Most of the homes I have inspected over the years had a poorly insulated access panel. Some of them had an access with no insulation at all. This can be bad for a number of reasons. The two biggest reasons would be heat loss and moisture entering the attic.
A lot of people don’t ever go into the attic or even think about what is on the other side of the stairs or access hatch to an attic. To give you an idea of how much heat you lose through this area if it is not insulated, picture it as an open window with the freezing cold weather outside. Without getting too technical this access acts like a vacuum pulling the warm air into the cold in the attic. if you are like me in the winter paying attention to the heat kicking on and off, you will understand the reason is your losing the heat out of your home! Picture this…
Don’t get me wrong I think it is really important to air your home out. A home that never breathes can be a trap for all kinds of air quality issues but you don’t want to be losing heat constantly.
Moisture in the Attic
If you have an access with no insulation and your home is high in humidity, then be careful because that moisture will travel with that warm moist air into the attic. When it gets to the attic that moisture will condense and stick to the plywood or drip onto the insulation. I have been in some attics with the plywood on the roof is soaked with moisture from the home. Now if this moisture gets to be too much you will see problems with MOLD and MILDEW. These can cause all kinds of health issues.
So how do you insulate the access?
One easy way is to lay fiberglass batt insulation on top of the access. This can get tricky to do because you need to close the hatch after. Another way is to cut a piece of rigid foam insulation to fit the opening exactly. There is a great product you can buy at Home Depot just google attic access insulation Home Depot.