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Is Paint An Effective Radiant Barrier In The Attic?

Is paint an effective radiant barrier in the attic?  In short, the answer is no.

I had heard, but had not yet seen, that there is a contractor running around telling people that he can get them "energy savings" if they paint their attic spaces his special silver-colored paint, and it will save zillions of $ in energy.

Well, I finally saw such an attic!

Interior Radiant Control Coatings (IRCC) include radiant foils and the so-called "ceramic" paints.  Any such paint must meet standards determined by the American Society of Testing and Materials, which recently changed its name to ASTM International.  And they do just that.  They set standards for many things.

Any such so-called radiant barrier control paint, "ceramic" paint, or whatever, is supposed to meet an ASTM standard stated in ASTM C1321.  The Reflective Insulation Manufacturers Association (RIMA International), has agreed with the definition of that standard, which is a barrier that provides better than 75% thermal reflectivity, and a thermal emittance of 0.25 or less.

Of course, RIMA states that radiant barriers are more effective in warmer climates, and less in mild and cold climates.  But that regards the foils, not paints.

RIMA says (click here for the full statement), "One of the major misconceptions in the insulating paint field is that “ceramic paints” can be used on the interior like an IRCC to reduce attic temperatures and lower cooling energy costs. However, the application of a “ceramic paint” to the underside of roof sheathing may increase the attic temperature because “ceramic paints” typically have a higher emittance than the sheathing deck."

Paint is not a "barrier."  It is a misconception to call it such.  All of the standards people warn about contractors that use inferior paint and claim it meets standards, they water it down

In this attic only about 2/3 of the roof sheathing was so painted.  I could see where they painted over mold, so the coating was very thin.   And they painted the sheathing over only one half of the house!  So this was a complete lie perpetrated onto an unsuspecting, but trusting, homeowner.

Here is the dirty little secret.  Not that much radiant heat actually influences the interior of the house.  And nobody seems to be able to determine energy savings when such radiant barriers are installed!  That is what insulation is for!  And in a consumer report states that foil studies show that any insulation that provides R-39 or better will be more effective in the long run than any radiant barrier (foil or paint) that can be added to an attic space. 

So, there it is.   We are better if we insulate better!  Insulation in an existing house can always be added to, and when that is done the insulation value is cumulative.

My recommendation:  before you go to the expense of "improving" the energy efficiency of your home, investigate it completely.  Research is easy these days.  Find out what you can find out.  But trusting the claims of contractors who want your money is not the best way to go.  It probably never is.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 22 commentsJay Markanich • November 18 2015 03:49AM

Comments

Good morning Jay,

Have never heard of painting the attic for energy savings. Will stick with the insulation and venting.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 4 years ago

You're sticking with tried and true, Raymond?  You sure?  Isn't that an old and tired voice?

I'm with you!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay Markanich It appears this particular 'contractor' might have been a 'Traveler', as we call them . Definitely a scammer!

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) over 4 years ago

"A traveler, he," quoth Robin Hood of Will Scarlet.

Perhaps S&N.  But I have heard he is "out there," and this is my first encounter with his fine work.

What was it a prophet once said?  Oh, "There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's time to change the road you're on."

I think that was said to a young lady climbing the stairway to heaven, if I'm not mistaken...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I've never heard of this but sure glad I read your post in case any such scam comes to Nova Scotia. Thanks.

Posted by Tina Parker, CNE, REDM, SRES, CSP Home Staging REALTOR, Halifax (Keller Williams Select Realty) over 4 years ago

Tina - I have understood that Nova Scotia is not as cold as people imagine because of the Gulf Stream, but still, I expect that there any radiant barrier would likely be of little benefit.  More insulation would though!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I've not heard of paint as a radiant barrier, good to know that it is not true Jay.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 4 years ago

Maybe it's a new scam cause that will sweep the nation Tom.  Usually such energy-saving drivel begins west and moves east, but maybe not in this case!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, Yeah I am not convinced on radiant barriers either.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I've done a lot of reading since this discovery, Don, and I can't see where they can have an effect when there is really so little affective radiant heat.

 

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

How ridiculous is that? LOL, I'm in the wrong business!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 4 years ago

Just another scam to separate honest home owners from their money. 

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) over 4 years ago

Not only may that be completely useless, but they may also lead some to the conclusion that there was a fire, hence the reason for the trusses to be painted...as I once learned from a very smart Bristow home inspector I know.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) over 4 years ago

Hi Jay - This one hasn't made it to our area yet, at least that we've heard. Thanks for the heads up!

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) over 4 years ago

Thank you for this information.  Great to know. 

Posted by Linda Guess, Branson area real estate sales. (Keller Williams Tri-Lakes Branson, MO) over 4 years ago

Fred - partnership?

Stephen - yep.  That's what I said at the inspection!

Can't think who that might be, Chris Ann, but I checked for that under the paint.

Dick - perhaps you are next on the list.

Any time Linda!  I may stick around.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Paint for insulation is a new one on me Jay Markanich.   Thanks for the heads-up 

Posted by DEANNA EARLY - - ( NMLS # 268590 ), Highest Ranked Mortgage Loan Originator Virginia (American National Bank & Trust) over 4 years ago

It's going on Deanna!  Apparently this guy is getting around.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I hope that your advice sill save money for many consumers.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) over 4 years ago

That is the idea Roy.  This may be a scam to come to a neighborhood near you!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I have a laundry room that has no insulation and would be blazing hot in the summer, raising the temperature of my already warm TV room which shared a wall.  I used a similar type of paint on my roof and it was night and day difference from the instant the paint went on!  I was amazed and so was my painter!

 

I almost did this in my attic too!  My attic gets really hot in the summer (over 130 degrees).  My attic floor has all the insulation and keeps my house nice, but the attic (where I store old clothes and stuff) was way too hot.  I put in an attic fan which dropped the temperature some, but never got around to painting the ceiling due to concerns over what it would do to cell phone service (which is already almost non-existant).

Posted by Ryan Huggins - Thousand Oaks, CA, Residential Real Estate and Investment Properties (https://HugginsHomes.com) over 4 years ago

Just reporting the RIMA facts, Ryan.  I've never heard that paint could influence cell phone service.  Very interesting!  I'll have to look into that one.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

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