Do any of the rooms in your house feel drafty? Are there spots in your home that are noticeably warmer or colder than others? If so, your home could be suffering from an air sealing deficiency, which is easily fixable by a remodeling contractor during your next home remodel.
Air leakage occurs when outside air enters your house (infiltration), and conditioned air uncontrollably escapes through cracks and openings (exfiltration). During cold or windy weather, too much air entering the home will reduce your energy efficiency and comfort level. On hot days, your air conditioner will be forced to work overtime to keep up with the demand.
Fortunately, you can reduce drafts and cold spots, and improve year-round comfort and energy efficiency, by sealing cracks and openings. A professional home remodel provides the perfect opportunity to upgrade your home’s air sealing.
Air Leakage Trouble Spots
There are a handful of known places where it’s easy for air to escape or enter. Finding a builder to takes extra measures around these areas will ensure a more comfortable and energy-efficient home.
Using the RESNET HERS Index as a reference, these are the most common air leakage trouble spots in the average American home:
- Ceiling, walls, and floors (31%)
- Ducts (15%)
- Fireplace (14%)
- Plumbing penetrations (13%)
- Doors (11%)
- Windows (10%)
- Fans and vents (4%)
- Electrical outlets (2%)
Having your home properly air sealed in these places will pay dividends in the end by reducing your energy consumption and therefore reducing your monthly utility bills. According to the EPA, homeowners can save up to 15% on their energy costs simply by air sealing multiple entry points and ensuring that the home is well insulated.
In addition to lowering energy efficiency, air leaks can contribute to moisture problems, placing both your health and your home’s structural integrity at risk. An improperly sealed house is also an open invitation for insect infestations and other pests, so air sealing should be a top priority.
How to Detect Air Leaks in Your Home
If you suspect that your home has an air leakage problem, it’s a good idea to schedule a professional energy assessment with a RESNET-certified energy auditor. While there, the auditor will accurately test for air leaks using a blower door test.
During this test, the house is temporarily de-pressurized to accurately measure how much air is infiltrating through entry points like cracks, holes, and gaps. The auditor may use a device called a “smoke pencil” to pinpoint where the air is entering the house while the blower door is running, or reverse the flow of air and use theater smoke to walk the perimeter of your home and look for smoke leaking out.
If you are considering a home energy retrofit or going all-electric, a professional home energy assessment will also provide you with comprehensive information about the efficiencies of your appliances, HVAC system, water heater, and more. A professional assessment can be a great tool to help you prioritize and make upgrades one at a time.
How a Home Remodeling Contractor Can Help
Based on the results of your energy audit, there might be several ways to eliminate air leaks inside and outside your home. If you’ve never done it before, a DIY air sealing project can be a dirty and time-consuming job. On the other hand, a home remodel provides you with the perfect opportunity to have your house professionally air sealed by a contractor you trust.
A reputable home remodeling contractor can help you improve energy efficiency after an audit by recommending and installing the latest, most energy-efficient air sealing products out there. Once the combined project is through, in addition to lower energy bills, you will enjoy enhanced year-round comfort and indoor air quality!
Some of the ways that a remodeler can seal air leaks include:
- Inspect dirty spots on any visual insulation for air leaks and mold. If needed, they can seal leaks with low-expansion spray foam and install flashing.
- Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
- Replace single-pane windows with more energy-efficient, double-pane low-emissivity windows.
- Use foam sealant on gaps around windows, baseboards, and other places where air may leak.
- Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ductwork, or electrical wiring comes through floors, walls, ceilings, and soffits above cabinets.
- Look for dirty spots on your ceiling paint and carpet, which may indicate air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists.
- Seal air leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces, and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials.
- Replace exterior door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets.
- Install foam gaskets or spray foam behind outlet and switch plates on the wall. Outlets on exterior walls are notorious for causing air leakage.
Think about air sealing as an investment in your comfort and lower energy usage. If you’re already doing a remodel, it’s a relatively modest upgrade to have your contractor go the extra mile with air sealing.
Choosing a Remodeling Contractor in Seattle
Finding the best contractor for your home remodeling project is essential. Whether you want a whole-home upgrade, or a simple, minimalistic update, find a contractor that specializes in the services you’re looking for. Do your research, ask for references, get written estimates, and check online reviews posted on Yelp, Google, or Houzz.
At Model Remodel, we are design-build company that specializes in transforming outdated homes into highly functional, luxurious living spaces. We have a lot of experience in energy-efficiency, and many of the air sealing techniques above are standard practice for our company. To get started bringing your next home remodel project to life, tell us more about your ideas through our online form!