Air Infiltration
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Air Infiltration into Your Home is Taking Money Out of Your Pocket

Properly insulating your home can save hundreds of dollars a year off of your home heating and cooling bills. However, even before you worry about insulation, you need to deal with air infiltration. Air infiltration is about drafts - air leaking into or out of your home. Your home will never be energy efficient if it has air leaks. Think of your home as if it were a swimming pool. If your pool was leaking water, would worry about heating the water you have to constantly add or would you worry about stopping the leaks. So it is with your home, you have to stop the leaks first.

You may consider hiring an energy auditor to professionally evaluate your home. They can help you locate leaks, assess your insulation needs and provide you with a report that will help you decide what needs to be done, and where your money is best spent. An comprehensive audit will help you to reduce your energy bills while improving the comfort of your home. Even if you don't hire an energy auditor, there are plenty of things you can do yourself.

Start by Detecting Air Leaks

An energy auditor will conduct a blower door test. A blower door is a powerful fan that mounts into the frame of an exterior door. The fan pulls air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside. The higher outside air pressure then flows in through all unsealed cracks and openings. An auditor then can measure the amount of air infiltration and using a smoke tool, can pinpoint the source of leaks.

If you plan to find the leaks yourself, one method is to wait for a windy day. A windy day makes it much easier to locate drafts. First, turn off the heater, air conditioner or any other ventilation equipment. Close all exterior doors, windows and close the fireplace damper. Turn on your stove and bathroom ventilation fans. Light an incense stick and move it near possible points of air infiltration. If the smoke is sucked in or blown away, there is a draft and it should be sealed. This can still work without wind, but drafts are more difficult to detect. If you have a heavy duty fan, you might even be able to rig up your own blower door test by placing the fan in the door, facing out, and sealing around it with plastic and duct tape.

Common Points of Air Infiltration:

Wherever different materials meet, such as between wood siding and brick or between the chimney and the ceiling, there is the potential for gaps. Also, inspect the following areas for any cracks and gaps that could cause air leaks:

  • Doors - both between the door and the jamb and between the jamb and the wall.
  • Windows - both around the window frame and between the frame and the wall
  • Mail chutes - around the mail chute, also make sure it closes tightly
  • Any place where pipes or wires pass through a wall
  • Around window air conditioners
  • Light switches and electrical outlets, especially on exterior walls

Sealing Your Home

Sealing air gaps will require different materials depending upon the application. Rubber gaskets are available for switches and electrical outlets and are installed beneath the cover plate. Caulking can be used to seal between different materials such as between stucco and wood siding. Caulking is also useful around exterior door and window casings and where pipes and wires pass through a wall. Expanding foam may be useful for filling larger or difficult to access gaps and gaps around around door and window jambs where they meet the surrounding wall framing.

Sealing air leaks will make your home more comfortable and will result in lowered energy consumption for heating and cooling. Newer homes are built much more tightly than ever before and so much attention is paid to ensuring adequate ventilation. If you successfully seal your home, you must also implement a ventilation strategy. Indoor air pollutants can build to unhealthful levels and so proper ventilation must also provided. Furthermore, homes that burn natural gas, propane, fuel oil or wood must also make certain that adequate air supply is available for combustion so that a dangerous back draft condition does not pull combustion gases back into the home.

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