When it comes to home improvement projects people hardly ever consider air-sealing their homes. Air sealing is an inexpensive way to save money on monthly heating and cooling costs while also improving your home’s comfort levels and air quality. Air sealing is the process of sealing gaps, usually in the attic and your doors and windows, to stop cool air from escaping your home in the summer and warm air from escaping in the winter. Your home needs to be sealed to keep out the elements but many homes today are not properly sealed causing drafty rooms, high energy costs, fluctuating temperatures, and lowered air quality. According to the EPA, homeowners lose 25-30% of their heating and cooling energy by way of attic air leaks. In this post, we will look at what air sealing is and who may need it, some of the problems caused by excessive air leaks, and the benefit of correcting the problem.
What is Air Sealing?
Air sealing is the process of closing up gaps in your home that are allowing air to travel from inside your home out, or vice versa. Your home needs healthy air flow, but gaps and cracks in your home ( even the small ones, and there are a lot of them ) can waste as much energy as leaving a window open all day every day. The biggest culprit of air loss is the attic. Any gap, crack, or space that air can pass through should be sealed to eliminate potential problems. Places to air seal include:
-Wall top plates
-Electrical, plumbing, and HVAC penetrations
-Any kind of wall void
To get a proper air seal you ideally will want to remove all the old attic insulation so all possible places that need to be air sealed are visible and easily accessible. Then all gaps are filled with expanding foam sealant and allowed to cure. Bigger gaps such as wall voids can be plugged with insulating foam board and then sealed around their edges. Once all the gaps are found and sealed then new insulation should be installed to give your home the best results. Air sealing without considering upgrading your insulation, you will only reap part of the benefits. Air sealing and insulation go hand in hand to provide the best protection against the weather and energy expense loss. Anyone who has unusually high heating and cooling bills, rooms that are too hot or cold, or areas that are excessively drafty or dusty could benefit from air sealing and insulating their attic. Next, let us take a look at some of the problems associated with an unsealed attic and how air sealing can fix them.
Problems and Solutions
An improperly sealed attic can lead to many short and long-term problems that can easily be avoided if action is taken quickly. A simple and inexpensive attic retrofit is often overlooked but can save you from major future repairs and out-of-control energy costs. Let’s take a look at some of the problems caused by a lack of air sealing.
Cold and Hot Rooms
If you find yourself constantly adjusting your thermostat in the extreme temperature months of the year then you probably have a lot of expensive conditioned air leaking through your attic. When air leaks through gaps in your attic it creates a vacuum that will force air inside from outside through gaps in windows and doors to try and repressurize your home. All this outside air makes your HVAC system have to work much harder to constantly fight against the changing temperatures. Air sealing will help hold in your precious conditioned air to provide the comfort you desire.
Mold, Mildew, and Allergens
The health of your family can be at stake with a poorly sealed attic. As heat rises and is forced out of your house through the attic; the air that is sucked in through the vacuum effect brings pollen, molds, and other allergens into the house creating a dustier environment and unhealthy living space. Also in the winter when the warm air from inside leaks into the cooler attic, it can create mold and mildew that forms on the bottom of the roof which will start to grow in the spring when the weather starts to warm. Mold not only causes unhealthy air to breathe it will also start to deteriorate your roof and framing which will lead to major expenses down the road. Sealing your attic will stop this flow of air and greatly improve your air quality while reducing the chances of building mold in your home.
Pests are relentless and will take any opportunity available to invade your home. Larger pests such as squirrels, raccoons, and mice not only cause a lot of damage when they move into your attic; they also leave behind waste that can rot insulation and drywall, and allow for bad smells and sickness to enter the home through gaps. Smaller pests like cockroaches can move freely throughout your home through gaps and cracks in your attic. Air sealing as many gaps as possible in your home can be an essential addition to your pest prevention plan.
High Energy Bills and Repairs
In the most extreme weather months of the year, your HVAC system runs constantly reducing its life expectancy and raising your monthly operating costs. Air sealing your attic will maintain temperatures in your home allowing your HVAC systems to get a deserved break. Paired with proper insulation, air sealing will extend the life of your HVAC systems, plumbing ( by reducing freezing pipes ), and your home’s structural integrity.
Fixing a leaky attic is one of the most overlooked and underestimated home improvement projects a homeowner can do. By properly air sealing and insulating your attic, you will see a noticeable difference in your energy bills and all-around home health. These projects also come with the added benefit of tax credits and rebates because it is an energy efficiency upgrade; contact a tax professional or insulation contractor to hear more about these benefits. Home Shield Insulating in the Charlotte N.C. area is dedicated to working with you on your home energy improvement projects. Contact us for an energy inspection and let us show you how we can save you 10-50% on your home energy costs.