Air can easily leak in and out of a home through cracks, joints between different materials, where holes have been drilled to allow pipes and wire to enter the structure, and many other openings. Some of the popular areas for air leakage is around doors, windows, attic access panels, recessed ceiling lights, electrical outlets, switch plates, and plumbing penetrations in the kitchen or bathrooms. As part of your regular maintenance schedule, you should be checking your home for signs of potential problem areas. This leakage can not only increase your heating and cooling costs, but also reduce indoor comfort and allow moisture into the structure causing major issues.
Air-Sealing one’s home is one of the most inexpensive strategies you can employ to help you save money on your utilities and feel more comfortable as soon as it is completed. In most cases, the money spent will easily be recouped within the first year. This is one reason why it is #1 on DOE’s priority list for weatherizing homes. Your energy savings will vary based on how much air leakage you have. In some cases, with a well built home you may not realize hardly any savings, while some have saved over 20% on their bills. Not only does air-sealing one’s house help lower your utilities and make one more comfortable, it can help improve the air quality inside the home, help prevent moisture problems and prolong your HVAC system.
Many people worry that if you seal a house too tightly, it can affect the indoor air quality by trapping all the inside air inside. While this is a concern, if you live in an older home, it would be nearly impossible for you as a homeowner to get it that tight by simply following these tips. On should also remember that there is a reason that vents are installed in bathrooms and kitchens and should be used appropriately. The American Lung Association does recommend that one seal up all air leaks in a house and use an ERV or HRV system to provide fresh filtered air. We commonly use these systems in all our new construction projects and in certain remodeling projects.
Another item that may concern many is if you have a gas water heater, fireplace, or furnace located in your home. If it is not pulling in replacement air from outside for combustion (sealed units) & you turn on a bathroom or kitchen vent – you could possibly create a back draft where the smoke and fumes are pulled back into the house. If you have any doubts, please call in ato evaluate this issue. Even if you do not think this will be an issue, a CO detector should still be installed in case there are ever any problems, like a leaky exhaust vent.
Checking for air leaks:
Before one starts sealing leaks, it actually helps if you know where they are. One of the most effective ways to detect air leakage is to have a comprehensive style inspection involving duct testing, infrared scans, &/or modeling. In some areas of the country, your local electric company may actually offer either of those services above for free or at a discounted rate. However, with a little knowledge one can easily perform their own evaluation and start saving money now, instead of waiting around for an audit.; or a more
During the winter months, when it is windy out is when most people realize they have an issue. Many of the larger leaks are discovered because they feel a draft coming in from around a window, a door, etc… During the year, some are some leaks are easily spotted by an excessive amount of dirt surrounding an outlet, a light, on the wall by the window trim, etc…
A popular test used to check the seals on your refrigerator and freezer will work for checking around your doors and windows. Simply take a piece of paper and close the door or window on it; if you can pull the paper out easily, (i.e. without tearing it or tugging on it) you have a leak that is wasting energy. Using this method, you should check around the entire opening. Another popular one for doors is the flashlight test. At night have someone go outside & shine the light at the doorway, if you see light inside you have a leak that needs to be corrected.
Many energy auditors will setup a blower door and depressurize the house to help find the air leaks. Once the house is depressurized, they walk around and use a smoke pencil to pinpoint the leaks. You can actually do the almost the same thing with items already in your own house. Instead of a smoke pencil, you can use an incense stick or a slightly damp hand. Instead of a specialized blower door to depressurize your house, close all the exterior windows & doors, turn off your HVAC system and turn on all your exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms. This should depressurize your house enough to allow you to start pin pointing the leaks. All you need to do is now is walk around the house with a lit incense stick, passing it close to areas where there are likely to be leaks. When smoke is either sucked away from or blown into the room, you have found a leak. If you are using your hand that is slightly damp, you should be able to feel the air movement.
Air Sealing & Insulation Series:
- Air Sealing: Benefits, Concerns, & a Basic How-To Find the Leaks
- Air Sealing: Materials & Methods for Sealing Common Leaks (Part 1)
- Air Sealing: Materials & Methods for Sealing Common Leaks (Part 2)
- Air Sealing: The Hot Roof Option
- Air Sealing: Attic – Insulated attic hatch
- Air Sealing: Attic – Storage & Walkway Options
- Air Sealing: Attic – Sealing those Pesky Air Leaks
- Air Sealing: Attic – Baffles
- Air Sealing: Insulating Your Attic
Other Related & Upcoming Articles
- Guest Video – Insulating you Basement
- Looking Back series: Building Green Homes -Step 9 Insulation
- Looking Back series: Building Green Homes -Step 7 Drying in & Air Sealing
- Upcoming Article: Sealing your ducts
- Upcoming Article: Insulation – A primer on the types available today
- Upcoming Article: Insulation – Insulating you Crawl Space or Basement
- Upcoming Article: Insulation – Insulating Existing Walls