults in the structural envelope of the building. If not tackled, it can have a severe impact on your comfort as well as your financial well-being. In this article, we explore the cost efficiency of insulating floors and ceilings versus starting with insulating the walls. But first, let’s take a look at what exactly the stack effect is and what it means for homeowners.
What’s the Stack Effect?
The stack effect is the passage of air that adversely affects your energy expenses and the comfort level of your house. Air flows into your house through the bottom of your building, such as the basement or crawl space, traveling up through your ceilings, flooring, and walls, and exiting through your attic. This means hot air filtering into your home in the summer and cold air getting inside in the winter, which burdens your heating and cooling system. As you can’t control the temperature in your home, it results in excessive energy bills and also brings in allergens and external pollutants.
How to Tackle the Stack Effect
There are three factors that determine the magnitude of the stack effect:
• The overall height of your total living area
• The temperature difference between your indoors and outdoors
• The number of air leaks in the home
While the first two factors are often beyond your control, it’s essential to focus on the third factor: air leakage. Professionally air sealing your home effectively counters the stack effect by considerably decreasing air infiltration or loss.
It is particularly important to seal air leaks in the attic, as this is where most warm air escapes during cold months. During the summer, the stack effect is reversed in an air-conditioned house because of the external warm air. So cooler air from inside your home tends to fall and exit at the bottom of your home, allowing warmer air to enter at the top. Air sealing your attic along with an insulation upgrade is estimated to reduce heating and cooling expenses by almost 50 percent, according to the Department of Energy.
Floors and Ceilings vs Walls: What Should You Insulate First?
If you are looking to combat the stack effect but have a limited budget, consider insulating your floors and ceilings first. That’s because the air flows mainly through your floors and ceilings. In fact, heat loss/gain through the ceiling can account for as much as 25 to 35 percent of your home’s total heat loss/gain, whereas it’s roughly 10 to 20 percent each through the walls and flooring.
Negative and positive air pressures are greatest at the bottom and top of your building, whereas the middle part has somewhat neutral pressures. So, by insulating your floors and ceilings first, you can actually reduce the maximum air pressure at the top and bottom of your building, maintaining an even temperature throughout the home.
Uninsulated ceilings make it difficult to raise all the air within the home above a particular temperature. This causes your heating system to work harder and, as a result, your energy bills to spike. The hot air leaking into the attic loses its heat through the roof rather than circling in the room and keeping you warm. Therefore, homeowners need to insulate ceilings to create an air blockade between their living space and an unfinished attic or space underneath the roofing to prevent any harm to the roof deck.
Likewise, under-insulated suspended floors are vulnerable to cold drafts whereas solid floors that rest on the ground can face dampness problems. A typical uninsulated 8-inch-thick floor slab, for instance, has an R-value of 1.35, which means it allows a significant amount of heat to escape.
Insulate Your Home with Superior Insealators
Properly insulating your home helps keep your indoors warm and toasty during winter without burdening you with huge energy bills. It turns your home into an energy-efficient unit that maintains the interior air at your preferred temperature without putting a strain on your heating system.
Forming an air seal and upgrading your insulation are the simplest ways to tackle the stack effect. At Superior, our experienced residential insulation experts use spray foam insulation and professional air sealing to seal any air leaks in your floors, ceilings, and walls. We ensure that you have an effective air seal around your home, beginning at the foundation where the air enters, and ending at the top where it leaves. Get in touch to request a quote.