Sealing A New Home For Energy Savings

Sealing A New Home
Sealing a New Home For Energy Savings

The average person buying a newly constructed home or building a custom home has no clue that behind all the beautiful features and amenities a problem exists.  New home construction is a dream come true for millions of people around the country and as they move into the property with everything new from ceiling to floor, there is a sense of accomplishment.  However, along with the good, most people are unaware that new homes share a common problem – air leakage, most often called a “leaky” home.

The “leak” being referred to is not related to water but to air.  Obviously, as controlled air leaks to the outside or as environmental air seeps inside, energy efficiency is compromised.  Not only does this create an uncomfortable living environment within the new home but it also means as the homeowner, you would pay far more for the monthly energy bills than you should.  People expect to see air leakage in older homes but most find this problem in new homes discouraging and alarming.  After all, many people buy or build a new home specifically to enjoy a more cost efficient place to live, not a home that ultimately costs them more money.

The goal of any new home construction is for the homeowner to be aware of this problem and then reduce the level of air leakage as much as possible.  Obviously, buying a home from a well-respected builder or using a top contractor to build your home would reduce the chance of significant leakage in that material used and workmanship would be of high quality.  However, even the best builders in the country cannot guarantee a new home will be void of any leaks body butter business names.

Regardless, you would need to identify the most common places where air leakage occurs and then eliminate the problem.  Interestingly, even tiny gaps, holes, or weakened areas can turn into huge problems.  For this reason, if you decide to look for air leaks on your own, it would be important not to discount small openings.  As an example, window frames, doors, fireplaces, and even floor, wall, and ceiling joints are notorious for causing the “leaky home syndrome.”  Once gaps in the home’s envelop are repaired, leakage would be greatly reduced or even eliminated.

By fixing your new leaking home, the interior living space would be more comfortable all year round.  However, without the air conditioning unit or furnace constantly cycling, two benefits would be enjoyed.  First, these pieces of equipment would not be working so hard, which means with reduced cycle time, the air conditioning unit, and furnace would last much longer.  Cost of replacement for these items would be into the thousands so extending the life is well worth the effort.  Second, reducing cycle time equates to less energy being used, thereby lowering your monthly utility bills.

While the repair of a leaky home would prove beneficial for people regardless of geographic location, this repair seems to benefit homeowners living in states with high humidity most.  The reason is that with gaps sealed, not only is heat from the outside stopped from getting inside, but humidity as well.  Additionally, humidity is moisture so when humidity begins to seep through cracks, slits, holes, etc, the moisture slowly causes damage to wood and other materials but even more frightening, it can lead to the development of dangerous mold and mildew.  With much of this being in the gap, meaning the exterior wall and insulation, you would have no idea it even existed.

There are many different types of home sealers. To fix a leaky new home, you could do the work on your own or hire a contractor who specializes in this area of repair.  Now, if the problem is severe and the home brand new, you may be able to get the job done at no cost to you but with responsibility going back to the contractor who built the home.  Even if you had to pay out-of-pocket to have the work done by a professional, it would be an excellent investment.  For one thing, these contractors know all the places to look beyond the obvious but they also use three products to seal leaks to include acrylic-latex caulk, and fire-rated caulk, as well as expandable polyurethane spray foam.

Different Types of Home Sealers

Whether you are going over every inch of the home to seal numerous leaks or you have just a few areas where outside air is getting inside the home, the key is to use the proper sealant so the openings could be blocked.  The size and location of the home where air is leaking would dictate the best type of sealant.  For instance, if part of the problem is in the attic, the entire area may need to have new insulation blown but if a problem area were around a window, acrylic caulk might be the better solution.

Of course, along with insulation and caulk, you have other options for sealing a home.  Once all the gaps have been sealed, several things would happen.  For starters, the amount of energy being used to heat or cool the home would be reduced.  Because of this, the bill received each month from the utility company would be less.  In addition, with gaps properly sealed, overall air quality would improve since dust, dirt, and various contaminants from the outside cannot get inside.  In fact, energy experts agree that for improving energy efficiency, as well as home comfort, sealing gaps is the most cost effective solution.

Once all the gaps have been sealed, you would expect to pay anywhere between 20% and 30% off the normal cost of heating or cooling the home each month.  Remember, by sealing the home, you would be prevention drafts but this would also block heat loss during the winter months and improve heat gain in the summer months.  Although it takes a little time and effort to go through the house looking for leaks, it would be worth it.  For this, be sure to check around doors and windows, as well as well as wall joints, inside the fireplace, around the home’s foundation, electrical outlets, areas where pipes enter the home, ductwork, etc.

Now, every home needs some degree of fresh air.  Therefore, some homeowners worry that a home could be sealed too much.  In truth, if your home were 30 years old or more, sealing all the gaps would not be a problem.  On the other hand, if you have a newer home we recommend that you research online how to avoid sealing it too tight.  Additionally, for a newer home, it may be helpful to use some type of fresh air ventilation system.

Now, going back to attic insulation, you would need to pay attention to the R-value for each product being considered.  The higher the value the more energy efficient the home would be.  In addition to being sprayed or blown, insulation of this type can also be rolled out and used within the attic, walls, crawlspaces, and basements.  Experts suggest R-38 at minimum, which equates to 12 to 15 inches of insulation but if you live in a part of the country with harsh winters, increase to R-49 rated insulation.

Another great way to improve the home’s energy efficiency is by sealing the ductwork if you have forced cooling and heat.  Most people have no idea that approximately 20% of air moving through the ductwork is lost directly because of bad connections or seams that have not been sealed properly.  Because cool and/or hot air is lost at such a high degree, it would be difficult to maintain a comfortable temperature within the home.  That means running the air conditioning unit or furnace more, using increased energy and costing more money.

The best type of sealant for the ductwork is actually duct mastic, which is a special sealant for this very purpose.  While it might be difficult to get to all ductwork since some will run in between walls and floors, do the best you can.  Around the seams of the ducts, you would apply the sealant and immediately enjoy the benefits by saving on energy and therefore, money.  Of course, if you plan to have a new furnace or air conditioning unit installed, not only would you want to buy Energy Star products but have the installer check the ductwork for you at that time.

Of all products used to seal homes, polyurethane foam has become the number one choice.  With this, you could purchase cans at a local hardware or home improvement store, which would then be sprayed on or around the area letting in outside air.  However, if you have a large area, you can actually rent a special blower and purchase a larger quantity of the foam to work with the machine.  That way, the process of sealing the area with polyurethane foam would be much quicker and easier.

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