Posts Tagged ‘air leaks’

In Home Performance Safety is Our Number One Concern!

June 19, 2012

Our advisors and installation crews spend a lot of time in houses.  We use ladders and power tools and crawl around underneath and above homes, especially attics.   We look for air leaks, low insulation levels, electrical concerns, and other hazards.  Safety is a great concern, and occasionally we come across the unexpected; such as sharks.

Sharks: A major safety concern in attics

Sharks: A major safety concern in attics

I’m sure that air leakage from the electrical box is providing plenty of nice indoor air smells, steak cooking, people sleeping.  Seal those leaks and I’m guessing the sharks won’t be so interested.  More insulation in this space is needed too.  Summertime air conditioners have to work twice as hard when there’s so little insulation and air sealing in your attic.  When you want to keep the conditioned air conditioned, hot or cold, putting a good cap on your home is a great start.  What shark would stick around after that?  No good indoor smells, no cool air, not a great place to hang out.

What's for dinner?

What’s for dinner?

If you have sharks in your attic consider a home performance assessment, it’s a great way to take a bite out of your high energy bills and make a home more comfortable and safe.



Cooking up Some Ideas About Air Sealing

April 20, 2012

This video helps to demonstrate the importance we place on air sealing.  Before insulating, we tighten up the attic.  Of course we also air seal elsewhere, and it’s part of many of the common household problems we can address.  Basements and crawlspaces help a lot too.  Windows and doors matter, but really focusing on the top—and the bottom— first, creates the greatest impact.

Drafty homes can be fixed, and not just for heating season!  Air leakage happens year round and affects our comfort daily!



Is it time to replace that air-conditioner?

August 23, 2010

Scorching in the Central Valley again this week.  And with Calironia’s get-it-while-it lasts appliance rebates that Kathryn just mentioned, here’s a question we’re getting frequently.  And it’s actually a great question anywhere in the country.

How do you know when it’s time to replace your air-conditioner?

There are several warning signs.  First, any air-conditioner that is more the 10 years old is a candidate for replacement. Energy efficiencies have improved dramatically, and top contractors like GreenHomes can install this new equipment so that you can get the most out of it.  Age of the equipment alone, though, isn’t the only sign that you may be ready. ENERGY STAR offers some guidelines for homeowners that make a lot of sense.  It’s time to call for help if any of the following apply.

  • Your equipment needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are going up. There are a variety of problems that can creep in over time to make your cooling equipment less efficient.  Although some can be repaired, occasionally replacement can be more cost effective.
  • Some rooms in your home are too hot or too cold.  Improper equipment operation, duct problems or inadequate insulation could be the cause.
  • No one is home for long periods of the day and you do not have a programmable thermostat.  Install an ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat or have a good contractor install one and instruct you on its use — to start saving energy and money while they’re away or sleeping.
  • Your home has humidity problems.  Poor equipment operation, inadequate or oversized equipment, and leaky ductwork can cause the air to be too dry in the winter or too humid in the summer. 
  • Your home has excessive dust.  Leaky ducts can pull particles and air from attics, crawl spaces and basements and distribute them throughout your house. Sealing your ducts may be a solution.
  • Your heating or cooling system is noisy.  You could have an undersized duct system or a problem with the indoor coil of your cooling equipment.  
  • Your score on the U.S. EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick is low.  The Yardstick helps you determine how your energy use compares to others in homes like yours.

If any of these apply to you should have your system evaluated.  Make sure though, that you get a comprehensive energy audit of your home first.  Many problems that appear to be with your heating and cooling equipment are actually caused by poor insulation, air leaks, windows, or other issues.  Unfortunately, these problems can be found even in newly constructed homes, and regardless of when it was built your home should get a thorough evaluation.

Much of the above applies to your furnace as well.  New “ECM” furnace motors are much more efficient than standard models and can lead to huge savings your electric bill.  Because inefficient motors actually generate waste heat, equipment with these new motors saves you twice with your air conditioning!  But we’ll revisit furnaces as we head into the fall.


Attic air-sealing gets attention

July 4, 2010

From an article “5 Common Habits That Cost You Dearly“, including things like credit card debt and smoking, is “Keeping a drafty attic”.   Their recommendations to fix leaky attics fall a bit short, but they’ve got the right idea.  See DIY attic insulation and air-sealing and sealing small air leaks for more information about how to do this right.


Air leakage–even the small cracks add up

December 14, 2009

We continue to get a lot of inquiries about ice dams–especially now that snow has started hitting our Northeast locations.

And this brings me back to air-sealing.  The little leaks do add up to big utility bills and even moisture problems in your attic.

This recent photo from Marvin, one of our Syracuse Advisors, is a good illustration.

Air Leaking through small cracks leave stains on fiberglass

Tell tale signs of air leakage--air leaking through small, barely visible, cracks directs air through fiberglass. And the fiberglass filters dirt from the air before it leaves your house. Isn't that nice? You clean the warm air before you leak in leave your house in the winter!

Although the gaps shown here are really too small to be seen easily, we can see the impact they’re having.  Notice the dark staining that lines up exactly with the small cracks.  Air is leaking through here.  The fiberglass insulation is dirty because as the air moves through it–robbing your home of heat in the winter–the fiberglass actually grabs dirt and other particulate in the air.  Hundreds of these small cracks along with other holes and penetrations are a big energy waster, the decrease the effectiveness of your insulation, and they can lead to moisture problems in your attic or icicles and ice damming if you live in snow country.

Seal those leaks.  Or call someone who knows how!


Small air leaks add up to an open “window” all winter long

November 15, 2009

OK, I’m stating the obvious. When it gets cold out, you want to close your windows to help keep the heat in. What many people don’t realize is that air leakage throughout their home can add up to the equivalent of having a window wide open all winter long.

Air Leakage in a Home

The many air leaks in a home can add up to the same as leaving a window wide open all winter long.

Sometimes the holes are big as in the case of this wide open chase. But all of the little holes add up, too. One hole for an electrical wire in your attic isn’t much. But you might have dozens of these. Add to them gaps at interior partition walls, around chimneys, flues, recessed lights, and other locations where somebody has left a hole open, and the typical home has an enormous number of ways for air to leak out. As show in this simple example from one of the GreenHomes Syracuse crews, we can seal these leaks and help keep the heat in.

before and after air-sealing of electrical penetrations and partition walls

By themselves, small holes don't seem like much. But collectively, they can add up to a big problem in homes. Fortunately, a good audit can find these problems, and a good insulation crew can seal the holes BEFORE adding insulation to your home.

Air-sealing helps you close that hidden “window” and can make a huge difference in your comfort and utility bills. And it’s very important to air-seal BEFORE you add additional insulation—insulation doesn’t work well if you allow air to air to move through it.


P.S. Important Note: After insulating and air-sealing, it is very important to make sure that your combustion equipment—furnaces, boilers, water heaters, etc.—are operating safely and venting properly.  Most homeowner don’t have the equipment or skills to do this, so I won’t describe it here.  Your fuel company, a home performance specialist, or a good heating contractor should be able to do this for you.  As I’ve mentioned previously, carbon monoxide is not something to take lightly.

Icicles aren’t cool!

December 5, 2008

Up in Snow Country, many places have been hit with the first (or second or third!) snow storm of the year.  And with snow, some people need to worry about ice on the roof.  As young Carrick pointed out in the video from my last post,  frost and snow patterns on roofs can help give us clues about how a house is working.  And you should be concerned if you ever have large icicles, water spots forming in your ceiling, damp attics or related problems.  Ice and ice damming can wreck your roof and can expensive damage to you house and furnishings. Roof Ice is a Problem

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.  Having hunkered down with family for the holiday, I’m back in full swing now.


What is Ice Damming?

Ice dams are typically caused by poor or missing insulation and air leakage from your house into your attic.  In the winter, this warms the roof and causes the snow to melt. The melting snow then moves down the roof slope until it reaches the cold overhang, where it refreezes.


The process forms icicles and can actually create a dam that eventually forces the water to back up under the shingles and sometimes into the ceiling or wall inside the home. In addition to roof and water damage, ice dams can cause structural decay and mold and mildew to form in attics and on wall surfaces.


The Fix

Fortunately, you can dramatically reduce damage from ice damming by sealing the holes connecting your heated living space and the attic, as well as properly insulating your attic. There are different techniques to stop air leaking through recessed lights, leaky heating ducts, attic access doors, and plumbing and electrical penetrations. Sealing these leaks keeps warm air in your house were it belongs. Together, with adequate levels of insulation, this greatly reduces the chance of ice damming and large icicles.  You do NOT just want to add more insulation before sealing the air leaks—this can actually create additional problems that can also damage your roof.  You can’t eliminate icicles completely.  Small icicles are normal.  And some roof architecture–especially big valleys draining to a small corner–are especially challenging.  But if you have long icicles or thick heavy ice you should act quickly to prevent damage.  (And this means preventing the ice from forming in the first place, not risk life, limb, and your roof trying to chip off ice that’s there.)


Do it right.  Find the important leakage points and seal them up.  Then add a lot of insulation.  And afterwards, as with any time you change the way your house works, have your combustion appliances tested to make sure they’re operating safely and efficiently.


An added benefit to this, of course, is you’ll save energy, save money, and be more comfortable in your home, too!


Stay warm.



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