When you’re enjoying the cool temperatures in your Tampa area home this summer, it’s not pleasant to think that a substantial portion of that cool air may be leaking away, wasted and unused. Air leaks commonly occur in the structure of your home and in the ductwork that directs cooled air throughout your house. Air sealing is an effective way to control this waste of air, energy, and money.
Air leaks cause multiple problems
- Air leaks in your HVAC system are responsible for significant losses of air and money. Not only have you lost air that you’ve already paid to cool, your air conditioner must work harder to produce additional cooling to make up for the loss.
- Air leaks cause inconsistent cooling within your home. No matter how hard you try, you may not be able to adequately cool areas that are affected by air leaks.
- Moisture and condensation can accumulate faster when there are air leaks in your HVAC system. This moisture increases indoor humidity, which can damage papers, electronics and even the framework of your home. Excess humidity also creates an environment where mold, microorganisms and other pests can easily grow and thrive.
- Indoor air quality decreases dramatically when there are multiple air leaks in your home. Particulates and other contaminants can easily enter through the gaps, holes, cracks and openings that cause the leaks.
Finding and closing air leaks
The problems stemming from air leaks can be solved by air sealing. A program of air sealing can include procedures such as:
- Sealing around window panes with silicone caulking and sealing around door and window frames with latex caulking
- Adding weatherstripping to close off gaps between windows and doors and their frames, which will prevent drafts and seal large openings where conditioned air can escape
- Sealing and caulking wall penetrations where pipes, wires, conduits, plumbing lines, exhaust fans and utility connections come through the walls of your home
- Sealing and insulating crawl spaces and openings beneath your home where substantial amounts of air loss can occur. In some older buildings, crawl spaces were used for air distribution instead of actual ductwork. If that’s the case in your home, HVAC airflow needs to be redirected into actual ductwork as soon as possible.
- Sealing gaps and openings at sill and top plates, areas where the framework of your home contacts the basement wall and attic floor, and in the walls of your home and basement
Air sealing HVAC system ducts
The ductwork of your HVAC system is the distribution network that carries cool air from your air conditioner or heat pump to your home. These large, bulky pipes can be a significant source of air and energy loss. Pay particular attention to the ductwork when air sealing your home.
- Make sure all sections of ductwork fit tightly together, especially at branches and elbows. Reseat any loose ductwork.
- Consider using mechanical sealing at connections, such as rivets or bolts.
- Apply mastic, a specialized sealing compound, at the connections between ductwork segments. Metal tape may also be appropriate. Don’t use standard duct tape. The adhesive can dry out, allowing the tape to fall away and reopen gaps.
- Insulate ductwork with rigid fiberboard or wrap it with standard roll insulation. Ductwork is commonly made of relatively thin metal, and insulation will help prevent additional energy loss through the material of the ducts themselves.
Apart from a direct visual and physical inspection, there are two very effective techniques for finding air leaks in your home.
- Energy audit: A professional energy audit will locate and isolate areas where energy is being lost in your home. The auditor will use measuring instruments such as surface thermometers to find where walls are hotter or cooler than expected. Thermographic scans will reveal areas of heat loss that need more insulation. Smoke pencils produce a thin stream of smoke that’s physically affected by air drafts, which indicates the exact location of an air leak.
- Infiltrometer testing: Infiltrometer, or blower door, testing requires placing a large fan in an exterior door. When the fan’s turned on, the pressure inside your home drops and air is pulled in through any openings and gaps in the building’s structure. This allows the auditor to find exactly where air leaks are occurring and where air sealing efforts should be concentrated.
Customers in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater can count on Senica Air Conditioning, Inc., Inc. for all their HVAC and home comfort needs. Contact us today for more information on how you can improve your indoor comfort and reduce your cooling expenses by effectively air sealing your home.