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How To Maintain Airflow In Your Home

March 12, 2021 7 min read

How To Maintain Airflow In Your Home

Air leakage in your house is a real problem that you should not ignore. Ignoring it can result in too much air loss during the months you're trying to regulate your indoor climate, resulting in expensive heating and cooling bills.

When you don't control the airflow in your house, it also leads to poor indoor air quality.  Air leakage contributes to moisture problems, which affects the health of residents and compromises the house structure.

Know where to look.


External areas you should check for air leaks.

  • Corners
  • Water faucets
  • Where siding and chimneys meet
  • Where the foundation and bottom of brick or siding meet

Internal areas you should check for air leaks.

  • Electrical outlets and switch plates
  • Door and window frames
  • Electrical and gas service entrances
  • Baseboards
  • Weatherstripping around doors
  • Fireplace dampers
  • Attic hatches
  • Wall or window-mounted air conditioners
  • Internet, cable TV, and phone lines
  • Vents, ducts, and fans

Feel It Or See It

Look for gaps around any place where two surfaces meet or where there are pipes or wires. Check doors and windows. If you can see daylight around a door or window, that's a source of an air leak. 

Run your palm over places like door frames and windows. If there's a leak, you should be able to feel it. (Sometimes, using a wet hand makes it easier to sense a draft.)

Look for broken storm windows. If you can rattle a window, then it's likely that you have air leaking out. 

For doors and windows, you can also use the dollar bill test. Shut the door or window onto a dollar bill and try to pull it out. If it doesn't drag, then you've found a source of air loss.

Don't forget about those skylights. Checking your skylight takes climbing up on the roof to look around. You're looking for open seams between flashing or shingles, shingle debris that allows water to collect on the roof, and failed or cracked patches of roofing cement from any previous repairs.

See If It Blows

Sometimes feeling or seeing leaks aren't that easy. You can go a step further and light a candle. By watching how the flame flickers, you can locate your leaks and assess the damage they cause.

A flame that jiggles slightly indicates a small air leak, while a flame that dances like a wild party prop indicates a decent-sized air leak. Just make sure all your fans are turned off first.

Alternately, you can use an incense stick. For this method, you need a very windy day to get the best results.

  • Turn off all combustion appliances and water heaters.
  • Shut windows, exterior doors, and flues.
  • Use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms. 

Light the incense stick and pass it over the areas you're inspecting. Any leaks or drafts will cause the smoke to waver or suck it out. 

Invest In Helpful Tools

One tool that’s handy and affordable for the homeowner is a thermal air leak detector. A detector will allow you to quickly and efficiently find areas that let heat out and cold air in. 

When choosing your detector, make sure to get only what you need. The ones created for homeowners are effective and inexpensive. Check online reviews carefully and read comments on sales pages before purchasing.

Another tool you may want to consider to improve your home’s air quality is an energy recovery ventilator. The ERV connects to your ducts and draws clean, fresh air into your home while expelling the stale air out. 

The ERV should be installed by a professional. When looking for your ERV, look for one with a heat exchanger that facilitates between the airflows. This will help your home retain its heat during the winter months through the airflow process.

Patch It Yourself

Often, you may be able to stop any energy escaping your home by patching it up yourself. Here are some airflow DIY fixes.

Windows: 

  • Most often, window leaks occur between the window frame and the house frame. In these cases, you caulk where the window frame meets the exterior siding. 
  • Weatherstripping wears out. You can find an easy-to-use peel and stick roll of replacement weather stripping at your favorite home center.
  • You may also inject a foam sealant between the window frame and house frame. This helps keep air leaks down and keeps water from getting into your house also.
  • When you can't replace broken storm windows right away or need extra time to save up money for a new window, you can seal the window with plastic.

Doors:

  • Homes naturally shift with changes in the soil. Along with it, your doors will shift and create gaps.  We have a few solutions to help you deal with this issue.
  • Remove the interior door casing and add foam sealant between the door frame and the house frame.
  • Add weather stripping. 
  • Replace door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets.

Fireplaces:

  • Keep the flue damper tightly closed when not in use.
  • Use fire-resistant materials when sealing air leaks around chimneys. 
  • Consider investing in an inflatable chimney balloon. 

Around the house:

  • Caulk and seal air leaks that you find around any plumbing, ductwork, or wiring that comes through the walls.
  • Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates.
  • Cover your kitchen exhaust fan when not in use. 
  • Check that your dryer vent is clear.
  • Use fire-resistant materials when sealing air leaks around furnaces and gas-fired water heater vents.
  • Weatherstripping the attic hatch can often help reduce airflow leaks. 

Weatherstripping Types:

Friction, weather, temperature changes, and wear and tear affect how long your weatherstripping will last. Choose a type designed for the location you're using it.

There are many types of weatherstripping out there. Below we give you a breakdown of three common types used by DIY homeowners.

Felt:

  • Available in plain or reinforces with a flexible metal strip.
  • Felt is stapled, glued, or tacked into place.
  • Used around a door or window. 
  • Affordable and easy to install.
  • Not as durable and least effective at preventing airflow loss. 
  • Should not use where it will be exposed to moisture or friction.
  • Very visible. May look unsightly.

Vinyl:

  • Vinyl holds up well and resists moisture but costs more.
  • Vinyl is a self-stick plastic that's folded in a V-shape to bridge a gap. The material presses against the sides of the crack to block drafts.
  • It is best used inside the track of a double-hung or sliding window and for the tops and sides of doors.
  • Can be difficult to install because corners have to be really tight.
  • The bronze version is nice for older homes.

Metals (V Strip or Tension Seal style):

  • Metal strips are affordable and last for years. 
  • Metals look nice on older homes where vinyl may seem out of place.
  • Durable metal strip folded into a "V" shape that springs open to bridge gaps.
  • Used along the sides of a double-hung or sliding window and for the tops and sides of doors.
  • You cut this DIY weatherstripping with scissors and then peel and stick, or install it with finishing nails.

Tips for foam outlet and switch gaskets:

  • Turn off electricity at the circuit box for the area before starting.
  • Buy your insulating gaskets from your home improvement center versus making your own. (Purchase ones that match your plate design.)
  • Covers should be installed snug with the gaskets, or you'll still lose airflow.
  • Consider repairing openings that are bigger than the cover plates to increase air control. You can add spray foam insulation or caulking to fill gaps.

Caulking tips and useful information:

  • Caulking compounds vary in strength, properties, and prices.
  • Clean up water-based caulk with water.
  • Clean up solvent-based caulk with solvent. 
  • Some pressurized cartridges do not require caulking guns.
  • Do your research and choose the right caulk for the surface you're sealing.
  • The best time to caulk is during dry weather when the outdoor temperature is above 45℉ or 7.2℃. 

Welcome Professional Help

Sometimes, air leaks are hard to locate, and you're not sure what you should do. If this is the case, hire a professional to come in and perform an energy evaluation on your home. 

With your inspection, you'll find out where your air leaks are, and the inspector will present you with all the requirements needed to bring your home to top energy efficiency level. 

Even if you’re able to patch the airflow leaks you locate on your own, consider scheduling an HVAC inspection and duct cleaning. You’ll soon be breathing cleaner air and have peace of mind knowing your system is running smoothly. 

When it comes to fixing your home’s airflow leaks, here are some instances you’re better off hiring a professional instead of patching it up yourself.

  • During your inspection, you discover your roof leaks, and your insulation is water-saturated.
  • When the location has excessive wiring close to the insulation, that may cause a fire.
  • Your attic has insufficient air ventilation.
  • Air loss around recessed light fixtures. These are close to insulation.
  • If you discover you need insulation blown-in or large-scale foam air sealing. These jobs require special tools and specialized training.
  • Any type of patching jobs in which you’re inexperienced with handling or feel nervous about. 

Conclusion:

By following these steps, you’ll be able to enjoy lower heating and cooling costs, as well as feel more comfortable in your home. Not only will you save on your energy bills, but you’ll increase your home’s value by fixing the airflow issues. 

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