Top Your Top with a Ridge Vent?

Top Your Top with a Ridge Vent?

Landis Carey
Aug 18, 2010

Have you ever climbed the stairs of a multi-story home in the middle of August to find the top floors sweltering with heat? It can be unbearable, right? My husband and I left the big city last March for a small, quaint village just 30 minutes away on New Jersey transit. Our little house is little, but it stands tall with its three stories and creaky stairs. The home was built in 1922 and I'm almost certain its original roof is still intact under, not just one layer of asphalt shingles, but under three layers! How much heat does our roof's density hold in? And why is this a concern? We checked in with several experts to find out.

After two consultations and the sticker shock of what a new roof would cost, added to the labor expense of removing all the old, disintegrating layers, we learned the benefits of ridge vents and what problems they help homeowners avoid.

Through activities like washing clothes, running your dishwasher, and showering, moisture is introduced into your home's structure and air. When this moisture gets trapped in your attic and your home's interior heat rises, a multitude of problems can occur: premature aging and cracking of your roof's materials; damage to your rafters, shingles, attic walls, and insulation. If your home's moisture levels are high and your attic is not properly vented, it can also become the perfect, nurturing place for mold to thrive.

Ridge vents work to release your attic's unwanted, damaging heat and moisture in two ways—through wind and through thermal convection. As wind passes over the ridge of your home, it's caught by the ridge vent and pulled inside, pushing warmer air out of the attic. Thermal convection explains why heat rises and with regard to ridge vents, heat rises to the highest point of your attic, where the ridge vent is located. It's here that your home's warmest air escapes while cooler air is pulled into the attic through vents in your home's eaves. It's ideal for your attic's temperature and moisture to be comparable to the outside elements, especially in the winter.

Besides extending the life of your home's structure and your roof, a house with a well-ventilated attic space will cost far less to cool on a hot summer day. This makes perfect sense—your AC unit won't have to battle the oven-like temperatures of stagnant attic air. Since we have yet to install a new roof (and ridge vents), hopefully I'll report back next summer with lower electricity bills.

Another, often unnoticed benefit of ridge vents, is the positive visual impact they can have on your roofline. The manner in which the vents are installed atop your roof's ridge creates a clean, well-defined roofline. This benefit aside, they are much more visually appealing than any ventilation systems comprised of vents and unsightly fans.

So, the next time you climb a set of creaky stairs to a warmer story above, think about extending the life of your roof, attic materials, and air conditioning unit and reducing your home's energy usage—a great way to save money—by topping your top with a ridge vent.

Here are a few great sources for additional reading about ventilation:

(Image: Apple Roofing & Repair)

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