Why Is My Addition Always Cold? Five Ways To Improve The Comfort of Your Addition

For those who have a great room, kitchen addition, or bathroom addition, fall is often the beginning of a long stretch of comfort issues – no amount of space heating, blankets, or extra sweaters seem to provide the comfort necessary to truly enjoy these newer spaces.  

That's why we dove deep into our bench of experts to find the top five causes of comfort issues in new additions; and what can be done to  improve comfort in your home's addition.  We've prioritized the recommendations from least invasive/difficult to most invasive/difficult, but one thing's for sure – these improvements, when installed, will have a dramatic impact on the overall comfort of these spaces.

Install Retrofit Light Kits

As it turns out, replacing the outdated incandescent high-hat (recessed lighting) light bulbs in the ceiling of your addition with energy-efficient LED retrofit kits may have more benefits than you might have originally thought.  

Unless your home's addition was constructed in the last few years, it's unlikely that the fixtures in your ceiling are ICAT rated (insulation contact/air-tight).  As a result, the light fixture's ventilation system is directly connected to your roof's ventilation system, and the two systems work together to pull warm air from your living spaces during cold winter months.  

During winter months, additions are often the most uncomfortable spaces inside a home.

LED retrofit bulbs are often sold with a bulb and replacement housing manufactured together as one unit, designed to replace both the light bulb and the surrounding plastic housing located inside of the fixture.  LED bulbs exude a fraction of the heat of their incandescent counterparts and therefore, do not have the same ventilation requirements as incandescent bulbs.  As a result, the solid one-piece housing of the replacement unit acts as an air-barrier, preventing warm air from entering the roof's ventilation assembly and escaping outside.  The result; warm air stays contained within the room and comfort is significantly improved.  

Install A Ceiling Fan

Often times, ceilings in the addition are significantly higher than ceilings located throughout the rest of the home causing warm air to get “trapped” in these higher elevations.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but the addition of a ceiling fan to these areas will help distribute warmer air more evenly throughout the living space.

Air-Seal Upper Levels

During winter months, the heating system in your home transfers energy stored inside its fuel to the air molecules floating throughout your home.  These newly “energized”, (warmed) molecules are much more active and excited than their colder counterparts and, much to the chagrin of homeowners all over the world, will expend all of their new-found energy in the pursuit of a violent escape from your home.   

These warmer air molecules, excited from the molecular “charge” they received from your home's heating system, are on a singular mission to escape into colder space.  These single-minded molecules pursue every avenue including; electrical penetrations, plumbing penetrations, gaps in your home's construction, and attic access points.  The tremendous volume of air escaping through even the smallest of penetrations is easy to observe by entering a cold attic, locating a penetration (typically a recessed light), and simply putting your hand above the penetration.  It's easy to imagine the totality of  the conditioned air escaping through the collective sum of these penetrations across the attic plane.

As warmer air escapes through the upper regions of the home, the convective process is naturally drawing replacement air into the home through penetrations and gaps in the home's basement and crawlspaces.  Since additions are typically constructed over unconditioned crawlspaces, the extreme temperature difference of unconditioned replacement air on cold days quickly exacerbates existing comfort issues.  Air-sealing gaps and penetrations in the upper regions of your home will slow the convective process and improve comfort in your home's lower levels.

Crawlspace Insulation/Encapsulation

How to improve the comfort and energy efficiency of a home addition.

The construction of additions over concrete or dirt crawlspaces is a common practice among builders and developers.  Regrettably, comfort issues in the living spaces located above these areas are almost an equally common phenomenon.  These areas often have either little or no insulation and to compound the issue, are often ventilated directly to the outside.

During winter months, the naturally occurring convective process pulls damp cold air and other impurities from the crawlspaces into the living spaces of the home.  Installing a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from entering these spaces and adding insulation to buffer extreme temperature differences will improve the comfort and indoor air quality of living spaces located above crawlspaces.

Attic slope insulation

Additions, particularly those with cathedral ceilings, are often improperly insulated.  Building codes in many municipalities have evolved to require proper insulation, regrettably not before tens of thousands of additions were constructed without the benefit of updated code requirements.

The cathedral ceilings installed in countless additions are often connected to the outside on both ends through soffit and ridge ventilation designed to ventilate moisture from these spaces.  The fiberglass insulation often used inside these cavities is not effective when installed in this type of “vented” assembly.  

An easy way to understand this phenomenon is to blow on a piece of fiberglass insulation while holding it in your hand.  As you can see, your breath is not impeded by the fiberglass insulation and can be easily felt on the palm of your hand beneath the insulation.  The same effect exists on windy days as cold air moves freely thought these cavities.

Retrofitting with dense-packed cellulose or spray foam insulation will dramatically improve insulation performance in these areas.

Improving the comfort of your addition is the name of the game.  Start with the easier improvements and work your way into some of the more difficult ones.  Be sure to ask the advice of professionals as you get into the more complicated measures we've recommended.  

A Ciel Home Energy Audit will pinpoint the cause of the discomfort in your new addition and our skilled Home Performance Consultants will work to leverage state and federal incentive programs to keep the project budget-friendly.  Experienced technicians will install the insulation and air-sealing measures that will have the biggest impact on the overall comfort and usability of your space so the space inside your addition is just as comfortable as the rest of your home.