Older homes can often offer challenges when trying to effectively cool the upper floors during the high heat of summer. Eben Bryant, owner of Lane Street Inn, a small bed and breakfast in Shelbyville, TN, says he began looking into Radiant Barrier when his wife and their cleaning staff began complaining about the hot rooms upstairs this past summer. You can read more about Eben’s story here:
(Review of AtticFoil.com from Eben Bryant)
The AtticFoil product I purchased and installed has proven beneficial. When researching radiant barrier, I came across AtticFoil.com and found all I needed to make an informed decision. Other user’s comments and photos encouraged me to perform the installation myself. Over two nights, my nephew and I installed over 4,000 square feet of AtticFoil in the attic of my 100 year old bed and breakfast.
I researched a number of radiant barrier dealers online and locally. I found a dearth of dealers in my area of Tennessee and only a handful of dealers online. Researching the prices, I found AtticFoil to be the most competitively priced on a per square foot basis. I also surmised that the AtticFoil product would be more durable than some of their competitor’s thinner products. I liked that the material is heavy and strong. You cannot tear it with your hands. Pulling it out along my rough attic floor was not a problem. You don’t have to handle this stuff carefully like you might with some thinner products.
I am a do-it-yourself type of guy and luckily my nephew that helped is young and strong. While there were some scuffed knees and bumped heads, the install went relatively easy. In old houses you have to find ways to improvise. To get around the fact that my attic has high ceilings and very little floored area, we built temporary scaffolds out of scrap 2x4s, unscrewing them and moving them as we went along. To get over the attic heat, we pulled up a couple of HVAC registers and had them blowing into the attic. (Learn more about this trick here) We also worked from about 9:00 pm to 4:00 am during the coolest part of the night.
RESULTS – Before we installed AtticFoil, the temperature in our attic would typically be 20 to 30 degrees higher than the outside air. After the install, the temperature now does not really go more than 10 degrees higher than the outside air. Before the install, the second-floor air conditioning would run constantly. The ducts are in the attic. Temperatures would not fall down to even 74 degrees until nearly 1:00 am. Now we can get all of the guest bedrooms upstairs to comfortable temperatures even before the sun goes down. And the A/C is not running continuously.
My wife and her cleaning staff had complained of the uncomfortable temperatures on the second floor all summer. Two days after we installed the barrier and the attic had a chance to cool off, the second floor was noticeably cooler. I was really glad when my wife said, “I think that radiant barrier you installed in the attic has helped tremendously.” Other than what I had read online about radiant barrier, I wasn’t too sure it would work. Well, it did and I am very glad.
Overall, the cost of my rather large installation, including paying my nephew and buying some staplers, was about $1,000. I expect with the savings on my utility bills that I should recoup this cost within one year.
(Note from Ed) after reading Eben’s note and checking out his pictures of his installation, I sent him the following reply from which some of you may benefit:
Eben, I want to thank you for writing the kind review and sending me these pictures.
From looking at your pictures, I wanted to offer offer some advice.
Radiant barrier is your first line of defense against radiant heat and “regular” insulation is your second line of defense against conductive heat.
Looking at your pictures, it looks like you only have a few inches of insulation in your attic.
I would look to getting this up to 12-15″ for maximum year round protection against heat loss in Winter and heat gain in Summer.
I would also get a can of foam and foam around all the ceiling air conditioner registers to the sheetrock. This will reduce air infiltration.
6 thoughts on “Bed and Breakfast says radiant barrier “helped tremendously””
Ed< Due to construction of additions on my house, 2 areas unaccessable and cathedral ceiling, I can only install radiant barrier on 1/2 of my roof in 3 different areas. Is it still worthwhile? thanks, Stephen
Yes, partial coverage still works. Radiant barrier is like shade (shade from the heat, not so much the light) and foil insulation has a cumulative effect: the more coverage you get the better your overall results. Here’s an example, if you were to park your car outside on a hot sunny day, you most likely would choose a spot that is shaded by a tree or some other object. Why is that? Because even if you only get partial shade for your car, your car still stays more comfortable that it would if you parked it in the direct sunlight. This shows you a practical example of how radiant barrier works off a cumulative effect; it simply means that any coverage is a step up from no coverage. As you increase coverage, you increase comfort and effectiveness.
We have a small house built in 1815 in East Hampton NY. The kitchen is a lean-to added a few years later and is 14 inches above and open to the soil. It gets cold through the floor. I have thought about spraying a foam under the kitchen using as access an opening in the crawl space under the main part of the house. Clearly a major operation to do successfully as the house would still need s solid barrier above the ground. There is not enough height under the kitchen to work there. The floor could be removed but still not the most convenient.
Is there a barrier I can lay down on the floor in the kitchen that would retain the heat generated inside? As the kitchen has low ceiling height (75″ at its least), I can only raise the floor a couple of inches.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions,
This isn’t an easy project; if you wanted to add a radiant barrier to the floor, you would need to have at least a 1/2″ to 3/4″ air gap on one side of the foil. This means adding spacers and possibly a new floor. Not sure that the cost of that would exceed the cost of getting under the floor via the crawlspace. You could add foam to the floor, or even a layer of SOLID radiant barrier (assuming there is not already a vapor barrier down there) foil directly on top of the soil would help redirect any radiant heat loss back up into the floor and it would act as a vapor barrier and stop moisture from coming from the ground up into the floor. Those are pretty much your two options down below. In terms of ease and cost, I’d recommend going the route of the vapor barrier radiant barrier.
I understand what your saying about using perforated foil in attic space,needing air movment. My question is if using a solid barrier under roof rafters with holes cut out for roof vents, and leaving a small space at the peak,and the lower top plate, wuold that leave enough room for air movment?
No, because it’s not all about air movement, but also moisture moving in the air so it can dry out. In an attic space you need perforated foil, not solid foil with holes cut out. The risk of using a vapor barrier on the bottom of the rafters in a vented attic is not worth it.