It seemed like everywhere I turned at this year’s International Builder Show, I cam across a new variation on an old idea—closing up the space above attic access stairs. While no one seems to have exact figures, third party testing suggests that some brands cut attic air infiltration by 70 percent.
The ready-made systems, such as Owens Cornings foil-covered Attic Stairway Insulator (retail priced around $75.00) are almost effortless to install. In fact, I just put a Pink Cap unit in my own home. It took me longer to get it out of the box than to actually set it up.
I’d recommend the Owens Corning system for an attic where traffic is infrequent. In homes where the homeowner trucks in and out of the attic every day, however, other products offer more flexibility. For example, a rigid foam system such as the Energy Guardian (R-39; price about $140.00) has a removable foam top. The lightweight Attic Tent (R-3.2—approx. $200) seals tightly with zippers.
How much energy do attic caps really save? Attic Tent estimates about a 20 percent annual heating/cooling reduction. The products also reduce unwanted air infiltration, offering other “green” benefits, such as keeping dust and pollutants out of living areas—and reducing drafts.
Of course, if you’re Old School, building your own insulated attic cap is always an option—but don’t expect to save money, if you’re honest about the labor and materials involved.