Posts Tagged ‘duct sealing’

The Things You Find Out In The Garage: Part 2

May 7, 2014

Last week I showed you a venting system that wasn’t quite right, P1060856and mentioned the importance of having a certified technician review your HVAC and water heating systems. I wanted to cover a few more issues we discovered.

An important part of heating and cooling air is getting it to and from the home. This is what duct work is all about. In this system’s case, the plenum, or box where the return air from the home comes back to the furnace, also acts as a platform for this furnace and water heater to sit on.
Because it is where the furnace draws the air from the home, it is as you might imagine, connected to the inside of the house. And, as you can see in the second picture where the technician is looking into this plenum, there is a nice structural chunk of pressure treated wood, concrete floor and some moisture damage.
Pressure treated wood probably isn’t the best thing to have in your duct system, nor is dry rotted plywood, and this plenum is very much a part of the duct system.P1060858
It’s also not sealed. That means the garage is connected to the duct system and, therefore, to the home. Indoor air quality is important, and it should start with the air handling system. Stay tuned till next time!



Good Equipment Needs Good Air Distribution

October 4, 2013

 DSC_0111 101_0847                      

Duct work, before and after. 

According to the America Lung Association, the indoor air in an average home is 10 times more polluted than outside air. Instead of treating the root cause of the issue – their home – homeowners purchase high-efficiency filters, allergy medicine and other medications to treat symptoms rather than doing something to eliminate the cause.

Many of the upgrades ASI completed on the showcase home demonstrate how homeowners can address the problem instead of just the symptoms.  It is important to seal or replace older ductwork to keep pollutants and irritants from entering our home’s from the attic, or anywhere else considered outside such as a crawlspace or basement. Doing this potentially frees us from medications and air filters later on.  This is the same great work that Allbritten has done for there home energy makeover.

If the furnace is the heart of the system, ducts are the arteries. No matter how healthy the heart may be its efficiency and effectiveness are limited by the ductwork in the home.

Insulation is important as well of course.   Just like our homes, we need to reduce un-controlled airflow in duct work and add the appropriate levels of insulation to keep the heat out in the summer.

Another part of HVAC we don’t always talk about is the V for ventilation.  We want to control the airflow so we know we are getting enough fresh air and that it is indeed fresh!



Great Video of Home Performance in California

August 24, 2011

Here is a great video from  the California Center for Energy Sustainablity describing the Home Performance Process featuring  one of our GreenHomes America Partners: ASI Hastings.  Great work! Enjoy!

Upstate Update: New York/National Grid Rebate

October 3, 2010

Attention upstate New York residents:  the National Grid Upstate New York High Efficiency Heating Equipment Rebate Program officially opened October 1.  This is a great opportunity to get a little help upgrading for the winter.  Below is the schedule of rebate amounts. 

2010 National Grid NY Rebate Schedule

 As you can see, there are a wide range of products covered and the more efficient the appliance the greater the rebate.

The program requires that customers obtain a ‘rebate reservation’ for their anticipated rebate incentive at   The program is available on a first-come-first served basis, so make sure you take care of all of those nagging problems right away!   

We can help navigate the utility requirements (they can be a bit confusing) and let you know if you qualify for other NY programs at 315-474-6549 or


More of what ducts should NOT look like

June 17, 2010

The previous poor duct examples of the last couple of days are unfortunately not as isolated as we would like.  And that’s what we often see duct leakage rates of 30% or higher–that 30% of the air that you’ve paid to heat or cool making it’s way outside.  Not very energy-efficient even is you have a 95 AFUE furnace or an 18 SEER AC.  You can good ductwork, sized properly, with smooth transitions, well sealed, and especially if outside your home’s envelope, properly insulated.

Dave Stecher and Duncan Prahl of IBACOS–a company that does research into how buildings work and helps builders and contractors do a better job doing the right thing–forwarded these doozies.  I won’t show you the whole house’s ducts, just a representative example:

Here’s a planned floor joist, hopefully (ah, hope spring eternal with shoddy building practices) directing air to a register.  Using joist and stud bays as duct work isn’t a good idea to begin with, even if done “well”.  These cavities are difficult to seal making leakage a problem.  And they’re not conducive to good air flow.  But picture this sheet metal filling the space (before it was peeled back), and you’ll get the picture of what it looks like.

Now, even when using sheet metal to block air flow, we find leaks at the wood intersections.  How well do you think sweaters and t-shirts work?  That’s what was stuffed on the back side!

Yes, a sweater and a t-shirt.  Not your standard building materials.  But I guess they were handy and installation probably only took a few seconds.  At the right are the articles of clothing.  I’m wondering if someone has a photo of a leg from a pair of blue jeans used as a duct run.  I’ve also got some old shoes and a bike helmet–any ideas how I can make them part of my HVAC system?

The fixed transition here gives you a better idea what the transition should look like.  The duct, transition, and boot are all directly connected and sealed.  We typically use mastic to seal, but the foil tape here looks like it is the proper type of duct tape (not the cloth stuff). 

And you’re much more likely to actually get the right amount of air delivered from your register.  (Not the actual register pictured here–but one from the same house.)

You can take the lowest bid or you can insist that the job gets done right.  The two often don’t happen together.  And if the job isn’t done right, you’ll usually pay more in the long run pumping your conditioned air outside.  Which approach do you prefer?


DIY Ductwork

June 15, 2010

As a follow-on to yesterday’s post about the DIY furnace horror story, John Scipione, a Senior Advisor in our Syracuse office, forwarded a shot of a furnace he ran across during an audit.  Many people know (and many more do not!) that your garden variety duct tape is good for lots of things, but not sealing ducts.  In this picture, sure enough, we can see some failing duct tape.  😉   That, however, is only part of the problem on this do-it-yourself duct job.  But at least this homeowner did find something to do with those old moving boxes!  And I do confess to a certain admiration for that can-do ingenuity.  Nonetheless, this example is not a good illustration of the fast road to energy-efficiency and a well performing home.

Tips to Save Energy This Winter

October 14, 2009

The leaves are changing and despite the mild summer in the Northeast, my body wasn’t quite prepared for the cold temperatures that are starting, and furnaces are turning on.  (OK, the southern half of the country doesn’t know what I’m talking about—but winter is on the way for you, too.) 

A home energy audit can help you find the right solutions and prioritize--but get the right audit!

A home energy audit can help you find the right solutions and prioritize--but get the right audit!

In the spirit of recycling, I’m pull out an old post on some of the high impact things you can do to stay warm and comfortable this winter and reduce you heating bills, too!  These are general recommendations.  To find out what’s most appropriate for you and your home, you should start with a good home energy audit to help find hidden issues, prioritize your improvements, and make sure your home is operating safely and efficiently.  (See a short video on what’s included in a good audit.)  [Note, below you won’t see bogus claims for overpriced “miracle” cures with or without Amish mantles or for $20 ceramic heaters price at $200 to pay for full-page newspaper ads.  Stay away from these things!]

  1. The attic is a great place to start.  Air leaks from rooms below into the attic can be one of the biggest drains on energy and your bank account.  Sealing attic air leaks can have a huge impact.
  2. Use caulk or foam to seal around the plumbing stack vent, where it goes through floors. This is a pipe (PVC, or cast iron in older homes) that runs from the basement sewer pipe up through every floor, and out through the roof.   Holes for electric wiring, and around chimneys, are also problem areas worth addressing.
  3. Insulate and air-seal your attic hatch. Often, builders overlook the hatch when they insulate the attic.
  4. Many homes today have recessed ceiling lights, also called can lights. These fixtures look great, but are a notorious source of heat leaks into the attic, and between floors.  You can install new air-tight fixtures, use air-tight baffles, or build air-tight boxes around them in the attic.  With existing fixtures, check with an electrician first to make sure the fixtures you have are “IC” rated so it’s safe to put insulation against them.

    Leaky ducts rob your home of air you've paid to heat (and cool).

    Leaky ducts rob your home of air you've paid to heat (and cool).

  5. Only after you’ve done air-sealing, put an extra layer of insulation on the attic floor, on top of the insulation you currently have there.  Sixteen to 24-inches is not excessive in cold climates—and it will keep you cooler in the summer too!
  6. Vents to the outside of your home are pipelines for cold air leaking in, and warm air leaking out.  Install one-way baffles on your kitchen fan vent, dryer vent, and bathroom fan vents.
  7. Keep your boiler and furnace tuned up.   If they’re reaching the end of their lifespan, consider replacing with a high-efficiency unit, one that at least qualifies for Energy Star®.   
  8. Install and use a programmable thermostat—this ensures that you don’t forget to turn the heat down at night or while you’re away at work.
  9. Do you have a forced air heating or cooling system? If so, make sure to seal and insulate the ductwork in attics and crawl spaces. As much as 30% of the air you heat (or cool in the summer) can escape outside through leaky ducts.
  10. Replacing appliances? Look for Energy Star qualified models of dishwashers, refrigerators, light fixtures, and compact fluorescent bulbs.

BONUS:  The ARRA (Stimulus) federal tax credits can help you pay for these home energy improvements.

Your water heater doesn't have to look this bad to be spilling dangerous carbon monoxide into your home.  Get it checked.

Your water heater doesn't have to look this bad to be spilling dangerous carbon monoxide into your home. Get it checked.

With some advice from your local home center, over four or five free weekends and with a willingness to crawl through dirty, itchy insulation, a handy homeowner can tackle many of these projects. The energy savings, and effect on comfort, are cumulative, so do as many as you can. If you don’t relish the idea of strapping on a tool belt, consider a contractor that specializes in home energy solutions. GreenHomes can complete the entire scope of work in a few days. Our whole-home solutions guarantee a minimum 25% reduction in energy consumption, with most customers seeing much higher reductions, often up to 40, 50 and 60 percent.

And whether you do the work yourself or you have it done by a contractor, after you tighten the house you should have any combustion equipment like furnaces and water heaters tested to make sure they’re running safely and efficiently.


McKinsey EE Report on Comfort and IAQ

August 3, 2009

Whew—tons of good stuff in here.  I do talk a lot about energy, but it’s not just energy.  In fact, many of our customers are more interested in comfort and health and safety.

Thus it’s reassuring to see this mentioned on page 13 of the report

Impact on comfort and health.  Energy efficiency upgrades, including proper insulation and sealing against air infiltration [emphasis added], can address a number of common residential problems, such as drafty rooms, cold floors in the winter, damp basements, dry air, musty odors, and mold.  Because people spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, many of these issues can lead to health risks, contributing to chronic allergies and asthma, as well as periodic illness.  Sick building syndrome (SBS), which is associated with poor indoor air quality, can manifest itself in building occupants as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, or skin, as well as other ailments.  Flaws in HVAC systems, emissions from some types of building materials, volatile organic compounds used indoors, and inadequate exhaust systems may be contributing factors.  Severe problems with heating or cooling systems, for example, can result in dangerous concentrations of carbon monoxide or radon gas.  Air and duct sealing and periodic maintenance of HVAC equipment can mitigate a number of these risks.  While quantifying the impact of higher air quality on health is difficult, research suggests that the benefits are significant.  Improved indoor air quality can reduce symptoms of SBS by 20 to 50 percent, asthma by 8 to 25 percent, and other respiratory illnesses by 26 to 76 percent.

Right on!


More on the McKinsey EE Report

August 3, 2009

Reading the McKinsey energy efficiency report again over the weekend I noted that one of the solution strategies cited (p.39 of the report) Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, the Building Performance Institutie (BPI) ,and the promotion of home performance solutions such as those of the heart of the GreenHomes approach.

 They call out the need for proper sizing of HVAC equipment and duct sealing—things you’ve seen mentioned here.

 The report mentions a lot of barriers.  Including education, contractor capacity, and financing.  But we address all of these on a daily basis.   So I’m encouraged because we see it working for our customers every day—and it means it really is possible on a broader scale.


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