Air leaks are areas where air flows in or out of your home. Air leaks can make it difficult to keep your home’s interior at a controlled temperature and reduce the energy efficiency of your HVAC system by making it work harder than necessary to keep your home at the desired temperature. Forcing your system to work harder will also reduce the life expectancy of your HVAC system and cost you more money in energy bills. By sealing air leaks in your home, you can expect to reduce the time your HVAC system is running and reduce your home’s energy costs.
Here are some areas where air leaks are common in homes and how to fix them.
Attics are some of the main culprits behind energy loss due to air leaks in homes. A thorough check of your attic will probably reveal a multitude of air leaks that can be sealed to increase your home’s energy efficiency.
Recessed lights are a common source of air leaks, because they have vents that open into the attic. Some recessed lights are already sealed to account for this problem. If your lights are designated ICAT (on the label near the bulb), then they’re already sealed. If you don’t see that label, then it’s likely your lights are leaking air and making your HVAC system work harder. Luckily, there’s a simple fix to seal them. You can purchase an airtight baffle that will create a seal and stop air from leaking through the fixture. Baffles take only a few seconds to install and can make a big difference in energy efficiency, especially if you have a lot of recessed lighting in your home.
Flues and Chimneys
For building safety, wood framing can’t rest against flues and chimneys. However, this creates a gap that allows air to leak through. The simplest fix is to cover the gaps with aluminum flashing and seal it with a silicone caulk rated for high temperatures. This will eliminate the air flow while maintaining the safety of your home’s flues and chimneys.
Since the attic access is on the inside of your home, in most cases, there is no seal around the door or hatch. This creates another opportunity for air to leak inside your home. Add foam weather stripping around your home’s attic access to create a seal and eliminate the air leak.
Throughout Your Home
Once you’ve checked the main sources of air leaks in the attic, it’s time to test the remainder of your home.
Though you’re less likely to find gaps in the main living areas of your home, gaps and cavities in the attic and basement can account for a big part of air leak problems. For larger gaps (from ¼ inch up to 3 inches), try expandable foam spray. It’s perfect for sealing gaps around areas like plumbing pipes and vents, wiring holes, and behind knee walls. For gaps that are ¼ inch or smaller, weatherproof silicone or acrylic latex caulk is the best choice. You can use it around doors and windows, electrical boxes, and any other small gap that needs to be sealed.
Windows and Doors
Your home’s windows and doors can be another major source of air leaks, especially if they are older and not as energy efficient as new models. Replacing older windows and doors with new energy-efficient models can have a significant impact on the air flow in your home and reduce the work your HVAC system has to do to keep your home at the right temperature.
If replacing your home’s old windows and doors isn’t possible at this juncture, you can still reduce the amount of air leaking through them. Take the time to caulk all the windows and doors in your home and add weather stripping. Combined, these two small fixes can add up to big energy savings.
Did you know your HVAC system’s ducts can be another source of air leaks? Turn on your HVAC system and systematically check the visible ductwork throughout your home. Seal any leaks you find with HVAC aluminum foil tape and you’ll instantly improve the energy efficiency of your entire HVAC system.
Don’t Fret An Inefficient HVAC System
If you’re concerned that your HVAC system isn’t operating at peak efficiency, you can always call in the experts. Professional HVAC technicians know exactly what to look for when conducting a complete review of your home’s HVAC system and will recommend the most effective solutions for keeping your home a comfortable temperature year-round. The problem may not even be an air leak, but something that those with the expertise are much more attuned to handle.
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