Detecting Air Leaks in Your Home

Jun 01, 2009

Air leaks in a home are a common problem. Old and new homes alike are very susceptible to air leaks. These pesky little leaks not only cost you extra money on your energy bill, but it also compromises the air-quality in your home and causes your heating and cooling system to work a lot harder than it needs to putting unnecessary wear and tear on it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about living in your home:

¨ Is your house, or parts of it, uncomfortably warm or cold?

¨ Is your home humid and sticky even when the air conditioner is running?

¨ Are respiratory problems an issue for your family? Such as colds, allergies, sinusitis, asthma?

¨ Are there unusual odors in your home? Have you checked for mold?

¨ Are your energy bills higher than what they should be?

¨ Does your heating and cooling system run continuously?

To get a thorough and accurate assessment of your home, you will need to have a professional conduct an energy audit. Be sure to have them conduct a blower door test. A blower door test, which depressurizes the home, can reveal the location of many leaks. A complete energy audit will also help determine areas in your home which may need additional insulation.

There are other ways to detect air leaks in your home without a blower door test. These can be done yourself. First look at where different materials meet such as brick and siding, between foundation walls, and between a chimney and other siding. Also inspect around the following areas for any cracks and gaps that could cause air leaks:

¨ Door and window frames

¨ Mail chutes

¨ Electrical and gas service entrances

¨ Cable TV and phone lines

¨ Outdoor water faucets

¨ Where dryer vents pass through walls

¨ Bricks, siding, stucco and foundation

¨ Air conditioners

¨ Vents and fans

You can depressurize your home by following these steps:

  1. Turn off your furnace on a cool, very windy day.
  2. Shut all windows and doors.
  3. Turn on all exhaust fans that blow air outside, such as bathroom fans or stove vents.
  4. Light an incense stick and pass around the edges of common leak sites. Wherever the smoke is sucked out of or blown into the room, there’s a draft.

If you don’t want to shut off your furnace, you can just turn on all your exhaust fans to depressurize your home.

Other ways to find air leaks:

¨ Shining a flashlight at night over all potential gaps while a partner observes the house from the outside. Large cracks will show up as rays of light, but this method is not good for detecting small cracks.

¨ Shutting a door or window on a piece of paper. If you can pull the paper without tearing it, you’re losing energy.

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