loft / attic

Action: Check the depth of your loft insulation

For this week’s action, we are simply asking you to stick your head up into your attic (loft) and take a look at the insulation.

To make this check will take you 5 minutes, and you might just identify a way of saving energy and carbon emissions (and money too) if things are not as well insulated as they should be.

Safety note

Please make sure you use a proper access ladder or well secured ladder to access your attic area. You should also have someone else with you to hold your ladder and make sure you are safe. If there is no lighting in your attic, take a good torch or working light with you. Do not tread or stand between the joists, as you will go straight through the plasterboard and fall through the ceiling into the room below.

What should you find?

loft / attic

Properties vary enormously so these are generalisations, but unless your attic is boarded over for storage, you should find a series of joist each about 16 inches or so apart. The ceiling boards are fixed to the underside of these joists, which are typically 4 to 6 inches deep.

Between these joists and to the top level of them there should be insulation. In older properties this might be loose material, or fibreglass. In more recent properties this material will be bound into easier-to-handle “blankets” which are unrolled into place, or you might find polystyrene blocks. This material is what limits the amount of heat coming up from your home below, and eventually escaping out through the roof; loft insulation is the “first line of defence” against energy loss.

It is unlikely that you will find nothing in place, but unfortunately it is very common for insulation to be thin and inadequate.

As an absolute minimum insulation should fill the void up to the level of the joists. This might then be boarded over to allow you to use the attic as storage space.

It will vary in different countries, but as an example, in the UK it is generally recommended that loft insulation is 10 inches deep. Typically this can be achieved by filling the area between joists with insulation roll, and then placing another layer across the top of this and the joists.

What to consider

You should definitely add insulation if none exists! You should consider replacing, or adding another layer of insulation, if there is less than 10 inches in place.

A competent DIY-er should be able to complete this work, but a tradesman is worth investing in if you are unsure. Grants may be available to fund this basic insulation work.

Take care around the electric cables feeding lights in the rooms below, and only certified and fire resistant approved materials.

Why is this important?

Stopping your heat escaping through your roof means that you use less gas, oil or electricity to heat your home in the first place. Loss through an uninsulated roof  is enormous; according to the National Insulation Association insulation can save enough energy to reduce your carbon emissions by 550kg a year (and your bills by over £135 a year) in a typical semi-detached house.

Carbon emissions from the burning of gas in your boiler, or burning fossil fuels to generate electricity to heat your home, are massive contributors to global warming and climate change. Simple measures like this to address the energy efficiency of properties more than a few years old are essential if we are to meet our zero-carbon objectives.

The importance of home insulation is also a topic close to the heart of our sponsors Hinckley & Rugby Building Society.

Let’s take collective action

So please, for this action, stick your head up into your attic and make sure that you are not burning energy just to heat an empty space!

If you haven’t done so already, please sign up to our bulletin “Take Action” using the form below, and thank you for your support.

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