Sealing My Ductwork With Aeroseal

aeroseal_ductwork_sealingAs some of you know I’ve spent the better part of 20 years tearing apart and fixing houses.  There’s not much I can’t do when it comes to home renovation.  However, I can only repair what my fingers can touch, and my latest challenge required some help from an old friend.  Allow me to give you the setup….

My wife Michelle and I bought a foreclosed home about 3 years ago.  It was in rough shape, but nothing really scares me when it comes to this stuff, so we jumped in head first.  It’s taken us a lot of work, but we’ve slowly but surely remodeled just about every room.  One of the first rooms we tackled was Michelle’s Room.”  It’s a small 3rd bedroom that she likes to retreat to and read, and get away from me (her words). The one nagging issue with Michelle’s Room is that it was always much hotter or colder than the rest of the house.  7 degrees to be exact.  Very noticeable indeed for a single story ranch homeLet me put that in perspective for you.  When it was 68 in my living room, it was 61 in Michelle’s Room.  And believe me, I heard about it every time she crossed the threshold of that room.  You know what they say;  A wife that is cold will b#$!@ about it until you fix it. They do say that, right?  

I did what I could on my own. I scanned the room with my thermal imaging camera hoping to find a large missing area of missing insulation.  Even if it meant tearing out a wall, it would be a solution to a problem.  But alas, no low hanging fruit this time.

The stars aligned about a month ago, and I was called upon by my old friend Brandon with  KY ENERGY PRO  to perform a home inspection on a house he was buying.  During his inspection I mentioned my struggles with the temperatures in this room, and he started talking about this Aeroseal stuff. I came home and started doing my own research, and I liked what I saw.

Leaking Ductwork – The Big Problem with HVAC Systems

I’d say 99% of the houses I’ve inspected have ductwork systems that were never properly sealed up, and they leak like a sieve. Little holes here and there may not seem like much, but a thousand small holes add up to one big hole.  And all those holes mean less air getting where you want it to be.  According to ENERGYSTAR, most ductwork systems leak out about 30% of the air that is pushed through them.  I’ve seen some systems that I bet would be pushing 50-75% leakage. I’ve lost count the number times I’ve been in a nice and toasty warm crawlspace in the middle of winter from a supply run that was completely disconnected and dumping hot air under the house.  How people don’t notice one room is really cold is beyond me, but it happens a lot. Or maybe they notice it, but just don’t know what to do about it.

Check out the thermal image scans of ductwork that I took on what I consider to be an average house below.  You can see the deep red color that is showing up on each image. That is the hot air from the furnace seeping out of the cracks and holes that occur in all ductwork.  Every wisp of air that leaks into your floor, your wall, your attic, or your crawlspace is wasted energy and money.

The Cavalry has arrived

HVAC Louisville KY
aeroseal_ductwork_sealing

Traditionally, most people think of air sealing their ductwork with some kind of tape.  Back in the day we used to use…. yep, duct tape. My father-in-law’s favorite “tool.” It would work for a while, but the glue on the tape would dry out and the fabric would fall off over time. The next evolution in tape was foil tape.  It works great, stays in place, and doesn’t fall off over time.  But, the accessibility for air sealing with this tape are still limited, because unless you’re sealing during the construction of your house, you won’t be able to reach every crack or hole. This is where Aeroseal is different.  It seals your ductwork from the inside-out.  So you don’t need to worry about being able to get to all the cracks and holes.  It seeks them out and seals them up.

Here’s how Aeroseal is applied in your home.  First, the ductwork system is isolated from the air handler (the part of your HVAC system most of you call your furnace).  All of the supply and return runs are then sealed off with tape and foam blocks, and a big fan is connected to the ducts.  The duct runs are pressurized with the fan, and the liquid Aeroseal is pumped into the ductwork system.  Since the ducts stay at a constant pressure (with the fan running), there is a constant stream of air that is leaking out of all the cracks and holes (think of it like a balloon with a pin hole in it).  The liquid duct-sealant is then sprayed into the air stream where it sticks to the edges of any hole as it leaves the ductwork.  It builds upon itself until the hole is filled, like a liner that is sprayed inside the duct system.

I have a large hole in my supply trunk that my UV light is installed in.  To help show you how this process works, I used some fiberglass mesh tape to mimic a bunch of smaller holes.  The raw footage for this was about 20 minutes, so I sped things up so you can see how the duct sealant is able to build up and seal up holes.  Keep an eye on the small yellow squares. They will fill up with Aeroseal as you watch the video. 

Let’s Get Started – Prepping the Ductwork

When the guys from KY Energy Pro first arrived at my house, they assessed the room in which my furnace was located.  You need a good amount of room to work during this process, so if everything you own is stacked 8 feet high around your furnace, be ready to move it all. I was told that at least 5 feet of clearance was needed around the unit (if you can swing it).  Now that we have a decent amount of clearance, let’s light this candle.

The first step is to isolate the air handler from the duct system.  This means your supply and return will essentially turn into two separate runs. This step is vital and can’t be rushed.  If the technician does a poor job and the sealant gets past the wall he builds, it will likely ruin your air handler and new one will be needed.  I’ve highlighted my supply run (in blue) & my return run (in red).  Once the all this has been done, you can isolate sections when testing for leakage to see where your biggest problems are. Mine were leaking at the return more than the supply.

duct_work_isolated
Once the air handler is sealed off, the crew concentrates on getting the rest of the ductwork sealed up as much as possible, and getting the access ports installed.  All of the grills around the house are removed, and are either stuffed with a conforming foam block, or masked over to seal things up. This is done because you have to be able to pressurize things for the process to work, so no big gaping holes are allowed. There is also an access port cut into each (supply & return) run. This is the spot that the duct-sealant is pumped into. Once the job is complete, these ports are removed and new sheet metal is installed and sealed.  Now that everything is ready to go,  it’s time to attach the Aeroseal fan and field-made ducts to my house and start sealing!

Time to Seal these ducts!

Now that we have everything prepped, it’s time for the fun to start.  The Aeroseal system uses a large tube of clear plastic “ductwork” that is assembled on site.  This is because every house is different, and the team never knows what they’ll be walking into. These tubes are single-use, and are disposed of after the job is completed. The ducting leaves the Aeroseal fan and is connected to a wye. One side heads over to the supply port, and the other to the return that was just installed in my home’s ductwork.  Here is a quick video of the setup.

Once everything is connected and double checked to be air tight, the team starts by turning on the fan to pressurize the system and see how leaky the ducts are to begin with. This gives them a baseline number in which to gauge progress as they pump the Aeroseal into the system. You can literally watch the leakage numbers decrease during the sealing process.  So, how did I do with my starting numbers?  Not good at all.  What really surprised me about this is that I had taken the time to seal up my ducts as much as I could a year ago.  This told me that there was a ton of leakage that I couldn’t get to, and no matter how hard I tried,  I would never be able to fix it myself.  My test-in numbers were as follows:

Here is what a hole of 80-sq inches looks like. This was my total duct air leakage prior to the Aeroseal.

419.6 CFM

This is air leakage. It equals 251.8 refrigerators full of air loss every hour. That’s a lot!

79.3 Sq In Hole

That amount of air is equivalent to a hole this big. Holy Moly!

Since we had a baseline to work with from our test-in, we grabbed some foil tape and went to town sealing any hole we could find while the pressure fan was running. It was crazy to me how many holes I had missed when trying to tape things myself.  There were several that were hidden along the top edge of the return line trunk.  Having a pressure fan running made all the difference, as you could feel the air leaks blowing and hunt them down to seal them up.  Starting with the tape also helps cut down on the wasted Aeroseal when it’s time to start pumping the sealant.  Aeroseal is only able to fill a hole around 5/8″, so if you have big gaping holes in your system it won’t be able to do its job.  In fact, I had a couple of bigger hidden holes in my return duct system that needed to be taped off.  I actually had to cut out drywall to get to them (this was in a room that has yet to be finished by me, so I did not mind tearing into the ceiling).  Here are some photos of the trunk line and return runs after taping everything, prior to the Aeroseal liquid.  Note – If you have a spot with a huge hole, or a disconnected duct run you may have to tear open part of your house to fix it.  I know it is not ideal, but it happens more than you think. 

Once we had the duct system as tight as we could get it with tape, it was time to start pumping the duct-sealant into the jet stream. The fan box and motor pumps spray the liquid like an aerosol can into the ducts.  As this began, the room we were in got pretty foggy.  It was obvious that some of the liquid was escaping from the duct system into the room (finding leaks like it was supposed to).  After a few minutes of this, the air started to clear up, and the leakage numbers began to drop on the system.  It doesn’t take very long at all to actually seal things with the liquid, about 20-30 minutes, but the whole job took around 6 hours from start to finish.

Post Aeroseal Numbers – How did we do?

Here are the hard numbers post-duct sealing. As you can see, we were able to decrease the amount of air leakage in the system tremendously.

This is much better. After Aeroseal, my total duct leakage dropped to a whopping 7.9 sq inches.

41.1 CFM

This is air leakage after the Aeroseal. This a lot better!

7.9 Sq In Hole

That amount of air is equivalent to a hole this big. Yeah baby!

90.2% Reduction In Air Leakage!

That’s what I’m talking about!

The End Result – Does it Work?

It’s been about a month since the duct work sealing with Aeroseal took place (at the time of this writing). Here are some of the changes I’ve actually noticed, and some that I’m anticipating.

  • Michelle’s Room

    The temperature difference in Michelle’s Room is gone.  This change was instantaneous. That room now heats up evenly with the whole house.  And most importantly, I no longer have to listen to my wife complain. Well, about that room, anyway.  I owe the guys a beer for that one!

  • My HVAC System Doesn’t Run As Much

    The whole house heats up faster.  This may be all in my head, but I swear my furnace doesn’t run nearly as long as it used to.  Luckily, I have a Nest thermostat and it logs all this info (how many times a day it runs and for how long).  Once we get through the winter I’ll compare last year’s numbers to this year’s and we’ll be able to get some hard data.

  • System Life

    Just as your car only has so many miles in it before it gives up the ghost, your HVAC system only has so many hours of life to give.  If you do everything you can to improve the efficiency as a whole, it’s reasonable to believe your system will last longer.  When the house heats heats up faster, and the furnace runs less time in doing so, you get more hours of life out of your unit.

  • Saving Money

    While longer lifespan on equipment is great, it’s also reasonable to believe my monthly bills will be less too.  Again, it’s too soon to talk real numbers, but I’ll report when I have more info.  Dollar Dollar Bills Ya’ll.

This is where I tell you all about how life-changing this process is, and how you simply can’t live without Aeroseal.  But the truth is, you can.  If you like paying for conditioned air that leaks into your attic, floats around in your walls, and doesn’t get where it should, do nothing at all.  However, if you like the idea of being more comfortable in your home, having your HVAC equipment run less and last longer, and saving a couple bucks every month on your utility bill, then you really should take a long, hard look at what Aeroseal and KY Energy Pro have to offer.  I give it two thumbs up.  It worked wonders in my house, and I have faith that it will work wonders in yours.

When all the fun is over, you will get a certificate to show you all these hard numbers, and how much they were able to tighten things up.  I printed mine out and taped it to the ductwork.  This is an impressive point to potential buyers of your home when it comes time to sell it.  Take a peek at mine to see what they look like.

Discount for Application

In a typical home with typical ductwork, the Aeroseal process will cost around $2000. However, I’ve worked out a deal for my readers. Mention this review to the guys at KY Energy Pro, and you’ll receive a 15% discount. Give them a shout at 502.758.5122 or visit KY Energy Pro for more info.

FAQ

I know lots of you will have questions about this product and the process.  I created this section to try and answer those as much as possible.  Some I will answer myself with my own personal experience, and some I copied from the Aeroseal FAQ page (mostly the technical jargon).  I invite you to read their information as well.  They also have a video that addresses common concerns here.


Is Aeroseal Safe?

The sealant used by Aeroseal is non-toxic and has been used in hospitals, surgery centers, and government buildings all over.

  • UL 1381 for aerosol based technology
  • UL 723 for smoke and flame rating of zero
  • UL 181 for mold growth.

Primary component is Vinyl Acetate Polymer, used in water based paints, hair spray, and chewing gum.

So, yeah, it’s safe.

Does it smell?

Not really.  It reminds me of white Elmer’s Glue a bit.  I could smell a faint something for the first night, but it was gone by the next morning. My wife, who is ridiculously sensitive to smells, definitely smelled it when she came home, but she too, noticed it gone the next morning and had no issues.

Are there any VOC’s?

The sealant used by Aeroseal has been tested by an independent lab and was found to have extremely low concentration of VOC’s during sealing time.  The primary component has NO OSHA maximum exposure limit.

Do my ducts need to cleaned first?

Maybe.  I did not need to clean mine, but my house is only 15 years old, so mine were not really dirty  If you are wanting to seal an 80 year old house, it may be necessary.  This will be dependent on the house.

Can I have my ducts cleaned post Aeroseal?

Yup.

How much money will this save me?

Not possible to say.  Everyone will be different when it comes to savings.

Insulating your Attic Access Hole

Insulation, air movement, building science, blah-blah-blah. I know, most folks find it boring. But if you like saving money, and living in a comfortable house, stay with me here. One of the most common things I find at just about every home inspection in Louisville is a poorly insulated attic scuttle hatch (that is the spot you crawl through to get into the attic). It’s typically a 2ft x 3ft hole, but I have seen them as large as 4ft x 4ft. That is a large ceiling area that is rarely properly insulated or air sealed. I’ll show you how to properly seal them up, and insulate those panels. Below is a thermal picture of a scuttle hole taken during a home inspection in Louisville. You can see how the missing insulation makes a huge difference in the heat levels. There is a 15 degree difference between the hatch cover and rest of the ceiling drywall. That’s a lot.

thermal image of attic hole

Here you can clearly see how poor insulation on an attic access panel looks using thermal imaging. It is a big gaping hole in your insulation coverage.

Building Science Stuff

Most insulation I find in the attic of homes is air permeable (air can travel through it). This means while your insulation in the attic may slow the flow of heat via radiation, it will not stop air flow from the living space, which carries heat via convection, if there is a path for air to travel. The rule here is simple: For air to move, there must a path (hole in the ceiling, crack in the drywall, poorly sealed attic scuttle, etc) and a difference in pressure. That is it. The difference is pressure is most commonly created by a difference in temperature. Check this out for more info: Gay-Lussac’s Law.

Remember high school physics? Heat travels in 3 ways. Conduction in solid materials, convection in fluids (liquids or gases), and radiation through anything that will allow radiation to pass. I like to think of it as money travels in 3 ways. After all, every bit of heat you lose has is a dollar bill attached to it. When you heat your home, your furnace creates lots of BTU’s (British Thermal Unit) in order to do so. The cheapest BTU is the one you never have to produce. Heat the area once, and keep it locked in.

Our attic situation calls for us to concentrate primarily on convective heat loss. While conduction and radiation are in play most of the time as well, let’s stick with convection for now.

Convective Loss:

When we heat our home, the furnace produces hot air that wants to rise to the top of the room. Always remember that warm air rises. Heat does not rise, but warm air does. As the temp in the room goes up, that hot air will escape through any crack in the building’s envelope around the ceiling. Remember: air only needs a path and a difference in pressure to move. Since you have heated the air with your furnace, you have created that difference in temperature, which created the difference in pressure. The air is able to seep in around lights (especially recessed lighting which has lots of holes), ceiling fans, smoke detectors, and of course, attic scuttles. We know air is leaking out, and if that air is not replaced, you will have negative pressure in your house. Mother nature does not like pressure differences. For every bit of warm air you lose up top, you draw in cool air from the bottom of the house. If we seal things up so the warm air at the top of the room can’t get out, we’re already ahead of the curve.

The ceiling frame

Most homes have a panel that lifts up and slides to the side to get into the attic. There is usually mitered casing around the edge to hold the panel up in the air. The first thing you need to do is seal this trim to the ceiling. Use a high quality painters caulk to fill any gaps here. Be sure to get all the way around the frame. This not only will stop any air flow from spilling under the wood trim, it will also help to hold the wood in place against the ceiling. Note: This is also the time you should make sure the miter frame is well secured to the ceiling. I recommend a couple of trim screws into the framing (in the attic) above so you don’t have to worry about this working loose or wanting to fall in the future.

Attic Hatch Not Sealed

Here you can see how the hot attic air is leaking in around the trim on the ceiling. The ghostly streaks you see is the air being cooled as it enters the room from the attic. Once you caulk this joint closed this will no longer be an issue.

 Air Seal Attic

Next you need to install a foam gasket (or weatherstripping) around lip of the frame.  This is what your panel will rest on.  The foam is what air seals things around the removable panel.  I’ve seen some people caulk this, but that is a bad idea.  If you need to get back into the attic, you have to cut all that caulking out, which is a pain in the butt.  The gasket works fine if installed properly.  When installing your gasket,  be sure to clean the lip of the frame.  If you try to stick it down on dirty trim, it will not stay in place.  Also, be sure and overlap your corners.

Attic weatherstripping installed

The foam gasket will make an airtight seal once installed around the frame.

The attic panel

Now that the ceiling frame has been caulked and weatherstripped, we can turn our attention to the panel itself. There are a couple of things that we must do here. One is to make sure that the panel stays flat, and has a good layer of insulation on the back of it. Most of the hatches I see have either no insulation at all, or maybe (if you’re lucky) will have a piece of fiberglass batt insulation kinda/sorta drooped across the hole. Neither one is any good. We can do better.

I’m going to assume your panel is nothing more than the piece of drywall that was cut out (I assume this because this is what I see 99% of the time during home inspections.) If so, ditch it in lieu of a new panel made of 3/4 MDF. You can get MDF at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Both stores even sell smaller “project panels” that could fit the bill (depending on what size your hole is.) Expect to pay around $12 bucks for a 2×4 piece. MDF is basically saw dust and glue pressed together. It is strong, flat, and easy to cut and mill. It also takes paint well. Cut your panel down to about 1/8″ smaller than your hole in the ceiling. Be sure you leave enough board that it overlap the foam weatherstripping you installed on your frame in the ceiling.

Insulation on the Attic Hatch Cover

Now grab a sheet of 2″ rigid foam insulation board. I call it “Poor Man’s Spray Foam”. It comes in 4×8 sheets, and it cuts with a utility knife with ease. It’s also a rock star at insulating flat panels like the attic scuttle, or the walls of skylights in the attic. Anyplace a piece of fiberglass batt insulation would fall off, this stuff can get glued in its place, and it’s not going anywhere. It also has an R-Value of about 5 per inch, which is way more than fiberglass.

Cut your foam to the same size as your panel, and glue it in place with white the painters caulk you used to seal the frame with. Pro Tip: Don’t use construction adhesive. It will melt the foam and things won’t stick together. Put as many layers of the foam on as you can. Go nuts here. I aim for a minimum of 3, sometimes 5 or 6 if I have enough material. My area in Louisville KY calls for an R-Value of around 40 in the attic. Once everything has dried up, and the foam isn’t sliding around on the MDF, drop your panel down onto your weatherstripping you installed. That is it. You are done.

Material List for Project

 

  • SEALANT (CAULKING)

    Be sure to use the good stuff whenever your caulk.   DAP 50yr Caulk

  • TRIM SCREWS

    Secure your frame with screws. Most of the times they are poorly nailed in place and weight of the panel can cause them to work loose. Trim Screws

  • MDF PANEL

    3/4 MDF makes for great panel material. Most big box stores sell smaller “Project Panels” so you don’t have to buy a whole 4×8 sheet. MDF Panel

  • Foam Insulation

    2″ Rigid foam insulation is perfect for installing on a removable panel. Foam Insulation

Check out this other post about air sealing your outlets. This is another simple way you can improve the energy efficiency and comfort level of your home.

Save Money! Air Seal Your House.

WARNING – THE FOLLOWING GIVES INSTRUCTION ON HOW TO WORK ON PART OF THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM IN A HOME.  IT IS TECHNICAL IN NATURE AND NOT MEANT FOR EVERYONE.  IF YOU DO NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE TAKING YOUR LIFE INTO YOUR OWN HANDS, OR POSSIBLY DAMAGING YOUR HOME, READ ON,  AND THEN CALL A PRO.    

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Insulating your home is only half the battle when it comes to saving money on your energy bills.  The other half, and some would argue the most important, is that you must air seal the outer walls/ceiling.  This is also known as the building envelope.  We must stop air movement from the living space and the outdoors too.

 

The Science Of Building Heating and Cooling

In physics, the second law of thermodynamics says that heat flows naturally from an object at a higher temperature to an object at a lower temperature; and heat doesn’t flow in the opposite direction of its own accord.  This means hot moves to cold on its own.  In the winter, your hot air air is trying to escape the house, and in the summer, the hot air outside is trying to get in.  It’s a never ending battle.  Every little crack and hole in your house is a path to losing money, comfort, and is making your furnace/air conditioning work harder.

 

Take a Peek

Behold the beautiful wonder of thermal imaging!  I love my thermal camera.  It has made me a hero more times than I can count during my home inspections.  Thermal Imaging Inspections take inspecting to a whole new level.  You can see in the image below, an electrical outlet in my house.  I’ve marked the hi and low temps to make it easier for you to understand the colors.  The blue area is all the cold air leaking in around the edge of the electrical box, and the holes where the wires come into the box.

Thermal Image Outlet Before

Here is the outlet before I started. You can see the coldest temp was around 39.5 degrees.

The Fix

Stopping these leaks is a small piece of a larger puzzle, but still a piece nonetheless.  The first thing you do is kill the power to whatever you are working on.  Don’t try any of this on a live circuit or you could electrocute and kill yourself.  Don’t be stupid.  Now that you’ve turned off the power you’ll want to remove the receptacle itself.  GENTLY pull it straight back and out of the box.  If the person who wired your house left the wires too short in the box to safely pull the receptacle up and out of the way, stop now.  You could pull the wires off the receptacle, break a wire, etc…  Call in a pro to have your wires extended.  If you can pull out your receptacle and it looks like the image below, carry on.

Outlet Pulled Out of Box

 

Seal It Up

Now that we can work without fear of breaking wires and/or electrical shock, I use caulk and expanding foam to seal the box.  Using a high quality painters caulk, caulk the edge of the electrical box to the drywall itself.  I got lucky and the drywallers did a decent job of cutting out for my boxes, so the gap is not very large.  Your mileage will vary on how much caulk it takes to seal this up.

 

Now that the box-to-drywall connection is sealed, let’s focus on the wire penetrations. You may have one, two, or even three sets of wires coming into the box itself.  This number will vary on how outlets/switches are in your box.  Treat them all the same here.  I have two sets of wires coming in to deal with.  A small shot of spray foam around each wire is all it takes.  You can see here how the foam will spread itself around the wires and seal them up.

air-sealed-outlet

Here you can see the finished results. The wires have been foamed, and the box has been caulked. This box is all sealed up!

 

Expanding foam in the disposable cans can get pricey.  Once you crack the seal on them the clock starts before it becomes useless.  Remember, a little goes a long way with expanding foam.  This stuff will grow and grow once you squirt it out.  If you get trigger happy and get too much in the box; just let it cure and dig it out.  Don’t try to touch it wet.  You’ll just end up with a sticky mess on your hands.  One can will likely do your whole house.  So if you have to buy these types of cans, you may want to tackle the whole house at once to save on foam.

Here is another thermal image pic showing the improvement we made.  This area is a full 6.1 degrees warmer.  But more importantly, we have stopped the airflow from getting into the living space of the house.  That airflow cost money and comfort 24-7-365.

Thermal Image After

 

But Ben, why is the area still blue and cold you ask?

Understand that what we are working on is air sealing of this box , not the insulation around it.  We are still seeing cold temps and blue coloring because the insulation around this particular box is non-existent.  This receptacle is above my fireplace where most builders do not attempt to insulate.  I”ll tackle the insulation another time.

This procedure is good for just about every penetration in your home’s envelope.  All your receptacles, light switches, hard wired smoke detectors, ceiling lights, ceiling fans, and any other hole you may have.  It’s a quick process.  Takes me about 2 minutes per box to seal it up, and you reap the benefits instantly.

Best of 2014 Part 2

I’m a bit later than I wanted to be getting this written, but hey, better late than never. If you missed the first part of this post you can see it here: Best of Home Inspections 2014.  So without further ado, the second half of the Best of the Worst pictures of 2014.

 

A waterfall in the crawlspace – This house was about 15 years old.  This was the 3rd person selling it.  What you are looking at is the master shower that was NEVER connected to the home’s plumbing.  It has been dumping shower water under the house since the day it was built.  How many other inspectors missed this little gem because it was in a tight spot that took a bit of extra effort to get to?  And do you know what I had to craw through to see it? Go on…tell me you’ve never peed in the shower.

Leaking Shower in Crawlspace

NEW Insulation in the Attic –  That is what the listing boasted.  In fact, the buyer even commented to me on how this flipper (not the dolphin) did everything just right.  I may be a bit cynical, but I have never seen a flipped house “done right.” When I climbed through the tiny hole in the ceiling to get into the attic I saw this pile of batt insulation (the worst possible choice for attic insulation, mind you).  Well…in the sellers defense, there was new insulation in the attic, it just hasn’t been installed yet.

Attic Insulation

 

 

Leaning Crawlspace Tower of Pisa – Truth be told, I could make one of these post every week with the crap I find in crawlspaces alone.  This beauty was in an old house, circa 1900.  There were probably a dozen or so of these wonderfully crafted modern marvels scattered throughout. What do you say other than “Um…no.”

Crawlspace Pier

 

 

Air filters are important – Who doesn’t like clean, fresh air?  The people who owned this house, that’s who.  This was a 10yr old gas furnace that I don’t think has ever had a filter installed it.  I was getting very little air flow out of it and when I took the unit apart I found this fan so clogged with crud it could barely draw the air through it.

Dirty Furnace Fan

Casting a shadow –  It doesn’t hurt to turn off your ceiling fans every few years and wipe them down.  The dust on the edge of this fan blade was nearly 3/4 inch thick.  So fellas, the next time you start to catch heat about not pulling your weight in the house cleaning department, just show the them this pic and point out how it could always be worse.

Dirty Ceiling Fan

 

My last and final picture is not of a house, but of a fortune cookie message I received a few weeks ago.  It only took 30 years to get one that actually made sense.

 

Fortune Cookie

 

 

I’ve got enough pictures to write a novel of funny, awful, and scary things I’ve found during my home inspections, and I’ve already started compiling my list for next time. I had record numbers in 2014 because of you and the trust you put in me. I love what I do, and I love helping people. Thank you for choosing ABI.

Best Of 2014 Part 1

Another year older, one or two more gray hairs found, and a stack of pictures to choose from.  It’s hard to whittle it down to just a handful, but I selected the top 10 problems found during home inspections this year.

A Cold Fireplace – This is a picture from a one year old home.  The owners paid extra to have a vented gas fireplace insert installed.  What they didn’t realize is they would be paying extra on their heat bill forever because of it.  You can see through the eye of my thermal imaging camera that the lower section of the insert was not insulated or air sealed.  It’s constantly letting cold in air.  The room temp was 68, the outside air was 17.  This is why thermal imaging home inspections are awesome.  It put visual reasoning to a problem you can feel.   This problem is fixable, but it would requiring removing the mantle and fireplace to air seal/insulate the back wall.

No Insulation Around Fireplace

You can clearly see the cold air pouring in around the base of the fireplace.

 

Structural Window – Ok, there is no such thing, but this window in this custom garage is acting as one.  The owners of this two month old custom built garage called me when they started to have trouble with water leaking in.  I came out to find what the water problem was.  I did, and found this beauty as well.  Whenever we have masonry spanning the top of a window or door or opening, there should be a piece of steel installed above the window, called a lintel.  This L shaped support is what holds everything up in the air.  These concrete blocks are resting on the window frame only.  No steel. Only water leakage.

Missing Window Lintel

Windows must have a lintel installed to support the wall.

 

Flooded Crawlspace – There is not much I won’t do for my clients.   I have been bitten and stung. I have crawled through dead animals, piles of poop, puddles of pee, and everything you can imagine to get the low down on a house.  But I drew the line with this crawlspace.  I took one look in there with the exposed and flooded electrical lines and “noped it.”  The buyer just laughed and said “I don’t blame you.”

Flooded Crawlspace

Nothing like a lake under your house.

 

Rotting Creatures – In keeping with the creepy, nasty crawlspace theme; one day I turned the corner and stumbled across this guy.  I think it used to be a possum at one time.  It may not seem too bad now, but imagine yourself in a dark, wet crawlspace.  You’re crawling on your belly, turn the corner and find this dude 6 inches from your face. It’s a bit startling. Oh, and wet, decomposing hair smelled great!

Crawlspace Animal

It fun crawling up on this guy in the dark.

 

See Through Drain –  Ever wondered what your bathroom sink drain looks like?  Yeah, me neither.  But if by some chance you do….wonder no more.  This thing is flat out gross.  It was almost like a lava lamp for hair and dead skin cells.

Clogged Sink Drain

This guy is on to something with a see through drain.

So there is the first five.  It’s tough picking a top ten with thousands of pictures to choose from for sure, but you can see part two here- ABI Home Inspection – Best of 2014 Part 2

Energy Saving Program in Kentucky Saves Homeowners Big Bucks.

As a very hot summer comes to a close, heating your home may be the last thing on your mind.  But with winter coming (for my fellow GOT fans) I’ve got some great news for you.  There is a little known program available that can save you a lot of money.  How does a 20% savings on your utility bill sound?  But hurry, the clock is ticking…

From the KHP website: KY Home Performance is a partnership between Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC), Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence (DEDI), and Kentucky Finance Administration Cabinet.  With support from DEDI, the Finance Administration Cabinet, utility and other partners, KHC administers the program.  Together, certified industry professionals will perform a comprehensive energy evaluation, make the necessary improvements you approve, and perform a quality assurance evaluation to verify the quality of the work to help protect your home investment. 

What does all that mean?  It’s simple really.  All KY home owners are eligible for great financing or cash back rebates for energy improvements done to their home.  The program does have a few stipulations that your home must meet before you can take full advantage of it.

  • Air Sealing –  Hot air moves to cold air, that’s just how it works.  So you have to make sure you stop the unwanted air flow between conditioned spaces (that’s a fancy way of saying air that you pay money to heat or cool.)  Keep the hot air inside (winter), keep it out (summer).
  • Duct Sealing – Sealing your ducts to keep the air that you paid good money to heat/cool is a must.  You’ll be shocked to know how much air your house leaks out everyday.  It’s literally sucking money out of your home.
  • Insulation – To take advantage of this remarkable program, you have to have a certain level of insulation in your home.

If your home doesn’t meet the minimum numbers, getting them up to the standard must be part of the scope of work done to your home.  And in all reality, these are the most important things you can do.  They are relatively cheap, and they make the biggest difference.  It’s all about return on investment (ROI).

How does it work? 

Your first step is bring in a BPI-Certified Building Analyst.  There are only a few, like me, that have been selected to be part of the KHP program.  The initial analysis will determine what steps you need to take to save money.  It’s called a Test-In.

With specialized tools like a digital blower door, thermal imaging camera, pressure pan, and combustion analyzer, I’ll put your home through the ringer.  The blower door is the meat and potatoes of the audit.  It’s more or less a big, powerful, digitally controlled box fan that mounts in an exterior door.  It sucks all the air out of the house, creating a negative pressure inside.  Since mother nature doesn’t like this, she will constantly try to equalize this pressure difference.  This will make all the leaks amplified and much easier to find.

The fact is that unless you have a 25 year old furnace and air conditioner, a new HVAC unit is typically not the best place to put your money.  Air sealing and insulation give you the biggest bang for you buck.  Most homeowners see a positive return within just a few short years.  And the best part is that it doesn’t go away.  If you have it done correctly the first time, it will still perform 20 years from now.

Fixing the Problem.

Once the test-in has been completed, you must have a KHP qualified contractor perform the work that has been recommended to be eligible for the awesome incentives.  You have two options; an unbelievable low interest rate loan of 3.9% fixed for 10 years, or a cash back rebate of 20%, up to $2,000.00.  Yeah, you read that correctly, 20% discount for using a KHP contractor.  Incredible right?

Once the work is done, a third-party BPI guy will come out and perform a Test-out.  It’s this guy’s job to make sure the work was done correctly, and the contractor who performed the work is held to the highest standards.  That’s the beauty of the whole program. You as the home owner know that you will be getting top notch work completed, because every contractor is pre-screened, and a pro.

I’m ready to get started.

If you are ready to save money and live more comfortably, your first step is an KHP-BA analyst.  The cost for the initial analysis ranges from $200-$600.  The cost depends on the size of the home.  However, KHP has stepped up again and is offering the first 1,000 homes a cash back rebate of $150.00 toward the cost of the Test-In.  So, you get a huge discount on the audit as well.  There is absolutely no commitment.  You have every right to have the Test-In done, and go no further with the program.  You still get the $150.00.

Give us a call @ 502-938-5190 to get more info on KHP, and how we can help you.  Remember, the clock is ticking.  The free money and financing is going to end in early 2012.  Don’t drag you feet on this one.