AC and Heating Tip from AC Express
Sealing Your Home
There are a lot of ways in which you might be spending more money than you have to on your air conditioning. Austin is still experiencing the kind of weather that makes air conditioners work hard all day long which means the potential for breakdowns is high and so are our electricity bills. Austin AC repair companies receive many calls in this season as the last bouts of summer cause the need for repairs in air conditioners across the city. This can end up costing people significant amounts of money and these kinds of circumstances can be prevented with proper maintenance throughout the summer.
Another big way we lose money due to our air conditioning in Austin is through overly high electricity bills. Sometimes these bills are high because our air conditioners have lost some efficiency but sometimes it has nothing to do with a problem with the air conditioner itself at all. Poorly insulated and sealed homes can be a big problem here. Don’t let something as easy to fix as an improperly sealed home let you waste energy month after month. The following the tips will explain what exactly it means to seal your home, why it’s important, and how to do it.
What is Home Sealing?
Home sealing is a way of preventing air leakage. Air leakage or infiltration is when the cool air that you’ve filled your home with using your air conditioner escapes into the hot outdoors. This can be done in small cracks and opens around certain key areas in the household that aren’t always even visible to the human eye. Because the cold air is escaping, the air conditioner has to work harder to replace that cold air so that the house as a whole stays cool. This causes your air conditioner to use more energy, which raises your electricity bill. Pretty simple huh?
Not only does air leakage cost you more money in cooling and heating, an improperly sealed home is going to let in more contaminants and humidity from the outside, creating a less healthy environment in your house. That’s not something you want and it’s something that home sealing will fix. Generally, home sealing focuses on the parts of the house that create connections between the inside and the outside world. This is usually the doorways and windows but there can be air leaks in other parts of the house as well that might need to be sealed. There are methods for determining where in your house air might be leaking outside and specific methods for home sealing that are appropriate for the different kinds of leaks and locations of those leaks. Next, let’s look a little more in depth into the importance of home sealing.
The Importance of Home Sealing
The three most important reasons for sealing your home are comfort, cost, and health. Home sealing prevents air leaks and the way air leaks decrease your comfort is by letting in drafts and humidity from the outdoors. Drafts can cause inconsistencies in the temperature throughout your home, thereby reducing the comfort you expect from a controlled atmosphere created by air conditioning. And as humidity increases comfort decreases.
The reason air leaks can cost you money is pretty obvious. A drafty house is more than just a waste of natural resources — it also means higher energy bills. You'll lower energy bills automatically by air sealing due to the fact that there should be fewer leaks in and out of the house. The harder the air conditioner has the work and the longer, the more it costs you in energy bills every month. The more air that escapes the house, the long the air conditioner will have to run to achieve the same temperature inside the house. So the more air leaks, the greater the energy bill costs.
The way air leaks can make your health worse is through the influence of outdoor contaminants that come in through leaks in the home. A good air conditioning system will filter out many of the pollen, mold spores, and other allergens and contaminants that can bring your health down. Air leaking in from the outdoors undoes that process of filtration. Poor ventilation can lead to poor health. Not to mention the pest problem. Cracks around windows, doors, and wall joints in the home can be a perfect entrance for small insects and pests that can infiltrate your home and cause you distress. Sealing your house can solve many in home infestations. Insects and other pests often will enter a home through an unsealed door, torn screen, and cracks in the foundation or walls. After entry the pest will inhabit a portion of your home and reproduce. After a pest has infested your home it can be very difficult to exterminate. To prevent these pests from entering your home specific measures can be taken to seal these entry points.
The first step to sealing your home is finding the areas in the home where air is leaking out. The easiest and most effective way to do this is to hire a professional. Professionals will often use infrared cameras to look at the heat signatures of the air in the home and spot differences that signal an air leak. Because these cameras are expensive and interpreting their results accurately takes a degree of skill and knowledge not possessed by the average home owner, hiring a professional is often worth it. Inspecting a 2500 square foot home for air leaks will run you on average $350 which is a small price to pay for all the benefits as were discussed of sealing your home.
A professional energy auditor might also do a blower door test to check for hard to spot air leaks in doorways. This means using a large device that fits in the door frame and contains a high powered fan. The fan blows indoor air outwards, reducing the air pressure in the house. This causes air to rush in the house from the outside which is detected by air pressure meters in the door blower.
As far as what you can do by yourself, there are several places you can check visually for air leak locations. Some of these places include:
- Electrical outlets
- Switch plates
- Door and window frames
- Electrical and gas service entrances
- Weather stripping around doors
- Fireplace dampers
- Attic hatches
- Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners
- Cable TV and phone lines
- Where dryer vents pass through walls
- Vents and fans
Another way to check for leaks is to simply test for drafts. Drafts are most often going to occur underneath doors at the connection between the door and the doorframe. You can check for a draft by turning off your air conditioner and then holding a piece of paper at the bottom of the door. If there’s a draft then the paper will be moving a bit.
Check for cracks and gaps in the caulking around the house. If you make your house dark during the day and light leaks through the doors then there are air leaks. If you can rattle and move your windows in their frame then that could be a sign of air leaks.
You can start by sealing leaks between an unfinished attic and the living space below. Air escapes into the attic through recessed light fixtures, plumbing and electrical runs, ductwork, exhaust vents, chimney shafts, attic entries and other penetrations. You can seal the gaps even if the attic floor is already insulated. Wearing gloves and a dust mask, move the insulation out of the way and seal the gaps with spray foam insulation. To avoid a fire hazard, make sure the fixtures are rated IC, for insulation contact, before covering them with the foam.
Ducts can also be sealed which can cause significant increases in the efficiency of your air conditioning. The tool most often used by professionals to seal duct leaks is fiber-reinforced mastic duct sealant which is usually applied by hand. Aluminum duct tape can also be used to seal the joints where sections of the ducts connect to one another.
For windows and doors, apply metal, rubber, foam or vinyl weather-stripping around the moving parts of windows and doors. Doors should be sealed by filling gaps between the frames and the door with spray foam. Usually nonexpanding foam is going to be the most useful for doors and windows. Use caulk around the inside and outside trim of the window frames.
Use caulk to fill in gaps and cracks in the caulking around the walls where the walls meet the floor. If your walls are insulated, you can improve the insulation of your home fairly significantly just by removing the base boards and filling in gaps between the foundation and the wall with spray foam. Caulk is a great way to fill gaps less than 1/4th of an inch. This can be done in areas such as around electrical boxes and outlets and other small and hard to seal places. Around the outdoor faucets and ventilation piping are great areas for filling in small gaps with caulk as well. Spray foam is for gaps and cracks that exceed 1/4th of an inch. Go around the edges of the inside of your house and fill in the spaces between the foundation and the walls of your house. This will go far in preventing air leakage.
Home Sealing and Air Conditioning Repair in Austin
In this tip there were detailed a number of ways you can seal your home by yourself. It went into detail about the process of detecting leaks and some of the tools used to find and fill them. Sealing your home is an important task for those looking to improve their home. A well sealed home will be more comfortable, will cost you less money to cool and heat, will have fewer problems with pests, and will be less humid and have cleaner air.
Regardless of your Austin air conditioning needs, you can call on AC Express to get the help you need. AC Express does AC repair in Austin for unbeatable prices with unbeatable quality. Austin air conditioning is better with home sealing, and AC repairs are better with AC Express. Call today!
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