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DIY Home Air Pressure Test

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DIY Home Air Pressure Test

Air leaks in your home

It's always cheaper to "reduce your need" rather than "buying more". Air leaks in your home can increase your heating and air conditioning costs from 5% to 30%. With this simple do-it-yourself (DIY) home air pressure test, you can locate the biggest leaks and seal them. It may not catch the smaller air leaks that a professional pressure test would, but it doesn't cost $450 like a professional air pressure test cost in my neighborhood (Canada). In the UK, air leak testing will cost between £125 and £175 for 1 dwelling.

This DIY test works best when it's cold outside and warm inside your home, as it's easier to "feel" where the air leaks are.

Home Pressure Test

  1. Close up your house and turn off the heating and cooling sources. We'll be drawing air INTO the house during this test, so make sure you extinguish all sources of fire such as a fireplace, furnace, or gas water heater. Close all windows and doors, the damper on the fireplace, skylights and all vents.Oven exhaust fan
  2. Turn ON all exhaust fans in your house. These are normally found in the kitchen (over stove), in bathrooms and laundry rooms. If you don't have any exhaust fans, then open a window and set a portable fan in the window. Try to close up the area to keep the air flowing out, without letting more air in.
  3. First place to check for leaks is the fireplace. If there are leaks around the damper, you could be getting some nasty smells and soot coming into the house. If so, stop the exhaust fans and fix the damper. smoking incense stick
  4. With the exhaust fans on, search for leaks using a stick of incense. These sticks give off a trail of smoke that will easily take off in any breeze from an air leak. You could also use a "wet hand". Carry a bowl of water with you and keep your hand damp while you run it around the windows, doors, outlets and switches. A cool breeze from an air leak with feel very cool if your hand is damp. I would not use a candle for the leak test due to the open flame - too much opportunity for an accident.
  5. Check all openings for leaks: around doors and windows, electrical outlets and light switches, around light fixtures, skylights, attic access doors, at the bottom, top and corners of walls.
  6. Turn off the exhaust fans and fix the leaks. Caulking works wonders.
    • For windows, it is best to caulk both inside and outside. Window shrink wrap coverings can also make a big difference in drafts and heating bills.
    • For doors, you can buy foam weather stripping for the sides and top. The bottom of outside doors are sealed with a special threshold strip - measure the opening size before heading to the hardware store. caulking gun and tube
    • For power outlets and light switches, you can buy foam inserts made specifically for sealing air leaks.
    • Make sure your ductwork is closed up tight. Though it's easiest to test for leaks in the ducts when the furnace or air conditioning is running - if you find leaks, the metal based tape works best as it sticks better and lasts longer.
  7. After fixing the leaks, repeat. Turn the exhaust fans on once more and look for air leaks. You may find "new" smaller leaks that were not noticeable when you had much larger leaks letting the air in.

Outside Air Leaks

Now that you are finished with the DIY home air pressure test, take a quick look at the outside of the house. First place to pay special attention to, is the water faucets, electrical outlets and pipes for electrical conduit. Make sure these are sealed. Also look for any cracks in the mortar, spaces between bricks, joins between to separate types of materials, etc. Caulking works well, though make sure you are using the correct type for the material you are working with. Expanding foam is also available and can be very helpful for larger openings. Make sure you get the right type of foam for the job - some types can expand and enlarge a crack.

You should notice a much warmer or cooler, draft-free home!

 

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