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Down & Dirty: Troubles with Attics & Crawlspaces

By Javier Saucedo, emPower Central Coast Energy Coach

Squeeze your way into a home’s attic or crawlspace and you’ll know why I often come out covered in a combination of spider webs, dirt, dust and more. As an emPower Energy coach, I spend plenty of time in these forgotten spaces, looking for the problems that make homeowners feel chilly during winter and uncomfortably hot during the summer.

Energy analysts can learn a lot about a home while inspecting its attic and crawlspaces. The Central Coast community is filled with homes sturdily crafted from the 1950s to 1970s with great frames. However, many of these homes are still using ancient cooling/heating technology and materials that are now considered as being below standards or outright dangerous, such as asbestos. In addition to being inefficient, systems from this period can give off dangerous levels of carbon monoxide if they aren’t working properly.

Now for some good news: emPower can solve these problems, make your home more durable and help drive your energy bills down while keeping you comfortable and safe in your home. We check for a variety of issues during a free Energy Coach Site Visit for single family homeowners through the County’s emPower program. And if you need some further support, we’re happy to connect you with a qualified contractor, utility rebates or financing.

A common problem we see during these site visits occurs when heat from the sun concentrates in the attic and creates an oven effect. Attic top plate cracks and holes allow hot air to leak into your home’s walls, which are often poorly insulated. When this happens, it causes the indoor temperature to rise and will leave you reaching for the thermostat. You’d be surprised by what getting the attic properly air sealed and the recommended 12 inches (R-44) of insulation can do to improve in-home air quality and temperature.

There are also many troubles that have left many of us with little more than sweaters and extra blankets to battle the cold while in our own homes. A crawlspace operates like an upside down attic and should also be properly air sealed and insulated. Gaping holes in the crawlspace — often around the plumbing — lead cold air straight into the house, causing your home to feel cold and drafty. The old-style wall heaters we turn to from time to time are also notoriously inefficient and prone to carbon monoxide leaks.

There’s plenty to take into consideration, so when you’re ready to find out what’s lurking in that long-forgotten attic and crawlspace and improve your quality of life, start by visiting us at empowersbc.org, or call (805) 781-5625.

About emPower Central Coast

The emPower program offers voluntary incentives, financing and other services to help single-family homeowners in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo Counties make home energy upgrades easier and more affordable. emPower was originally established by Santa Barbara County to help the community preserve the environment by helping to lower energy consumption and stimulate the economy by creating jobs through innovative, voluntary solutions to support a sustainable building performance market. 

emPower is funded by California utility ratepayers and administered by Southern California Gas Company, Southern California Edison Company and Pacific Gas and Electric Company under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission, the US Department of Energy Better Buildings program and the California Energy Commission with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars. emPower’s low cost financing is offered in partnership with Coast Hills Credit Union and Ventura County Credit Union. More information at www.empowersbc.org.

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