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Residential Energy Efficiency Blog

Friday, October 30 2020
How to Seal HVAC Ducts - Learn the Tricks to the Trade

 

Watch this Ridiculous Duct Leak

Then Learn How to Seal Yours!

 

When it comes to improving home comfort and energy efficiency it is amazing how little attention is paid to sealing HVAC ducts.  Properly sealing leaky HVAC ducts should be a high priority for energy efficiency.

According to the EPA and other studies, the HVAC ducts in your home can be leaky enough to account for up to as much as 30% of a household's total energy loss. 

So, what can you do?
 

Three Not So Obvious Reasons Leaky Ducts are an Issue
 

1. Like Blowing Up a Balloon - Increase Air Leakage to the Outside
Leaky ducts create pressure dynamics that can have negative effects on energy efficiency.  If too much air is leaking out in any particular area, similar to blowing up a balloon, pressure forces some of the conditioned air out through cracks in the building shell.  In fact, pressures are often great enough to double or triple the air leakage compared to when the HVAC ducts system is off.
 

2. Ever Wonder Why One Room is Always Cozy & One is Always Uncomfortable?
If HVAC ducts located inside the home are leaky, another issue that stems is pressure imbalances within the duct loop.  Although not as costly as ducts leaking in an attic or crawl space, they can make a living space super uncomfortable and used less often as a result.  The bright room that was once the reason you bought the house is now a no man's land.
 

3. Leaky Ducts Can Lead to Moisture, Mold & Drywall Issues
When HVAC ducts run through an attic or crawl space that is open to the outside, it is important to focus on the ducts in order to prevent moisture and mold due to condensation.  If the duct is extremely leaky during summer humidity the cool, conditioned air will interact with the warm humid air - all above your head in the attic - and create a mold issue if not resolved.  This can also happen in a basement ceiling.
 

What's the Solution?  A Three Pronged Approach

1. Seal air leakage around the building shell.  Don't get overwhelmed and feel as though you need to seal every single duct in your home.  You cannot seal every single leak in your home's building shell. But, a combination of sealing the accessible building shell areas and the accessible HVAC ducts, the needle can move towards "perfection".

2. Closely target any area that has been a problem and seal HVAC ducts.  For example, if there is a ceiling in the basement that had some dampness due to duct condensation, it might be a worthwhile investment to treat those specific areas.  Your local certified energy auditor can advise you on this.

3. Seal the accessible HVAC ducts in the proper way. 


Prescribed Method for How to Properly Seal HVAC Ducts

*This method and it's precise instruction was prescribed using the Standard Work Specifications Field Guide for Single-Family Homes created by Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development

Desired Outcome:  Sealed HVAC Ducts and plenums to prevent leakage. 

Specifications:

Less than 1/4":  Seams, cracks, joints, holes, & penetrations will be sealed using fiberglass mesh & mastic.  

*Mastic alone will be acceptable for holes less than ¼" that are more than 10' from air handler. 

Between ¼" and ¾": Seams, cracks, joints, holes, and penetrations will be sealed in two stages:

• They will be backed using temporary tape (e.g., foil tape) as a support prior to sealing

• They will be sealed using fiberglass mesh and mastic

Objectives:

Eliminate air leakage into or out of ducts and plenums

Ensure adhesion of primary seal (mastic and fiberglass mesh) to the duct

Reinforce seal

Support fiberglass mesh and mastic during curing

 

How to Seal HVAC Ducts - See Below

how to seal hvac ducts

A duct that has not been sealed.

Add fiberglass tape to seal HVAC ducts.

Add Mastic to properly seal HVAC ducts.

 

________________

Written by Eric Gans
I have over 1000 energy audits under my belt in Maryland.  I like to take my personal experiences with each of my audit customers and try to get the things that concern them out into the world so others can make good home improvement decisions - in the right order - according to their needs.
 

Have you sealed your own accessible HVAC ducts?  If so, we want to hear about your experience sealing HVAC ducts in the comments below!

Thursday, October 29 2020
Duct Blaster Test - Why You Need It to Meet Energy Code

A duct blaster test is often confused for a test that blasts air through the ducts to clean them out and make them work better.

That is a misperception and we should also point out that getting ducts cleaned is not a worthwhile investment.

Actually, a duct blaster test is a duct leakage test.

Ducts, usually metal with seams and joints, carry precious conditioned air to the different locations in your house.

The entire duct system is a loop that is joined at the air handler, usually in the basement or an attic.  

The loop is encapsulated, meaning there is very little outside particles or debris that can build up in your ducts, even if they run outside (attic, crawl space).

In a perfect world, the ducts would be completely sealed.

But, they are not.  And, it is not the air that enters into the leaky places in ducts (rare) it is the air that escapes the ducts that we are most concerned about.

An HVAC system is designed on pressure so that the air can reach the furthest areas of your house.

That same pressure will force air out at the seams if they are not sealed properly which will cost you comfort and money.

A duct blaster test uses air (fan) and a sensitive pressure gauge to measure the overall leakage of a duct system.  It measures leaks that are invisible to the naked eye.

It is critical to seal the ducts before it is too late and they are hard to reach.

Once the ducts are sealed properly and tested the HVAC system can truly be considered high efficiency.

 

________________

Written by Eric Gans
I have over 1000 energy audits under my belt in Maryland.  I like to take my personal experiences with each of my audit customers and try to get the things that concern them out into the world so others can make good home improvement decisions - in the right order - according to their needs.
 

Have you had a duct blaster test done for IECC code compliance in Maryland?  If so, we want to hear about it.

Tuesday, October 27 2020
Attic Insulation VS. Home Performance: Which is Better?

If you happen to be in the market for attic insulation then you might want to consider the two different ways you can go about getting an estimate.

1. Typical Insulation Quote

Most people tend to get an insulation estimate the familiar way which is to call ABC Insulation Company and have a rep come out, take a look in the attic and give them a price. 

After all, it is only insulation and it is in the attic.  How hard can it really be?

2. Getting a BGE Home Energy Audit

A BGE energy audit has a primary goal: to evaluate your home as a complete system and report back to you.  A BGE energy audit takes a whole-house approach and it comes with measurable results. 

This means that you are able to sit in the driver's seat when deciding how to improve comfort and efficiency.  
  



Do you have something going on around the house? 
 
Not sure if an energy audit would be able to solve it for you? 

 



Ask Me!
I'll let you know if it is something that is included in the service.

 


 

Common Insulation Misperception

Most homeowners think that the more insulation you have the more efficient you are and the more comfortable you will be.

But, if you miss the opportunity to insulate your home correctly, then it could leave you scratching your head about why it is not more comfortable in the house and why the BGE bill has not gone down.

What does it mean to insulate effectively?  

Pressure & Thermal Boundary

If you have had a typical insulation quote recently and the representative did not mention the pressure and thermal boundary then you might be on a path to an incorrectly installed insulation project.

Most insulation, alone, will not stop the flow of air.

Insulation is similar to a jacket.  If a jacket is not zipped up, the air flows inside and around resulting in loss of body heat and comfort woes. 

If insulation (thermal boundary) has nothing stopping the flow of air (pressure boundary), then your home loses energy and you feel drafts.

Building Envelope

Identifying your house's envelope or "shell" is important for a properly installed insulation project.

Knowing where insulation is needed at every turn and what type of insulation is best for the job is a BGE energy auditor's assignment.

Pressure dynamics inside your house create infiltration (air coming in) and exfiltration (air going out) in places that will get missed if building science principles are not applied during a typical insulation quote.

Incorrect Diagnosis

A typical insulation quote may provide information about insulation for walls which is costly and will undoubtedly yield little to no results. 

A BGE energy audit is a great way to gain a new perspective on how your house is actually losing energy. 

Testing

Did you know that a properly installed insulation project around the house is likely to yield measurable results compared to window and door projects that tend to cost more?

For starters, a BGE energy audit will perform an air leakage test (blower door test) and each window and door can be checked.

The blower door test is not something you would get with a typical insulation quote. 

The test can show how ceilings, walls, floors and basement areas all lead to as much as 40% of a home's air leakage compared to only 10% for windows and doors.


Check out a blower door test set up in 2.5 minutes!


 


Consultative Approach

A professional BGE energy auditor will provide you with unbiased information about the condition of your insulation, details about the proper location for new insulation, information about indoor air quality and the BGE energy audit can be an invaluable resource for HVAC advise and expertise.

After all, according to BGE, the Program is designed to improve the energy performance, durability, comfort, health and safety of existing residential housing in BGE’s service territory.

A reporting package through a BGE energy audit will include a detailed findings report, a prioritized list of measures with rebate information and a detailed workscope with pricing.

Schedule your BGE home energy audit with Hometrust here

 

________________

Written by Eric Gans
I have over 1000 energy audits under my belt in Maryland.  I like to take my personal experiences with each of my audit customers and try to get the things that concern them out into the world so others can make good home improvement decisions - in the right order - according to their needs.
 

Did you get a typical insulation quote and a BGE energy audit?  If so, we want to hear about your experience in the comments below:

Monday, October 26 2020
BGE - Smart Energy Program - How it Works

Baltimore Gas and Electric Company’s (BGE) Smart Energy Savers Program® is a portfolio of programs promoting energy efficiency and conservation, including rebates, education and services.

The BGE residential Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program (the Program) offers financial incentives to participating contractors for the completion of comprehensive home energy audits and to participating homeowners for the installation of qualifying energy-efficient equipment and improvements in eligible residences.

The Program is designed to improve the energy performance, durability, comfort, health and safety of existing residential housing in BGE’s service territory.

The objectives of the Program are to enhance the delivery of building performance services that use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and the principles of building science to reduce energy consumption cost-effectively and safely, while simultaneously addressing building durability issues.

In partnership with the national Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), BGE is offering homeowners a comprehensive assistance package designed to increase awareness of and demand for building performance contracting, while simultaneously building an infrastructure of trained and certified contractors, home energy raters and consultants to deliver these services.

Schedule your $100 BGE energy audit today

 

________________

Written by Eric Gans
I have over 1000 energy audits under my belt in Maryland.  I like to take my personal experiences with each of my audit customers and try to get the things that concern them out into the world so others can make good home improvement decisions - in the right order - according to their needs.
 

I would like to hear your comments about this article.  Feel free to post something below...

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