Remember when you were a kid during the summer and your parents would yell at you for leaving the door open. “Close the door! Are you trying to cool the whole neighborhood?” Believe it or not, you’re still doing it now. Only it’s not with the front door, it’s with your ducts. Yes those lifelines that bring the cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter to every room in the house. In all the time that I have been performing energy audits in Atlanta, I have never found a duct system that was adequately sealed. This is further evidence that our homes were poorly built and heating and air companies need better training.
According to the Department of Energy, the average residential duct system loses 24% to 40% of the heating or cooling energy that passes through them. These systems are either losing energy from holes, cracks, and disconnections, or from a lack of insulation on the duct walls. Considering that heating and cooling accounts for up to 56% of the utility costs in a home, this is obviously a big problem.
In a previous blog I mentioned how duct leakage was contributing to bad smells in the home due to pesticides that were placed in the attic. Extensive leakage in the return air ducts was causing the HVAC system to suck the stinky air out of the attic and distributing it throughout the home. Why is it so important that the ducts are sealed? Properly sealed ducts can:
- Greatly reduce your energy costs (your no longer heating or cooling the neighborhood)
- Improve indoor air quality (think of all the nasty stuff in your attic or crawlspace)
- Greatly increase room comfort (actually getting the air to where you want it)
- Extend the life of your HVAC equipment (Replacement get pretty expensive)
Having your duct systems sealed is obviously a big deal. To steal a quote from a mortgage guy I hear on the radio all the time “It’s the biggest no brainer in the history of Earth.” The best way to find out if your ducts are leaky is to have an energy audit performed. Even though some systems are fully visible, there are so many places for air to escape. It takes a trained eye to find leakage areas you would never think of. If a home has a single system that supplies two stories or has ducts in wall chases or bulk heads, it’s even more important to have them tested so:
- The entire system can be tested
- The leakage areas can be pinpointed
- The amount of leakage can be quantified
- That leakage rate can be compared to a post improvement leakage rate.
So if you really want to make your home a more comfortable, healthy, and durable place to live, get an energy audit and have your ducts tested. Your house and your lungs will thank. Remember, don’t throw money at your problems, throw knowledge, it’s a lot cheaper.