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Easy Ways to Detect Air Leaks in Your Home

A leaky house is significantly less energy efficient than a properly sealed one. Understanding how to detect air leaks in your house, sealing those leaks and scheduling a home energy assessment when warranted can help you create a comfortable living environment and reduce your energy bills.

Detecting Air Leaks from Inside Your Home

Start your air leak inspection on the inside. Here are four reliable methods for finding air leaks in your house:

  • Perform a comprehensive visual inspection, looking for gaps and cracks in and around windows, doors, electrical outlets and baseboards. Pay particular attention to the corners of rooms, because gaps can often be found there.
  • Hold your hand close to potentially leaky locations on a cold or windy day. If you sense a draft, you’ve discovered an air leak.
  • Perform the smoke test by lighting an incense stick or smoke pen. Then, slowly move it near the edges of windows, doors and other potential problem areas. If an air leak exists, the smoke will blow around or get sucked toward the gap, revealing the leak’s location. The smoke test is most effective when conducted on a windy day.
  • Employ an infrared thermometer or thermal camera to detect temperature differences in the different areas of your home. These tools help you identify areas with significant temperature variations, which often are caused by air leaks.

Detecting Air Leaks from Outside Your Home

Inspecting the outer structure can also uncover potential leaks. Here are two methods for detecting air leaks from the outside:

  • Conduct a visual examination, paying close attention to corners and locations where different materials meet. Look for gaps or cracks that could cause air leaks, as well as deteriorated caulk or weatherstripping and incorrectly sealed vents and exhaust fans.
  • Perform the garden hose test on a colder day. This is where someone sprays water from a garden hose onto the building’s exterior while another person stands inside where there is a suspected air leak. If there’s a leak, the person inside really should feel cold air or moisture entering through the gap.

Sealing Air Leaks

After pinpointing significant air leaks, it’s time to handle the issue. Here are the most effective strategies for sealing air leaks in your home:

  • Apply caulk to seal small gaps and cracks around windows, doors and other areas where air is escaping. Select a top-quality, long-lasting caulk developed for indoor or outdoor use and the specific materials you’re using to ensure a durable seal. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the best application and curing time.
  • Apply weatherstripping to doors and windows to help them close tightly. Various types  of weatherstripping are available, including adhesive-backed foam tape, V-strip and door sweeps. Select the ideal style for your needs and follow the installation guidelines.
  • Use expanding foam to fill and seal bigger gaps and holes. Expanding foam is available in a can with a spray applicator for quick application in hard-to-reach places. Wear protective gloves and adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines to make sure you use them carefully.
  • Add insulation to newly sealed walls and attic floors to further cut down on heat transfer. Even if you already have some insulation, consider upgrading to a higher R-value or adding more insulation where you need more.
  • Install door sweeps along the bottom of exterior doors to stop drafts. Door sweeps are made in various materials and styles to fit your requirements and aesthetic preferences.

Considering a Comprehensive Home Energy Assessment

A home energy assessment is invaluable for identifying sneaky air leaks and locating areas of improvement. A professional energy auditor does this inspection, which involves the following:

  • A blower door test involves putting in a temporary door with a sturdy fan over an exterior door opening. The fan pulls air from the house, lowering the interior air pressure and drawing in outside air through unsealed openings. This test measures your home’s air tightness and makes thermal camera images show leaks more clearly.
  • Infrared imaging helps the energy auditor detect temperature discrepancies in the walls, floors and ceilings, revealing hidden air leaks and insulation deficiencies.
  • A combustion safety test makes certain your home heating system, water heater and other combustion appliances are operating safely and correctly, lowering the risk of potentially dangerous carbon monoxide buildup.
  • A homeowner interview is when the energy auditor analyzes your energy usage habits, home maintenance history and comfort challenges to learn additional energy-saving possibilities.

Schedule a Comprehensive Home Energy Assessment

While performing your own air leak tests is an excellent launching point, partnering with a professional is far more thorough. Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning can help you improve your home’s air tightness with a comprehensive home energy assessment and customized solutions to enhance efficiency and comfort.

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