HVAC Systems and Air Leak Questions Answered

Do you have a leaky home or HVAC system? If your winter heating bills were surprisingly high or you have concerns about what the summer cooling season will cost, take a look at what you need to know about home leaks, system leaks, and the solutions to these common HVAC issues.

How Can Air Leaks Impact Your HVAC System?

Leaks in either your home or the system itself let some of the heated or cooled air (depending on the season) escape. This decreases the amount of air that eventually reaches or stays in your home’s interior. The result is decreased heating or cooling capacity.

Not only can this leave your home with cold or hot spots, but it can also force the entire system to work harder. The increased workload on the HVAC system requires more energy — leading to higher utility bills and the potential for premature breakdown.

What Are Home Air Leaks?

Again, you have two major types of air leaks to look out for: Home and system leaks. Home air leaks start in some part of the structure. Common places to find these leaks include around windows, electrical receptacles, fireplaces, attics, dryer vents, vents/fans, door frames, and window/wall-mounted air conditioners.

Cracks, splits, holes, or other damage to your home’s exterior can also allow air to enter the interior space. Your home may have one leaky area (such as a drafty, uninsulated attic) or may ooze air from several spaces.

What Are HVAC System Air Leaks?

Air leaks can also come directly from your HVAC system. The primary place homeowners find these leaks are in the ductwork. If you have a ductless mini-split system, radiators, or another HVAC option that doesn’t heat or cool through the use of ducts and vents, this type of leak isn’t something you need to watch out for.

If you have a forced-air central heating or cooling system, it’s possible your ducts could cause heating or cooling loss. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it’s possible for a well-sealed or well-insulated duct system to still leak some air. But this doesn’t mean you should let your ducts go without care. The better sealed/insulated, the more likely it is that your home will have less heating and cooling-related air and energy losses.

Ducts can leak in several different areas. Damage, such as a crack or hole, can cause a leak anywhere in the system. But this doesn’t mean your ducts must have visible damage to leak air. This type of system-wide leak can also happen at joints—places where two segments of ducts or areas where the ducts meet the furnace/air conditioner unit.

How Can You Solve Air Leaks?

The answer to this question depends on what type of leak your home has. Some homes may have both primary types of leaks or leaks in multiple places. The possibility of several different air leak sites can make it tricky to find the precise source or sources. To accurately identify air leaks, contact an HVAC professional.

A qualified HVAC contractor can assess your home for structural and system leaks. After they find significant sources of leakage, they can recommend a treatment plan. The specific repair or replacement your home needs may include anything from new windows or additional door caulking to duct insulation.

If the HVAC system is at fault, it’s possible the contractor can repair the existing ducts. They may need to seal or insulate joints or other sections of the ductwork. Along with increasing heating or cooling power and reducing utility bills, well-sealed/insulated ducts can help to improve the indoor air quality and decrease the likelihood of backdrafting (drawing potentially hazardous gases back into your home).

Do you need a professional to inspect your home for air leaks or seal your HVAC system’s ducts? Contact Steele Bros Heating, Inc., for more information.

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