You may be surprised by how much precious heat your house could be leaking. Air leaks in a home can emerge from cracks and openings in doors and windows. Air trapped inside the walls of your home can seep out through floorboards and around electrical outlets.
It takes more energy to heat and cool your home if you have air leaks, which will increase your utility bills. To learn how to find air leaks in your home, you will need to conduct tests around your house. Here are some tests you can do around your home to check for leaks:
The Candle Test
A bit old school, but it is a tried and true method of checking for small air leaks in your home. Light a candle and walk around your house to places that you think may have air leaks. Be sure to check around electrical outlets, light fixtures, baseboards, and crown molding. If you are conducting the test on a warm day, turn off your central air conditioning. If it is cold outside, turn off your central heating system before conducting this test. Place the candle near the potential leak, if the light dances around slightly, you have a small leak.
Once leaks in these areas have been found you can usually fill them with caulking. These small cracks may not seem like they would make a large difference in your monthly bills. However, every tiny crack you fill is one less place your heat can escape – giving your furnace some help with keeping your home at a comfortable temperature.
Finding Compressed Air Leaks with a Compressed Air Leak Detector
You can find big leaks simply by listening for them. But, it’s harder to find the small leaks this way. The sound produced by a compressed air leak is ultrasonic. It is of such a high frequency that we can not hear it. A compressed air leak detector converts the ultrasonic sound to a lower frequency that humans can hear.
All compressed air systems have leaks. Leaks can be anywhere: pipe joints that are leaking, valves that are leaking, equipment that is leaking and (quick connect) couplings that are leaking. It is said that in a typical compressed air system, 20 – 30% of compressed air is wasted because of leaks. When you consider that 70% of compressed air costs is electricity, you will understand that a 20% leakage is a HUGE waste of electricity and money.
Checking Your Door and Window Seals
When checking your home windows and doors for air leaks, start with just looking around. On the outside of each window and door look for areas where the old caulking has failed, revealing the gap between the window or door frame and your home’s siding.
If your home has old single-paned windows, be on the lookout for damaged glazing, which is the hard putty that holds the individual panes of glass in place. If the entire perimeter of each window and door is not sealed tight against water and air infiltration, then your home is vulnerable to expensive heat loss.
From the inside of your home, you should inspect the threshold under each window and door, looking for daylight or other obvious signs of an opening that is too big and needs to be sealed shut. Make sure that the weather stripping around the windows and doors is in good condition, making note of any damaged weather stripping that needs to be replaced.
With many Americans opening their doors dozens of times a day, it is no surprise that the front door would be a large escape point for our precious heating and cooling. However, most may not realize that their door may also be letting air escape through tiny dents in the frame or edges of the door.
As for your windows, after years of opening and closing, window fans and air conditioners, older wooden and aluminum window frames take a reasonable amount of wear and tear. This leaves more cracks where air can escape. For windows, not only can air escape through these cracks but older single pane windows offer very minimal protection from the outside.
You can provide better noise reduction, lower energy costs and increase property value by replacing older windows with either double pane or triple pane windows. The cost of window replacements may seem like a large investment. However, it can show immediate results in your homes energy costs. Results that will continue for years.
Call in the Pros
If you don’t want to discover your home’s air leaks on your own, or you are concerned you may have missed a few- then you always have the option to hire a professional. Professional energy auditors can conduct a “blower-door” test on your home.
Similar to the candle test, a blower door test can assess the airtightness of your home and detect air leaks. During this test a specialized fan is attached to your home’s door frame, which then pulls air out of your home, resulting in a lower interior air pressure. Once the fan is stopped, the higher air pressure outside the home tries to find its way back into your home through any cracks or crevices. A smoke stick is then used to locate those areas that are leaking and vulnerable to heat loss. These tests are usually not very expensive, and in many areas, you can apply for a free energy audit from your local utility company.
Now that you’ve discovered the air leaks in your home, you can set about sealing them up. More often than not, a fresh layer of exterior-grade caulking will adequately seal shut any gap or crack that is causing you problems. New weatherstripping or an adjustable threshold can help to seal shut the gaps around your home’s doors. Maintain a detailed approach when completing these tests, as the more leaks you find, the more you can seal up tight, resulting in a more comfortable and energy efficient home this winter.