Home Energy Savings: The Rules They Are a Changing

| by Ken Summers
Home Energy Savings: The Rules They Are a Changing

Quick - what is the single most effective thing you can do to save on the cost of heating and cooling your home? Upgrade your windows? Insulate your attic? Replace your furnace and air conditioner with high-efficiency equipment? While all of these measures help reduce energy waste, recent reports cited by the U.S. Department of Energy found the single most effective means of conserving home energy for the majority of U.S. homeowners today is air duct sealing.

Surprised? That’s understandable. While a lot of attention has been given to things like energy efficient light bulbs and doubled-paned windows, until recently, little could be done to effectively seal duct leaks so the problems associated with leaky ducts was mostly ignored.

But wait. What about duct sealing the good old fashion way, using special duct sealing tape or mastic?

While these traditional methods of duct sealing can help to some degree, the vast majority of ductwork is hidden behind walls, under insulation, or tight attic spaces. This makes accessing and manually sealing the leaks a near impossible task. How many homeowners are going to rip up walls and attics just to seal their ductwork?

Understanding this problem, the U.S. Department of Energy, along with the Environmental Protection Agency and others sponsored research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to find a solution to this critical home energy conservation problem.  There answer: if we can’t access the leaks from the outside of the ductwork, let’s do it from the inside.

The breakthrough sealant they developed is applied as a non-toxic aerosol mist that is pumped throughout the inside of the home’s air duct system. It doesn’t coat the inside of the ductwork, but instead, the mist of sealant particles stay suspended in the air until they come across leaks in the ductwork. There they accumulate and bond together around the holes until the leaks are filled.

“It’s kind of like ‘fix-a-flat’ for your home’s duct system,” said Douglas Beiser, general manager, Hader Heating And Cooling of Cincinnati. “It takes less than a day to set up the equipment, apply the sealant, and have everything packed up and finished. Tests indicate that the sealant lasts the lifetime of the home. Best of all, when the job is done, home owners can immediately see and feel the results for themselves.”

In most cases, aerosealing a home can stop 95 percent of the leakage. That could easily be a savings of 30 percent or more on a typical home utility bill – an ROI that is just a fraction of what you would find for upgrading windows or insulating your walls.   

So the next time someone asks you advice about home energy savings, be sure that duct sealing is top on your list.

If you’d like more advice about sealing duct leaks or home energy savings in general, check out the Comfort Institute website at www.comfortinstitute.org or send me an email at [email protected].

Topics: Heating & Cooling, Indoor Air Quality

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