October 22, 2011
Most people think that insulating should be the first step in making their home more energy-efficient, but in many cases air leaks around windows and doors and through ceilings, walls, and the foundation can account for the greatest amount of loss of conditioned (heated or cooled) air. So before beginning any insulation projects, determining where air leakage is occurring and attempting to control the amount of leakage is important. Failing to tighten up your home first, may mean the value of added insulation will be reduced.
Sources of Air Leakage
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
To determine where air sealing is needed, with windows and exterior doors closed, and interior doors opened, turn on all exhaust fans to create a negative pressure inside the house. Then using your hand or an incense stick, try to identify areas where there is excessive air flow. For a more precise determination of the air sealing needs of your house, contact a qualified home energy professional to conduct an energy audit. An auditor will use special equipment, such as a blower door or thermal imaging camera, to document points of leakage where air sealing work is needed.
Tightening up your home with caulk and weather-stripping and sealing ducts will have a significant effect on the way your home operates, as well as your comfort. But a home also needs to breathe. It is possible to seal up the house so tightly that stale air and moisture is trapped inside. This can lead to odors and condensation and staining on windows and other cold surfaces.
In some cases, over-tightening may result an insufficient air supply for fuel-burning appliances-such as the gas furnace, water heater and oven. This can lead to a situation where air containing the potential harmful by-products of combustion (such as carbon monoxide) can be drawn back into the house rather than escaping through the chimney or vent. The same thing can happen when a wood-burning fireplace or wood-stove is used.
A professional energy auditor can also conduct an appliance combustion safety test, before and after any air sealing or other energy retrofit work do determine whether there are any combustion air problems. To provide ongoing protection in the event of a buildup of carbon monoxide all home should have at least one carbon monoxide detector installed in each sleeping area. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for placement, installation and replacement of the CO alarm, and make sure you test it monthly.
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