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DIY Air Leak Detection

By Your Comfort Advisor 5/9/16 9:00 AM Time to read:

Air leaks inside a home reduce the efficiency of even the highest-rated HVAC systems. While homeowners may think their investment is paying off in increased comfort and energy savings, cracks and openings in the building can counteract these energy improvements. Inspecting the home for air leaks and sealing them are effective ways to improve a home's energy efficiency.

Why Check For Air Leaks?

Air leaks in the home mean that outside air is infiltrating the inside of a home. Not only does the outside air reduce indoor air quality, but also offsets any expected energy savings. Cracks and openings allow outside air to rush in while conditioned air escapes through common household leak areas. Even a home that is outfitted with the latest, high-efficiency HVAC and zoning system can be a wasted effort if the home is not properly checked for leaks.

Common Inside Air Leaks

Most commonly, drafts can come through the windows and doors. If the windows and doors are not flush with the adjoining walls, it could lead to a less than comfortable environment and wasted money. Spaces in the doors and windows let out conditioned air while letting unconditioned air in. Homeowners can seal these openings using caulk and/or weather-stripping to reduce leakage. Begin by doing a walk-through of the home, checking for drafts or cracks in the following areas:

  • Electrical outlets
  • Baseboards
  • Fireplaces
  • Vents and fans
  • Attic doors and hatches
  • Light switches

Common Outside Air Leaks

Once homeowners have ensured that indoor leaks have been fixed, it is a good idea to inspect the outside to see if there are causes for concern. Next, they should peruse the outside of the home for any signs of cracking or holes around openings in the following areas:

  • Outdoor water faucets
  • Sidings
  • Pipes and wires
  • Foundation seals
  • Mail slots

Energy Assessment

Homeowners can also perform a DIY building pressurization test. This method ensures that outside air rushes through the cracks and openings, making leaks easier to detect. Here are step-by-step instructions:

  1. Turn off all combustion appliances.
  2. Close all windows, doors, and fireplace flues.
  3. Turn on all exhaust fans.
  4. Run a lit incense stick or a damp hand across the edges of common leakage sites. If smoke from the incense gets sucked out or blown into the home or if the damp hand feels cool, it can indicate the presence of a draft.

Not all leaks are easy to detect, however. For a comprehensive assessment, we recommend contacting a service professional to conduct a building pressurization test with more advanced equipment to detect areas of energy loss and provide solutions to the problem. Hiring a service will pay off by improving comfort levels in the home.