Air Leaks are a hidden enemy in your home

Imagine leaving the door open at 100 degrees and trying to cool your home? Have you ever yelled, “Shut the door!” Well your home has hundreds of these little doors- joints, and openings- cracks and crevices- where hot air sneaks in- in summer and cold air sneaks in- in the heating season. Small gaps make a big difference. They all add up to a sizable hole right in your house. You need to do more yelling for all these little doors to be shut.

Why should you be concerned about air leaks?

Air Leaks are making you uncomfortable

You can have air leaks that create drafts and convection currents that carry your conditioned air along to the great outdoors. In the worst scenario these drafts can waif across your delicate skin and give you a chill. Maybe not so much that you notice the particulars but you are uncomfortable nonetheless.

When the wind is blowing- impacting the pressure gradient between outside and inside your house- the drafts are greater. When the outside air is particularly colder or hotter than your conditioned environment, these drafts impact you even more. You don’t have to feel a draft to have it make you uncomfortable.

Your cool conditioned air drains out of the house replaced by hot humid air in summer. You air conditioner works more often for longer period of time to make you comfortable. The temperature in the house fluctuates more driving your personal comfort zone from perfect, to past perfect level of cool to too cool…. maybe, to too hot as the cooling cycle continues but the fluctuations in temperature and humidity make you more uncomfortable than you deserve.

Your heated warm air floats up and out the air leaks in the ceiling. This makes your heating system come on more often, for longer periods of time in the heating season. The temperature in the house fluctuates more driving your personal comfort zone from perfect, to past perfect to too hot or too cool, as the heating cycle continues. You are more uncomfortable than you deserve to be.

Air Leaks create moisture problems

Texas is a humid place. We cover the humidity in Texas as part of our discussion on the climate zone of North Texas. High humidity at 95 degrees leaks into your house and drops out this moisture as dew point is reached. We cover dew points and moisture issues here. This is a critical issue because the more outside air that leaks in, the more moisture comes in with the leaking air. Moisture and problems with moisture are a big deal in your home. We discuss moisture problems and how air leaks exacerbate these kinds of problems here.

Air Leaks Can Endanger Your Health

A great many biological pollutants that can be present in your home. They all thrive in moist air. Problems with Mold and Mildew all get much worse at humidity levels above 60%. Many people have severe allergic reactions to these kinds of spores. Moisture problems are a major issue in an unhealthy home. An unhealthy home can make you uncomfortable and sick and miserable. We cover all the issues of an unhealthy home here, but right now we are wrestling with the issue of air leaks.

Air Leaks are Costing You Money

Your air conditioner comes on more often than needed and works longer periods of time to keep you cool. Your heater comes on more often, for longer periods of time in the heating season. They temperature in the house fluctuates more and you are more uncomfortable but you are also paying for all this churning of mechanical equipment and the power needed to churn.

related:  Would you like to know how much your air leaks are costing you? A quality energy assessment can give you a great hint. Understanding a HERS assessment is enlightening.

Where does the air you breathe in your home come from?

When the weather is hot, or cold, and the windows and doors are shut tight. It comes in through the attic or under the sill or up through the crawlspace. Have you ever been in your crawlspace? All kinds of nasty happens down here. Eyebrow raising, isn’t it?  Let’s explore that subject here.

OK that is my best case for why you should do something about air leaks.

We really need to have a clear idea where all this air is leaking in… we explore a myriad of paths for air leak right here.

How much air might be leaking into and out of your your home?

and just as important- how much money can I save by doing something about it? Well, remember that air leaks impact humidity in your home and your health and comfort too, but we all like to save money… You home is probably pretty typical of the other homes that were built around the same time and era of building.  This linked post talks about HERS ratings from the different home building eras not air leakage rates in particular, but you can go with the idea that a higher HERS rating means more air leaks for that era of home.

The critical information is about your home.

It depends on how old your home is and what has happened to it since it was built. Otherwise,  we are guessing until we talk to the pros and get an energy assessment. Bigger houses leak more and cost more money but all the testing methodologies work to remove the size of the house factor – and calculate an air exchanges per hour estimate which factors out the size of a particular house. Professional energy assessors do this kind of testing all the time and all performance estimates use engineered methods that are checked against results in the real world. Check out air leak testing here.

What can I do to stop these air leaks and how much is this going to cost?

First off we need to  avoid bogus sales pitches and greenwash

We must have reliable and proven ways to measure air leakage and plan of action that prioritizes what will help the most for the investment made. How Do You find a qualified energy auditor?” When you turn to professionals make sure you find an experienced certified  energy auditor. Here are my recommendations for certifications to  accept. 

But our story right now is tracking down air leaks. This is an intriguing story to you because it is a story that tells you

  • about your money- your family wealth- leaking out of your house
  • about the air you breathe and the health of your home
  • the level of comfort you feel in the dog days of AUgust- how comfortable you are when  the cold winds of February jostle North Texas.

We talk about tracking down air leaks here.

What can you do on your own about air leaks?

You can certainly get a vivid sense if you have air leakage problems or not. The article on tracking down air leaks in your home gives you a vivid path for getting a feel for how big an air leakage issue you have. The best feel for it is the attic search. Lets plan a trip into the attic to explore.

It always make sense to consult with a certified energy auditor

We need to mention a consultation with a HERS energy auditor. They are the best way to filter through the information that is unique to your home and formulating a plan that fits what you want to do. The top of that discussion of the professional auditing process starts here. LINK True facts as best can be determined help you make the best call for what you want to do.

Are these repairs one might attempt DIY?

Unless you have your heart set on becoming a HERS rater yourself- I recommend that you have professionals do this kind of work. It takes very specialized equipment.

Maybe not? Try your hand with the attic access rehab project

Try your hand with the attic access rehab project This has the intrigue of measuring and cutting with no heavy lifting and if you screw it up you can patch or repair the project. Or start over. Check it out here.  This project has a start and a finish. And you get to deal with the mess and the scratches without the full treachery of working all over the attic and when you are done you can see how well you did. This is in contrast to trying to air seal your home. If you are not testing, you are shooting arrows at a target in the dark. Not fun and does not work well. Gets frustrating quickly.

You need quality materials not usually available at your home big box retailer, and there are so many ways to get into trouble in an attic… A critical factor is that you need to confirm by testing how well you have done. Professionals can do the best job they can sealing up a home and miss the estimated mark figured on by the energy auditor, and the sealing team can come back and figure out what was missed, what did not work.

Contrast this to you working on your own with a caulk gun and a book you found online. You have a much better chance of caulking something that should not be caulked… there are purposeful drain holes in windows and brick that you do not want to caulk… than you have a chance of actually finding the big holes and solving them.

Sorry, to be so blunt, but this is not a space for amateurs no matter how  impassioned. We discuss what might work work as as a DIY project for you here. Did you miss the roof access cover project described in the info box above. This is a great way to get in and figure out that might be exciting to start turns into a pain in the ass in no time.

There are many things you can do, but I would not recommend air sealing your home. You want one more reason? You need a tested and documented approach to energy savings. it will become more important as quality green home take over the real estate market. It will impact your resale value.

Someday HERS ratings will be standard fare for completing a sale. You might as well get it right now, and enjoy the benefits rather than pay the price later.

So what are our Options Here?

I will repeat briefly my recommendation that you speak with  a professional that is a certified HERS rater or a BPI building analyst. Have that conversation and then you will get a sense of the path forward. Maybe you would like another opportunity to better understand what energy auditors do- the type of information they can provide to you and the options you have to follow up on.

There is money available for these kinds of projects too. Do not let the investment scare you off. Do not let the penourious demands in your brain stop you. Saving money in the future builds your wealth.. just like Ben Franklin said. A penny saved in a penny earned. In this case you invest to save.

Any thoughts or questions please speak up.


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