Simple Solutions for a Drafty Home: How to Find Air Leaks in the House!

It could be time to learn how to identify air leaks and fix them if you've recently noticed changes in your home's temperature and feel breezes flowing in through windows and doors.

Yes, air leaks are to blame here; they can interfere with your desired house temperature and significantly increase energy costs. If air can easily enter your home through cracks and holes, your HVAC system will continue to work inefficiently, cooling the air within your home. This makes your AC unit work harder, increasing electricity bills and shortening its lifespan.

The most frequent places for leaks are around doors and windows, but more significant problems can also result from leaks in the attic and basement. The EPA estimates that air sealing will save your heating and cooling expenses by 15% on average.

Common Sources of Air Leaks in Your Home

To help you perform a better investigation when you discover air leaks in your home, the following list includes some typical indoor air leak sources:

  • Attic hatch
  • Pipes and wires
  • Plumbing vent
  • Furnace flue
  • Top of basement walls
  • Wiring holes
  • Chimneys
  • Recessed lighting
  • Electrical and gas service entrances
  • Ductwork
  • Duct chase way (the hollow box or wall feature that hides ducts)
  • Basement rim joists
  • Windows and doors
  • Baseboards
  • Outdoor faucets
  • Shaft for piping
  • Garage and living space walls
  • Porch roof
  • Exterior wall penetrations

8 Ways to Find Air Leaks in Your House

Consider engaging a certified expert to perform a blower door test and a home energy audit for an accurate evaluation of air leakage. You may locate the air leaks in your home using a variety of additional methods as well.

1. Building Pressurization Test

If visual inspection did not work that well for your home, try the building pressurization test. This test makes it easy for you to detect air leaks.

  • Choose a windy day for this test.
  • Turn off water heaters, furnaces, and all combustible appliances in your home. 
  • Close windows, doors, and fireplace flues.
  • Then turn on all the exhaust fans in your house. You can also use a big window fan to suck the air out of your home.
  • Next, light an incense stick and move it around potential sources of air leaks. There is a leak if you experience the smoke being sucked out or blown into the space.

2. Visual Inspection

Your insulating materials, like as caulking and weather stripping, may wear out over time and need to be reapplied. Verify the integrity of the insulating materials previously applied by doing a comprehensive visual inspection.

  • Examine the surroundings of your property - Cracks and gaps are typically seen where two distinct construction materials converge. For instance, outside corners, the place where the foundation and exterior bricks meet, outdoor faucets, and the intersection of sidings and chimneys.
  • Attic hatches, electrical outlets, baseboards, cable and phone lines, pipes and cables, fireplace dampers, gaps around windows or through-the-wall units, electrical and gas service entrances, vents, and fans are the main places you should examine for cracks and crevices inside.
  • Examine the door and window frames to check for any cracks that could be noticeable. Air leaks are indicated by daylight shining through door and window frames. Try moving these locations as well; any movement might indicate air leakage.

3. Blower Door Test

Professionals employ this test, which requires totally sealing your house before depressurizing it with a special fan. The entryway has a blower fan installed to ventilate your home. As a result, there is low pressure within, which allows the high outside pressure to push air through cracks and leaks. This assists in finding leaks in your house and identifies which places need more insulation.

4. Use Flashlight Method

When it is dark outdoors, this technique functions well. Switch off all of the lights in your house. Then, shine a flashlight in areas you think could have gaps and fractures. Then ask someone to walk outside and keep an eye out for light rays penetrating through. This reveals the locations of the fractures inside your house. The limitation of this method to wide fractures and gaps is a drawback.

5. Check Dirty Attic Insulation

Insulation sections get darker as a result of dusty air entering your home through attic air leaks. You could see frosty regions throughout the winter as warm, humid air condenses and freezes when it comes into touch with chilly attic air. In order to find air leaks in your attic, do look for these indicators.

6. Air Leak Detectors

Air leak detectors can also be used to find leaks. By aiming them at possible air leak sources, smoke pencil air leak detectors may be employed. You can tell where the air is travelling because to the smoke it creates. Ultrasound waves are used by ultrasonic air leak detectors to identify leaks.

7. Use Paper Technique

Hold a piece of paper up to any gaps; if there are any breezes around window frames or electrical outlets, the paper will move.

8. Dollar Bill Technique

This technique of finding air leaks in your house requires a dollar bill or a piece of paper.

Shut a door or a window on a dollar bill. If you can easily pull it through, you have an air leak!

How to Air Seal Your House

It's time to go to work now that you have identified all of the air leaks' sources. Air leaks are easiest to stop around windows and doors, so start there before moving on to the attic and basement.

Note: Air sealing can worsen indoor air quality by trapping dangerous indoor air pollutants and deadly gases like carbon monoxide. Before plugging up all the leaks, an energy expert's assessment of your home is advised.

Material Required

  • Disposable clothes
  • Protective eye gear
  • Dust mask
  • Insulating materials
  • Gloves and hats
  • Silicone or acrylic latex caulk
  • Caulk gun
  • Weather-stripping
  • Foil tape
  • Duct mastic
  • Aluminum flashing
  • Garbage plastic bag

General Tips for Sealing Air Leaks in Your House

  • When insulating air leaks, especially in the attic, always use a dust mask or a respirator.
  • When working, wear disposable coverall gloves and a cap.
  • Keep a flashlight nearby when working on air sealing projects.
  • Look for any flaws in your previous insulation, and then seal them with spray foam.
  • Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms if you don’t already have them installed.
  • Use foam gasket behind electrical outlets and switch plates on the wall.
  • Keep the fireplace damper closed in hot weather.
  • With fire-resistant materials like sheet metal or furnace cement caulk, gaps and cracks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces, and water heater vents may be sealed.
  • Use foam sealant on larger gaps around baseboards and other air leak spots.

Air Seal Your Doors & Windows

Air leakage from windows and doors can significantly affect the atmosphere in your house. Reduce energy loss and AC expenses by caulking the cracks and gaps in your doors and windows. Additionally, choose total window insulation for year-round comfort in an ideal house temperature.

You may air seal your doors and windows in a number of ways:

  • Use Caulk – All air leaks through joints and cracks that are less than one inch apart between stationary components are sealed by the caulking substance. Apply a thin coating of caulk to all door and window joints using your caulk gun.
  • Apply weather-stripping – Apply adhesive-backed foam weather stripping to the sash of double-hung windows to seal up air leaks. To close any openings, the foam will contract. Long lengths of weather-stripping should be used to close gaps around doors between the door and side door sills.
  • Use Spray foam insulation – This type of insulation that fills in all the nooks and crannies and minimizes heat loss.
  • Install draft stoppers – They fill in a large gap where the lower window sash meets the sill.
  • Use draft guards – Place them at the bottom of the door to prevent air leakage.

Seal Up the Wall

Check the cracks and holes in the wall where air can enter after you have dealt with the doors and windows.

  • Install foam gaskets – Use them around gaps around electrical outlets and light switches.
  • Use child proof plug covers – Install them around your unused outlets to prevent cold air from coming in.

Seal Air Leaks in the Attic

Your home loses a lot of heat from air leaks in the attic. Despite having attic insulation done, certain gaps might develop over time and start to let air in. Your home's comfort can be improved by air sealing the attic and reducing significant air leaks.

  • Use foam and caulk to seal small gaps – Expanding foam can be used to plug minor gaps around electrical boxes and to seal breaches around plumbing vents and cables.
  • Seal around furnace flues – The area around a chimney, water heater flue, or furnace entrance can be a significant source of air leaks. Lightweight aluminium flashing and specialised high-temperature caulk should be used to seal these gaps. Be cautious while handling furnace flues since they can get quite hot.
  • Seal air leak around the chimney – The smallest distance required by the construction codes—2 inches—between the wood frame and the chimney can be a significant source of air leakage. To close this gap, combine metal flashing and caulking.
  • Fix open cavities – Open spaces in the floor framing behind the sidewalls or knee walls are common in finished attics. For sealing open cavities, stiff foam board sealed with spray foam works fairly well.
  • Replace recessed lights – Your attic may heat up and develop ice dams in the winter from a 6-inch hole drilled into the ceiling to hang an incandescent light. Furthermore, air leaks may come from this space. Replace your outdated recessed lights with airtight, insulated can models to solve the problem.

Seal the Basement & Crawl Spaces

As cold air lowers, leaks in the basement and crawl areas allow it to enter your house. Your HVAC system has to work harder as a result, making it challenging to keep the thermostat at the ideal setting.

  • Seal & insulate around rim joists – Where the foundation is covered by the house framing, air leaks might occur. This rim joist perimeter framework contains several voids that might let water seep through. Seal the rim joist voids at the top and bottom. Caulk may fill gaps and cracks that are ¼ inch and less. Fill big gaps with spray foam. After air sealing, use fibreglass batts or rigid foam insulation to insulate each cavity.
  • Basement wall – Fill any noticeable gaps in the basement walls with silicone caulk. Fill holes around wall penetrations, such as those surrounding electrical wires, plumbing pipes, and vents, with low-expansion polyurethane foam. Use of caulk or spray foam is not recommended if the walls are built of stone and mortar. Instead, clear these areas of any loose debris and seal them with mortar.
  • Basement ceiling – Large ceiling holes should be filled in with rigid foam, plywood, or drywall, and the edges should be sealed with caulk or spray foam.

Seal Your Ductwork

The ductwork has to be sealed, but most homeowners don't realise how important this is to increasing your home's energy efficiency. Your home's ducts are responsible for distributing hot and cold air, and if they are cracked, cooled air may easily seep out. As a result, getting the temperature you want will be challenging.

  • DIY method – It comprises sealing the leaks using foil tape and applying duct mastic to the joints. Fiberglass insulation is then used to completely enclose the ducts.
  • Professional method – Professionals use a liquid rubber sealant blower to seal the ductwork from the inside. All of the air-leaking cracks and holes are sealed off by this.

One of the most energy-efficient improvements you can do to your home for better savings is locating and sealing air leaks. So, start gathering the necessary supplies, get out your flashlight, and begin the air sealing process!

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