Technical Papers

Warning: Your Attic Is Killing Your A/C System!

Thursday, July 28th, 2016 by Comfort Jedi

sweaty manThe same way your car gets stifling hot on any summer day, your attic heats up too, only much, much worse. Your attic can hit temps in the 150-160-degree range. Wow, that’s HOT!

Every year we hear about some heat-related tragedy, where a pet, or worse, has passed away from being left in the care due to the overwhelming temperatures. Sadly, these situations are easily preventable. Unfortunately, the exact same thing is happening to your A/C in your attic every day too. And, likewise, it’s easily preventable also. 

First, attic temperatures that put Death Valley to shame, in the 140-150-160-degree range, add lots more “heat load” to your system through your ceiling area, making it harder to cool your home. For most homes, this ceiling area is one of the largest factors in your home comfort, as well as equipment size. Improvements to your attic have an immediate impact! 

If your attic is transferring excessive heat through your ceiling back into your house, which it most certainly is, you simply won’t be able to cool as quickly or efficiently as you want. Plus, think about all your equipment & ductwork that’s in that brutally hot environment, literally being blasted with this excessive heat all day long.

Picture this: What would happen if you brought a cold can of Coke into your attic on a typical summer afternoon? Well, most likely you personally would break into a sweat almost instantly when you poked your head up into your attic. And, your once cold Coke would also immediately start to sweat too, and in only a matter of a few minutes it wouldn’t be so cold anymore. It’s commonsense, right? Bring a cold Coke into your hot attic, and it’s going to heat up pretty quickly. It’s the exact same thing for your A/C system.

Your air handler (blower & coil) is basically a "metal box" filled with cold air, surrounded by that brutal 140-160-degree attic air. Physics-101: Heat flows from warmer to cooler, so your hot attic air is heating up your equipment just like that Coke can. This translates directly into wasted capacity and lost energy!

The cold temperatures inside your system also “conduct” or transfer to the outer surfaces of all your equipment and ductwork, making them colder too. At some point, these surfaces drop below what’s called Dew Point, and condensation starts to occur. Basically, the same phenomenon of dew on your lawn in the morning is potentially happening on the surfaces of your equipment & ducts in your attic. This can evidence itself as water leaks, stains, or even worse, mold and mildew. This is bad. 

The condensation isn’t just limited to the outside of your equipment and ducts. Sometimes, often in fact, condensation is occurring inside your equipment and ductwork as well. This has a detrimental, unhealthy affect on the air quality you’re breathing and sleeping in. Most commonly, odors are the result; we even have a term for it in the industry – “Dirty Sock Syndrome”. This is also bad.

One of the weakest points of your entire system is your register boxes, where the ductwork inside your attic connects to the register or grille in your finished ceiling. This location is often one of the leakiest and most under-insulated weak links in your A/C system. Hot attic air gets sucked in around these boxes, and into your home; yuck! If that wasn’t bad enough, as this super hot air is leaking around your register boxes, it’s frequently condensing and leaking onto your sheetrock, setting up the perfect storm for mold or mildew. This is bad too.

When considering your attic’s impact on your A/C system, it’s helpful to consider yourself personally… Would you work better, perform at a higher level, and have more stamina working in the cool shade or in the hot sun? Now, imagine yourself in hotter than Death Valley conditions!

The Bottom Line: Your attic is literally killing your A/C system. Hot attics steal away capacity from your system, which robs efficiency and wreaks havoc on your comfort. Utility bills soar, while air quality plummets. Your system runs much longer, and works way, way harder than it needs to, which results in a lot more wear & tear, plus greater frequency of breakdowns. 

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