Sometimes improving your heating and cooling system is about creating the right conditions for energy efficiency. You can have a top-of-the-line HVAC unit with a high SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating or good annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating, but if your home’s conditioned air is leaking outside and/or outside air is getting in, then your home’s energy costs will go up.
Air sealing your home is one of the best and least expensive ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Read these tips from CJS Heating and Air to learn where you should be checking for air gaps and leaks outside and inside your home.
Detecting air leaks with energy audit
You may notice some air leaks in your home, such as under your front door, which prompt you to search out the rest of the house. However, finding all the tiny leaks that prevent your home from being as energy efficient as you like can be a bit more challenging.
The most thorough method is to have a professional come to your home and perform an energy audit. They will examine your home room by room, using specialized equipment to detect any leaks, including a blower door test and infrared cameras. The blower door test depressurizes your home in order to reveal the location of any leaks.
A professional home energy audit can cost between $215 and $602, with $393 being the national average. The decision of whether or not you should spend the money is up to you. However, a lot of homeowners have tried to make their homes more energy efficient by buying new windows and HVAC replacements, but those upgrades haven’t solved their problem because the conditioned air is getting out and the outside air is getting in. It can be worthwhile to make the small investment in an energy assessment before making the larger investment of an upgrade.
Do-it-yourself air leak detection
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, an exhaustive home self-assessment can also help you determine problem areas. You can perform a visual inspection outside and inside your home. On the outside of your house, you’ll want to closely examine all areas where two different building materials meet. Check outdoor water faucets, where the foundation and siding or brick meet, around the chimney, around the dryer vent, and where wires enter your home.
On the inside, you’ll want to examine the following areas for any gaps or cracks that may be allowing the exchange of air:
- Door and window frames
- Electrical outlets
- Weather stripping
- Electrical and gas service entrances
- Attic hatches
- Window-mounted air conditioners
- TV, internet, and phone line entrances
- Dryer vents
- Fans and vents
- Foundation seals
- Mail slots
If you want to be even more thorough, you can conduct your own building pressurization test. You’ll need some incense sticks for this, so put them on your shopping list if you don’t have any sitting around. Here is what you’ll want to do:
- Wait for a cool, very windy day.
- Turn off all combustion appliances (gas burning furnace and water heaters).
- Make sure all windows, doors, and fireplace damper and flues are closed.
- Turn on all exhaust fans that blow air outside.
- Light your incense stick and bring it around to common air leak spots. When the smoke is sucked out or blown into a room, you have a leak.
How to air seal your home
Once you’ve located where the air leaks are in your home, you need to make sure they’re sealed up. For any gaps found outside the home where wiring or plumbing come into the building, you can use caulk or expanding foam to seal the cracks, as well as tighten the screws to make sure air can’t get in behind them. You can also use mortar or masonry caulk around the foundation of your house.
Inside your home, you’ll want to target your attic and basement, areas where the biggest holes can be found. Sealing these first will result in significant benefits right away. You can use caulk and expanding foam for any wiring, plumbing, or other piping coming into your home.
Other areas inside your home to air seal include recessed lights and the attic access door or hatch. First, you’ll want to weather strip the door. Note that some recessed lights may already be sealed: Look for an ICAT label, which stands for insulation contact and air-tight. You don’t have to worry about air leaks with these, but if you don’t have that label next to the bulb, then you can assume yours leaks. Fix this with an airtight baffle.
The next step after air sealing
Once you’ve made sure there are no air leaks or drafts coming into your home, you know you’re not wasting money on unnecessary energy costs. Check to see how much your energy bill changes once you’ve sealed up your home. If your HVAC system is over 12 years old, you might want to consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient model.
Our experts at CJS Heating and Cooling are happy to consult with you about your current HVAC system and advise on whether or not you need to upgrade for energy cost improvements.
To learn more, give us a call at (614) 388-9241!