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Home air leakage: what to do???
Old 11-23-2010, 07:00 PM   #1
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Home air leakage: what to do???

I just had an energy audit done, and the man from the company is pushing me to seal my air ducts and, since they said I have R17.5 insulation, they want to put R30 in my attic.

After speaking with my friend's husband who is an architect and, also, the electrical department head at Lowes, those guys seem to think that sealing the air ducts isn't worth it--but they both said to go ahead and have the insulation put into the attic. Any opinions on this?

Also, I am trying to find the foam seals for outlets that are for the big new type switches (2" tall, 1" wide), and am coming up with zip. I am finding these:
Amazon.com: Frost King OS6H Foam Outlet and Switch Sealers: Home Improvement

Has anyone else had a problem finding the kind with the big holes for the new type wall switches? Any luck finding anything? I seem to be hitting a blank wall on Amazon.

Also, is one brand of these seals better than others? After reading the review of the above, it seems like that guy's energy audit person told him to use that brand (altho there seems to be just a couple brands out there of these outlet seals).

Any advice is appreciated, of course.
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Old 11-23-2010, 07:10 PM   #2
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Can't give advice as to what brand of seal is best. But I can say that when it comes to installing stuff, I'd steer clear of Lowes. Had two bad experiences while helping a friend move. Mainly, seems they are afraid to install stuff. Bought a range from Lowes, the delivery folks refused to plug it in saying the outlet is not good, but say I can plug it in myself if I want to. So I do, and the range works fine. Then have a dishwasher delivered. They say, can't install it. The plumbing/electricity is too complex/old for them. Ending up canceling the order. Buying a dishwasher from Sears and my friend's brother and I hook up the dishwasher. Works like a charm now.
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Old 11-23-2010, 07:18 PM   #3
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I don't remember where you live, but sealing air leakage is the most cost effective thing you can do to save on HeVac costs. Are your ducts run through a conditioned space (like a basement) or through an attic or crawl space?

I really tightened up my home by:

Sealing the rim joist in the basement
Sealing all outside wall outlets and switches
Sealing the wire pass holes in the top of the studs in the attic
Sealed plumbing and chimney holes to attic
Sealing the attic access door
Adding gaskets to the top and bottom of my double hung windows
Replacing leaking door seals
Taped all seams in duct work with aluminum tape

http://www.energystar.gov/ia/home_im...h-text-800.jpg
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Old 11-23-2010, 07:43 PM   #4
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Putting insulation in your attic should be a cost effective conservation measure. It sounds like they want to add R-30 to the R 17.5. The air duct sealing should be a consideration and depending on where the ducts run will determine how effective it will be.

Not sure about your outlet foam seals, but hope you can find the right ones or even sheet foam that can be custom cut for the outlet.
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Old 11-23-2010, 08:17 PM   #5
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[QUOTE=travelover;1004123]Are your ducts run through a conditioned space (like a basement) or through an attic or crawl space?"


Attic and crawl space is where my ducts are.

I just hate to spend the money with two guys who should know telling me that sealing the air ducts is a waste, which is why I thought I should ask here.

Powerplay: You know, I might just have to cut my own seals, but I sure don't want to spend all the time doing it..ugh.
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Old 11-23-2010, 08:41 PM   #6
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Orchid,
I have the same duct setup as yours, except my crawl space goes thru heated and unheated areas. I used a fiberglass roll that's for pipe/duct and wrapped it. There's a putty/paste that you can use to fill in the duct gaps, but I think duct tape and then the fiberglass would work fine (and cheapest method). Also added R-25 or R-30 to my attic as well, the duct I have in the attic has interior insulation built in. For the wall plates, you can probably use standard ones and use a cut/paste method to piecemeal them together with scotch tape, all your wanting to do is cover up the gap between the wall and plate, the screws apply the seal. Otherwise, they sell uncut rolls of insulation too, I have some aluminum covered rolls of sheet insulation (aluminum peels off too), but you'd need to cut them.
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Old 11-23-2010, 09:11 PM   #7
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Attic and crawl space is where my ducts are.

I just hate to spend the money with two guys who should know telling me that sealing the air ducts is a waste, which is why I thought I should ask here.
If they are leaking it wouldn't be a waste, but if you are paying a lot to have it done, it might be a long payoff. If you can do any of this yourself with aluminum tape or caulk, it would be cost effective, for sure.

Before you install the added insulation I'd plug the ceiling leaks, like light fixtures, vent pipes and wire runs.
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Old 11-23-2010, 09:38 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Orchidflower View Post
I just had an energy audit done, Any advice is appreciated, of course.
I can't add anything to what has been suggested but would like to ask what an energy audit cost you?
Been thinking of having one done on my attic space just to see what is recommended.
I would probably do most of the work myself though.
Steve
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Old 11-23-2010, 09:43 PM   #9
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I can't add anything to what has been suggested but would like to ask what an energy audit cost you?
Been thinking of having one done on my attic space just to see what is recommended.
I would probably do most of the work myself though.
Steve
Steve,
Instead of an energy audit and you DIY, check this unit out, it's not the only manufacturer out there, but for under < $50, at least you get to keep the tool too!

Amazon.com: Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector: Home Improvement
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Old 11-23-2010, 09:53 PM   #10
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Steve,
Instead of an energy audit and you DIY, check this unit out, it's not the only manufacturer out there, but for under < $50, at least you get to keep the tool too!

Amazon.com: Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector: Home Improvement
Just watched a video about this unit.
Very neat way to find leaks.
I bet this thing could drive a good man crazy if you try to stop every leak you find.
Thanks for the tip,
Steve
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Old 11-23-2010, 10:22 PM   #11
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More input/suggestions/observations:
- I'm suspicious of energy audits performed by people who also do energy fix-up work. They definitely have a conflict of interest. There are contractors who only do audits, and that's who I'd pick to do one.
- Leaky ductwork is very common and can cause a lot of wasted energy. Did you see these guys do the energy audit? If they just did a blower door test, all they know is how "leaky" your home is. They need to actually crawl around and look at the ducts or isolate their pressurization of various components to know if your ducts are leaking or if there are other spots the air is escaping.
- Many homes built in the last 30 years just have flexduct (slinky duct") in the attic. After checking it over and re-clamping any loose connections (using something that looks like a big plastic flex-tie) you can then use good aluminum tape to double-seal the connections. After doing that, a veru effective and cheap way to insulate the ductwork is just to blow a mound of cellulose insulation over the stuff as it sits on your attic floor. This goes extremely fast (much quicker than wrapping insulation around the duct), it's easy and cheap to build up a fairly thick blanket, and, as a bonus, you are also insulating your attic "floor" at the same time. Of course this only works if you have access to the attic and aren't using the attic floor for storage, etc.
- If you have metal ducts, the best way to seal them is with mastic and reinforcing tape.
- Working in the typical crawlspace is not much fun. Sealing up and insulating ducts there is something I'd hire someone else to do. Some experts make a good case that crawlspaces in most areas of the country should have their floors covered with thick plastic, be entirely sealed against air infiltration (no vents), have their walls insulated, and should become part of the conditioned air envelope of the house (with their own supply and return air vents). The payoff is a reduction of moisture in the house, warmer floors, and a reduction of heat loss for the home (the crawlspace walls have a smaller area than the floor of the home, so less heat loss).
- I second travelover's tips. A few tubes of good caulk, a few cans of Great Stuff foam, a flashlight, some seals for the outlets and switches, some appropriate weatherstripping and an afternoon or two are all you need to do a very good job of tightening up the typical home. I'm sure there's plenty of good info on line about how to do this. One tip: The Great Stuff foam works very well--it fills big gaps permanently. Be sure to use the special "door and window" Great Stuff if you'll be filling gaps around doors and windows or other places where the regular expanding Great Stuff foam might push things out of alignment. Also, all of these polyurethane foams are VERY sticky, and once they get on your skin (or in your hair) they stay there until they wear off. Wear latex or nitryl gloves and eye protection.
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Old 11-24-2010, 11:26 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Stevewc View Post
I can't add anything to what has been suggested but would like to ask what an energy audit cost you?
Steve

$99 thru the local electric company, but since there are Federal tax rebates and rebates on work done this has to be nationwide I would think. Check with your local electric company NOW as this deal ends December 31st THIS year! You can't dawdle so late as this is. I understand these audits normally run $325.

Mine lasted 4 hours, and they found nothing hardly as I have all Energy Star I recently purchased at Sears and double pane windows already. Be aware they go into every nook and cranny in your house, so the wet bras I hid behind the linen closet door they saw... It is a very thorough audit where they do a blower test, crawl in your attic and around, check your windows, check your air conditioner (mine is a huge Trane or Carrier type), measure every single room and closet and garage, etc. Like I said: 4 hours here with 3 men!!! I just stayed out of their way cause they were all over the place.

After talking with my friend's architect husband, the electrical department head at Lowe's (who thinks the whole thing is a scam) and reading this board, I think I am going with just having insulation blown in the attic. Seems appropriate and alot cheaper than sealing the ducts, too, which seemed pretty pricey and not all that beneficial despite the auditing company making a big deal of it.


When is someone going to make seals for the outlets in the newer type light switches that are big (2"x1" types)? Now there's a business idea for someone.
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Old 11-24-2010, 11:49 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Orchidflower View Post
...........
After talking with my friend's architect husband, the electrical department head at Lowe's (who thinks the whole thing is a scam) and reading this board, I think I am going with just having insulation blown in the attic. Seems appropriate and alot cheaper than sealing the ducts, too, which seemed pretty pricey and not all that beneficial despite the auditing company making a big deal of it.
...............
I'm curious why the audit team made a big deal out of sealing the ducts. Did they see something or run a test to indicate that it was a major deficiency? Did they give you an estimate of the cost to seal the ducts? This is a task that could be done by a handyman type - it is not technical, just unpleasant.

Personally, I wouldn't put a huge amount of faith in the credentials of being the head of the electrical department at Lowes.
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Old 11-24-2010, 12:11 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Orchidflower View Post

After talking with my friend's architect husband, the electrical department head at Lowe's (who thinks the whole thing is a scam) and reading this board, I think I am going with just having insulation blown in the attic. Seems appropriate and alot cheaper than sealing the ducts, too, which seemed pretty pricey and not all that beneficial despite the auditing company making a big deal of it.
One thing is for sure--after you add a lot more insulation to the attic, it will be a lot harder to check and seal the air ducts. I have been in attics where a 6" diameter duct had completely pulled off a register, and what that means is that all that heated air was simply being wasted. It's also not unusual to see the flex duct crushed or kinked, resulting in low flow rates (cold rooms) and higher energy use.

Checking and sealing the ducts for a typical home in a typical attic takes a couple of hours.
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Old 11-24-2010, 05:15 PM   #15
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I'm curious why the audit team made a big deal out of sealing the ducts. Did they see something or run a test to indicate that it was a major deficiency? Did they give you an estimate of the cost to seal the ducts? This is a task that could be done by a handyman type - it is not technical, just unpleasant.

Personally, I wouldn't put a huge amount of faith in the credentials of being the head of the electrical department at Lowes.

They just said the ducts needed sealed and how important it was. Didn't say anything about them being crushed, kinked or damaged. Just said they needed sealed.

With the r30 insulation and sealing the ducts--minus the rebate and federal tax credit--the total amount comes to $909. They also do something else, but it isn't so major (forgot what it was for the moment). Without the rebates and federal tax credits the cost is like $2,100--so those tax credits and rebates make a huge difference.

The auditors have this heat seeking piece of equipment the size of a large cell phone and show you areas where the insulation is not good, also.
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Old 11-24-2010, 05:29 PM   #16
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...--the total amount comes to $909. They also do something else, but it isn't so major (forgot what it was for the moment). Without the rebates and federal tax credits the cost is like $2,100--...
And how long, do you figure, will it take to recover that ($909/$2,100) in lower utility bills?
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Old 11-24-2010, 07:02 PM   #17
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They just said the ducts needed sealed and how important it was. Didn't say anything about them being crushed, kinked or damaged. Just said they needed sealed.

With the r30 insulation and sealing the ducts--minus the rebate and federal tax credit--the total amount comes to $909. They also do something else, but it isn't so major (forgot what it was for the moment). Without the rebates and federal tax credits the cost is like $2,100--so those tax credits and rebates make a huge difference.

The auditors have this heat seeking piece of equipment the size of a large cell phone and show you areas where the insulation is not good, also.
Wow, that seems like a lot. I'd hire a handy guy to check the ducts for large leaks and fix any, then seal the typical attic air leaks that I mentioned earlier. This should cost a couple of hundred bucks, max. Then I'd bid out blown in insulation to a company that specializes in the work.

Did they give you a written report that might have more details of their findings?
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Old 11-25-2010, 10:11 AM   #18
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Steve,
Instead of an energy audit and you DIY, check this unit out, it's not the only manufacturer out there, but for under < $50, at least you get to keep the tool too!

Amazon.com: Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector: Home Improvement
If anyone is interested, the price of this has now dropped to $29 (from $49), but as prices fluctuate on Amazon, it can change at anytime.
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Old 11-25-2010, 06:44 PM   #19
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Steve,
Instead of an energy audit and you DIY, check this unit out, it's not the only manufacturer out there, but for under < $50, at least you get to keep the tool too!

Amazon.com: Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector: Home Improvement
I just noticed that amazon dropped the Leak Detector price to $29, FWIW.

omni
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Old 11-25-2010, 09:48 PM   #20
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And how long, do you figure, will it take to recover that ($909/$2,100) in lower utility bills?
Yes, get this: At full price--assuming not federal tax credit and govt. rebates--it will take 22 years!!! At $909 divided by $128 saved a year = 7+ years (that's with the federal tax credit and govt. rebates).

Travelover, thanks for the wise advice. And, yes, they did give me a really well done written report all bound and classy looking....says she chuckling.

What I would have liked is some photos of my ducts that needed sealed. Nobody mentioned they were bent or ruined--just that they needed sealed.
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