Is your home leaky?

by Cody Farmer

Air Tight Construction Colorado

  • - Can’t maintain even temperature throughout the whole house.
  • - Heater or AC comes on frequently throughout the day to compensate.
  • - You sometimes feel a draft for no reason at all.
  • - Your 12-year-old thinks the cold spots are ghosts.
  • - Your seasonal allergies seem the same or worse while inside.

These are all signs of a leaky house, but even without noticing these symptoms, most homes have several leaky areas they’re not even aware of.

 

Maybe your home can’t maintain even temperature throughout all the rooms.  As you near walls and especially windows you feel cooler air move past you. They’re not ghosts humans have a sixth sense! Like a cat’s whiskers, humans have billions of tiny hairs that detect temperature, air movement, even static electricity. Yes, our bodies can feel very slight movements of air and cold spots.

Air Tight Construction Colorado

It’s no surprise then when the furnace overheats a room you can feel a hot flash as your hair follicles prepare to release moisture to cool the body down. But then the heater turns off and the room begins to cool quickly. Not just because of wimpy walls but because of air leakage. Trust your follicles! Conditioned air is blowing out of your home in many places.

If your seasonal allergies seem the same or worse while inside your home or office, you might have a leaky one. These are all signs of a leaky house; HOWEVER! they can also be signs of a brand new improperly ventilated tight-house. 

So, before you go tightening things up, let’s seek some balance learning. One cannot tighten the house without bringing in fresh filtered air from outside. The world is proving this through failures. You do not want to be part of the experiment.

Air Tight Construction ColoradoThis is where America is getting it wrong. Scary Wrong!

Like moms and dads, and seniors and sensitive people should really be concerned. Code officials, builders, architects, and designers are tightening up the drawings and installed materials and requirements all the while relying on building leakage as makeup fresh air. Building leakage is not clean makeup air. So when a person uses the dryer they lose around 250 ft.³ of air per minute. When that air leaves it causes depressurization and air leaks in through building holes until a window or door is opened. The building then normalizes pressure. If no one leaves or opens a window, your walls are sucking air. Remember what goes out must come in.

The problem is that there really aren’t any good places for the air to leak in from now that the buildings are built so tight. So, it comes in through the attic insulation in ceiling drywall, the large crack around the house where the wood wall meets the concrete wall, and in the dryer and range hood vents if they’re not in use. Scary Wrong. It’s cool to be tight, right? But show me the fresh air!

If your home or building is tight and you only have bathroom fans a range hood and a clothes dryer. You need a source of fresh outside air coming in from outside that is filtered. In our designs for example that fresh air goes to your bedroom for refreshment, oxygenation and constant odor removal. Yup people can be smelly when they sleep. Not as bad as dogs, however.

So how do you know if you have a leaky house? You test it with a blower door. These tests are usually conducted by an energy audit company that will make a report suggesting how you can save money tightening up your home. They sometimes give you free things like LED bulbs and things. They always suggest a programmable thermostat. There are often rebates for these audit companies, so this is nearly free, and I recommend doing it. The audit companies usually have really smart and passionate technicians that provide detailed results. So, it’s tax money well spent in many cases.

Again, be careful. These companies will tell you how to tighten your home but they’re not addressing the health aspect of it - just the energy aspect. This is why it’s important to get MainStream involved early on with your renovation team or new construction team. So, after the energy audit is a good time to call us. If your blower door test comes in lower than 3 ACH 50, you’re getting tight.

If it’s less than 2 ACH 50 and you don’t have an ERV or HRV such as Zehnder you might want to consider adding one. Zehnder is the only system that easily retrofits into 2 x 4 walls. The system pairs particularly well with Pro Clima vapor open water-resistant membranes and air tightness control systems.

Contact MainStream today for assistance determining your building’s airtight layer and ventilation design strategy.