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Air Seal Assessment

Insulation assessments in Maryland

Pressure Boundary Investigation

In order for insulation to be most effective, it should be installed with no gaps, voids or compressions.  Insulation performance is significantly reduced when subjected to wind and air intrusion. 

As a result, a thorough investigation of all the possible thermal bypasses around the envelope of the building must be a part of a good energy assessment so they can be properly addressed. 

A determination should be made as to whether or not there is a proper air barrier in-line with the insulation that is installed.  The air barrier should be contiguous and continuous over the entire thermal boundary and it should be perfectly aligned with the insulation.

Get a home energy audit if this is interesting to you.

Watch How We Air Seal an Attic

Example 1 - Open Top Plates

Proper air sealing and insulation

Top Plate Air Gaps - Most Attics Have this Problem
A good attic inspection looks closely at the top plates to determine what condition they are in.   A top plate can be seen from the attic floor and is beneath the insulation in most Maryland attics.  If you think about a wall in your house on the top floor, the wall has electrical outlets and light switches in the wall.  The wiring is hidden behind the wall and as seen in the photo above, much of the way the wiring gets to the different parts of the house is through the top of an upstairs wall, which the technical term for that is Top Plate.

With open holes and cracks and crevices around drywall, wrongly drilled holes that were never filled in and other bypasses associated with the top plates, warm and cold air take advantage of those gaps and go in and out of them wreaking havoc on your comfort and your energy bills.  One way to check this is to have a thermal image taken on a cold or hot day.  Easier and less expensive is to take a trip up to the attic and take a look.

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Interior Upstairs Hallway Location of Top Plates
This photo is a reference photo for the above thermal image.  The yellow line shows where the top floor wall meets the top floor ceiling.  Where there is a dividing wall for bedrooms, hallway and bathrooms the framing at the top of the wall cavity can be seen from the attic and it is called the top plate.

Spray foam attic air sealing

The solution to thermal bypasses at the top plates and other locations at the attic floor is to air seal them.  If you are not sure exactly where to air seal in the attic, another way you can find leaky spots is to look for dirty insulation.  Air passing through the cracks for years will cause the insulation to have discoloration or dark spots.  Pull up whatever insulation is there and use spray foam to seal the cracks.  Be sure to use fire rated foam around the flue and the light fixtures, if necessary.  Check your local codes and regulations!

Example 2 - Recessed Lights

Stop air connections to attic

The Issue-Recessed Lights are Gateways to the Attic
Recessed lights are attractive lighting fixtures for all around the house and they are quite popular.  Unfortunately, recessed lights can cause some of the worst drafts, comfort issues and high energy bills, particularly if the fixture is remodel grade as shown in the photo.  The recessed lights pictured at the attic floor is a demonstration of how porous these fixtures can be.  You can actually see the light from the room below from the attic. 

Older and less expensive recessed light fixtures (inserted in photo for closer look) have slots and holes for the heat generated by the lightbulb to escape so that it lessens any fire hazard.  The problem is that when recessed lights are in any way connected to the attic as seen here, it creates a gateway or connection to the attic.  Although the attic is covered by the roof, it is outside of the home.

Attic sealing saves money

The Solution
The way to eliminate the gateway to the attic through the recessed light is to cut off the problem at the source!  Using a specialized recessed light cover at the attic floor and properly sealing it can transform a drafty spot in a home to a tightly sealed boundary between the comfortable air inside and the hot or cold outside attic air.

Attic air sealing experts

Simple Ideas
A properly covered and sealed recessed light will create a more comfortable home and depending on how many need to be sealed, could save a lot of money on energy usage as well.  This air sealing concept can be applied in other ways to several other areas around the house to tighten things up and prevent your heating and cooling unit to die early and cost a lot to do so.

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Building Performance Institute
Eric Gans
Building Analyst
Envelope Professional
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Helping You!

*Improve home comfort
Educate you about your home
*Find air leakage in your home
*Improve energy efficiency
*Use science for solutions
*Assess your building's shell
*Help prioritize improvements
*Find the root causes
*Assess insulation levels
*Measure indoor air quality
*Evaluate windows & doors
*Evaluate attic ventilation

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    Specialized Maryland Contractor


    • MHIC Licensed
    • Building Analyst Certified
    • Envelope Professional Certification
    • EPA Lead Renovator Certified
    • YouTube Learning Channel


    Our mission is to help Maryland homeowners create a more comfortable home and save energy. We achieve this by applying building science principles and modern air sealing and insulating techniques.

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    Services & Service Areas

    Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Charles County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County



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    Laurel, MD 20723


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    An Energy Auditor's Purpose 
    "Energy auditors visit residential buildings and talk to owners and residents.  They inspect, test, and measure to decide what energy-efficient retrofits are practical and cost-effective." Residential Energy