It’s good to have a plan before you begin to tighten up your home. Ignoring air leaks so that your conditioned air leaks out wastes energy and money. Multi-paned windows, weather-stripping/caulking and better insulation will give you a more energy-efficient home. But living in a home that has been sealed too tight has its own set of problems and possible dangers.
You must have a plan of attack:
- Too little insulation wastes money, but so does too much. How much should you install?
- What project gives you the best return on investment?
- What is the best order to do these projects?
- How do you know that you haven’t created another problem by tightening your home?
Tightening a home can lead to a lack of necessary fresh air ventilation. Mold spores, dander, pollen, dust, viruses and bacteria can all be circulating in the air you breathe. Since families spend the majority of their time indoors, our homes’ air quality can have a real impact on our health.
A too-tight home can also keep dangerous flue gasses from venting safely up the chimney and out of your home. Imagine you are in a home that has been sealed too tight. The hot water tank is venting well, sending its flue gasses up the chimney. Something causes there to be negative pressure in the home (strong exhaust fans, using a fireplace, etc.) and now the flue gasses are being pulled back into the home instead of up the chimney. This could cause a life-threatening situation.
Additionally, gas-burning appliances need air for their combustion process. When there is not enough combustion air available, they can generate dangerous gases like carbon monoxide. At low levels of concentration CO makes you feel like you have the flu. At higher levels it can be deadly. Carbon monoxide is nothing to ignore and as a precaution, everyone should have a CO detector near each bedroom area of their homes. This is actually a code requirement in many localities now.
So how do you know if you have enough fresh air coming into your home? HVAC contractors that have home performance training can use advanced diagnostic tools to take actual measurements of the tightness of your home to determine if it is within safe and healthy ranges. If testing shows that improvements should be made, the contractor can recommend a solution that will solve the problem without undoing all the good home sealing work you’ve done. This testing is a necessity after any major home tightening project like new windows, insulation, weather stripping, etc. and should be part of your overall plan.
If you have concerns that your home might be too tight, or other indoor air quality concerns, contact your Home Performance contractor. For more information about solutions for too-tight homes, contact the experts at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling.
Kim Nemecek works at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling. After growing up in Cleveland, she lived in Florida for many years, working at an air conditioning company there. Kim has four grown children, two grandchildren and two spoiled dogs. She lives in Solon with her husband, Todd.
The opinions and statements contained in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not instructions. Only trained, licensed and experienced personnel should attempt installation/repair. The author assumes no liability for the opinions/statements made in this article. Any individual attempting a repair or installation based on this article does so at their own risk of loss.