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January 9, 2017

This past weekend, old man winter reared his snow-covered head for the first time in 2017 and all over Long Island the sounds of snow blowers and kids was prevalent. Fortunately, the snow was of the fluffy, powdery variety that is easy to move and prone to snow drifts. But while some thought it beautiful and other found it vexing, it offered some very important information about your home. Yes, the first snow storm of the year was an educational experience.

Depending on how closely you pay attention, the lesson may have been there every year when the snow falls. What is interesting about this lesson is that its value can easily be weighed in dollars and cents if you take the lesson to heart. And since all lessons have a topic, the lesson this weekend was about home performance.

If you look at the picture above you will see three homes all facing into the sunlight. Neither is any more remarkable than the next yet there is something subtle but very telling about all three. In fact, one of these three is not like the others. And the reason is one is performing better than the others in terms of how well the home is heated and how well the heat is kept where it belongs.

When a home has a properly insulated attic, the heat that is generated to warm the home is kept within the living space. Homes with poorly insulated attics allow the heat to rise into the attics, leaving the living spaces to be constantly heated to maintain the desire temperature. Because of this, homeowners need to run their heating systems more often just to maintain a healthy and comfortable environment. This involves not only burning more fossil fuel but also using more electricity as home heating systems require electricity to power some of their functions.

Unfortunately, the loss of heat into non-living spaces such as the attic are not the only side-effects of a poorly insulated attic. If the snow fall is heavy, the snow that is directly touching the roof will melt long before the upper layers will. The run-off from the melted snow makes its way into the gutter system where, exposed to frigid temperatures, it re-freezes and can create damaging ice dams. These ice dams are responsible for massive icicle formations that can fall on people below. (To learn more about Ice Dams, check out this video from The Weather Channel from 2015. And turn off your pop-up blocker for this!)

Another side effect of ice dams is that as the gutter fills with ice, the runoff from the melting snow will follow the path of least resistance and infiltrate the fascia boards and soffits that support the gutters. This water infiltration can lead to water damage, mold, mildew and opportunities for insects, birds and small animals to enter the structure through openings where rotted building materials have left gaps.

The best way to avoid these issues is, of course, to ensure that your attic space is properly insulated. We recommend you have a home energy assessment as the first step. These home energy assessments, free to Long Island Homeowners through PSEG, can help to identify issues with not only the insulation of your home but other areas that can be improved to increase the overall home performance level. Along with eliminating issues that could possibly damage your roof, you can also learn how to decrease your use of electricity and fossil fuels. This will allow you to provide your family with a healthier, more comfortable home while reducing the costs of running your home.

And in case you haven’t figured it out, as all three houses are facing the sun the melting of the snow on the roofs of all three should progress at the same rate. The homes on the righat and left are showing considerable snow melt on their roofs while the one in the center isn't. This is in all liklihood due to the fact that their attics are improperly insulated, allowing heat to leave the living space of the home and enter the attic where it is melting the snow on the roof. The house in the center has a properly insulated attic, keeping the heat in the living space of the how, while the homes to the right and left should have a home energy assessment as soon as possible!