Building experts have known for years the importance of having a “tight” home. By taking small steps such as caulking, using moisture barriers, increasing insulation, and replacing poorly performing windows, homeowners and builders have been able to increase the energy efficiency in today’s homes. But there’s one area that has been overlooked: leaky duct work in the heating or air conditioning system.
Many new building codes have begun addressing duct leakage and some estimates list the amount of energy loss at up to 25 percent. Twenty-five percent! Obviously, there is a tremendous opportunity to save a lot of money by sealing duct work leaks!
Where do these leaks occur?
- The joints or connections between ducts.
- Joints in metal elbows.
- The boot to duct connection.
- The furnace or air handler itself.
There’s no sense in heating or cooling your basement or attic, so take a few minutes to inspect and correct problems in your system’s duct work. If you can tape a Christmas gift, you can correct a lot of potential leaks in your heating or air conditioning system’s duct work.
Connections between ducts
The connection between your ducts and the main line is a prime place for leakage to occur. Also, pay special attention to “Y” joints where a flexible duct may split. The solution is to use aluminum duct tape. Now this isn’t just any ordinary duct tape. It is a thin sheet of aluminum with an adhesive backing. I’ve used it extensively to seal leaks in my own ducts, both flexible and rigid. Ordinary duct tape (the kind that is used to fix everything from NASCAR fenders to making wallets) doesn’t cut it. It’s adhesive isn’t nearly as strong and it has a fabric base that, once the adhesive breaks down, will allow air to flow through it.
Joints in metal ducts
It’s surprising the shock that these joints take. Constantly putting these joints under pressure from the system turning off and on can, over the course of time, weaken the joints and cause them to leak. Again, use the aluminum duct tape to seal any weakened areas that are leaking your hard earned dollars.
The boot to duct connection
In the first house that my wife and I rented, we had a very strong airflow in our kitchen from the heating and air conditioning system, but one day I noticed that the flow was much weaker. I’ve always been one to investigate things like this so I crawled into the crawl space (there’s a reason they call it that) and found that the flexible duct work had begun to work its way loose from the boot. The boot is the piece of sheet metal that connects your duct work to the vent in each room. Make sure the duct is connected to the boot securely using the aluminum tape.
The air handler
After we moved from the rental house, we bought a home with a full basement that had the air handler down stairs. It was always pleasantly cool in the basement, more than usual. One day, when the system kicked on, I noticed that there was a blast of cool air coming from the AC system box. When I walked up to it, I saw that there were metal joints in the sheet metal that were not sealed. Again, I broke out the aluminum duct tape and solved that problem by taping the joints.
Many people mistakenly believe that a couple of insignificant leaks into an attic or basement are no big deal, but when an attic or basement is susceptible to leaks, it puts those areas under positive pressure. In winter months especially, this is a bad scenario. If a home has a high relative humidity, it can force any moisture laden air out of cracks and gaps and create a mold or moisture problem as that warm humid air comes in contact with colder building materials. Once that warm air hits the colder materials, it condenses the moisture onto surfaces that probably shouldn’t be getting wet.
Take a few minutes and inspect your duct work. Make any needed repairs and seal any leaks. Make sure that flexible duct work is properly supported and doesn’t have harsh bends that can constrict the air flow. Once you figure out how much you’re saving, put the difference into a savings account like recommended in 17 Sneaky Savings Strategies!