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Smoke test demonstrating air lea at a door (C) Daniel Friedman Building Air Leaks & Heat Loss Analysis for Basements, Living Areas, & HVAC Duct Systems

  • BASEMENT HEAT LOSS DETECTION - CONTENTS: Basement heat loss, convection loops, and energy savings inspection equipment.. Using infra red scans for finding basement heat loss. Building heat loss & energy efficiency tools & procedures. How to find and seal building air leaks, how to find and correct points of un-wanted building heat loss or heat gain. Blower door data for a leaky house compared to a tight house. Using smoke guns or tubes for finding building air leaks
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to find and fix heat loss points in building basements, HVAC ducts, and in the living area. Solar Age Magazine Articles on Renewable Energy, Energy Savings, Construction Practices
  • REFERENCES
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How to find & fix basement heat loss, duct system air leaks, heat losses from the living area:

This article series discusses finding and curing basement heat loss points, a step in how to find points of heat loss and air leaks in buildings using a variety of tools and inspection methods including infra red, smoke tests, visual inspection, and tests. This detailed article accompanies a building weatherization and energy-savings company through a detailed building inspection for heat loss points and air leaks.

The author, Steven Bliss, accompanied Princeton Energy Partners as they used the blower door, thermal imaging, smoke guns, and visual inspection to pinpoint building air leaks, convective loops, heat loss points, air infiltration and air exfiltration on a building.

Our page top photo shows the website author (DF) using a smoke tester to view air movement into an un-insulated wall cavity, demonstrating the opening of a convection heat loss loop..



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Basement Heat Loss, Duct System Air Leaks, Living Space Heat Loss, & Special Heat Loss Targets in buildings

Smoke test for air leaks (C) Daniel Friedman Steven Bliss

As we introduced at AIR LEAK DETECTION TOOLS, in this two-part article the author, Steven Bliss, accompanies a building weatherization and energy-savings company through a detailed building inspection for heat loss points, convective loops, and air leaks.

Princeton Energy Partners used thermal imaging, smoke guns, and visual inspection to pinpoint building air leaks, heat loss points, air infiltration and air exfiltration on a building.

 

Article Contents

Set Priority for Sealing Air Leaks & Heat Loss Points

The importance of setting priorities for sealing these points of energy wasted is emphasized and discussed, and sketches as well as photographs of common points of building heat loss, or unwanted heat gain, and air leaks are provided.

Un-wanted Air Movement in Heating Air Duct Systems

Air Leaks & Energy Loss Points in the Living Space of a Home: cold corners, closets, kitchen soffits, plumbing chases, windows

Kitchen soffit thermal bypass and convective leaks (C) Daniel Friedman

In the house proper, occupants may already be aware of a "cold corner" in a bedroom or a closet on an exterior wall that often suffers from recurrent mold growth.

The sketch at left demonstrates how a kitchen soffit can become a heat pump, moving warm air (red arrows) and heat into a cold attic space while bringing cold air down into the living area. A small soffit over a kitchen cabinet may not look like much until you discover that it is drawing air from all kinds of wall and ceiling spaces.

Leaky exterior door thresholds were found and sealed in this home, and air leaks around a second floor plumbing access panel were found and sealed as well.

[OPINION-DF: we're not sure that these percentages are accurate for many homes, and we suspect that a combination of air leaks and single-glazing makes windows on homes a dominant energy loss problem second only to uninsulated homes with empty wall cavities and attic floors.]

But we agree [DF] that before replacing windows on older homes there are steps that can significantly reduce air leaks at those locations:

On other buildings we have had success with simpler measures such as finding and sealing air leaks around window frames and trim. In a slightly more aggressive measure for curing window leaks, we removed window weights (that move up and down in a hollow cavity along side window frames in older homes), insulated those spaces, and installed new window tracks whose spring-loaded sides permitted windows to be opened and shut safely and snugly.

Installing high quality storm windows over older leaky window sashes can also be cost effective.

But in the home studied for this article, even before considering the large expense of window repair or replacements, sealing the other leaks discussed in this article reduced the air infiltration rate by 25 percent.

Find These High Priority Targets & Hidden Leak Points to Save Heating & Cooling Energy Costs

Smoke test for air leaks (C) Daniel Friedman Steven BlissBeyond simple caulking and weatherstripping, it is important to look at the whole building - moisture and moisture sources, air quality, heating and ventilation equipment, and HVAC controls - in order to determine what steps will be most cost-effective in saving energy for that particular building.

In older, multi-family buildings with primitive heating controls, shell tightening may fail to lower fuel costs if indoor temperatures are quite uneven between building areas.

If after weathersealing, the tenants on the south side of a building get too warm (during the heating season) and respond by opening their windows, that effect increases the drafts and convection currents in the building, making other areas (and tenants) too cold. The cold tenants turn up their thermostat even higher.

The correct solution may be a more intelligent heating control, and possibly insulation between the tenant areas.

We -DF- see this problem particularly in two-story multi-family homes with an upstairs and downstairs tenant and a single heating system with a single thermostat located on the first floor. The upstairs tenants are too hot and the downstairs tenants are too cold. Slowing warm air movement between floors by insulation and sealing may be helpful, but an optimum solution includes separate heating zones and zone controls, or even separate heating systems entirely, permitting accurate heating cost apportionment among the tenants. In Europe BTU monitoring and accurate heating cost apportionment among tenants is required by law.

Details about BTU usage monitoring are at HEATING COST APPORTIONMENT Issues.

Air leaks at Attic Hatches, Attic Stair Tops, Whole House Fans

Infrared scan of attic hatch (C) D Friedman S Bliss PEP

As the PEP pair of photographs show at left, viewed through an infrared scanner, hot air leaks (light colored areas in the left-most photograph) show up around the attic hatch (recognizable in the photo at immediate left) and within the top of the hall end partition.

This thermogram was taken in summer with the house depressurized.

See THERMOGRAPHY IR Infra Red & Thermal Scanners.

 


Air leaks at whole house fans can be very significant heat loss points in buildings as well, as our photograph at below left shows.

Ceiling fan air leaks (C) Daniel FriedmanFailing to provide an effective cover for a whole house ceiling-mounted fan in the uppermost ceiling of a home is about like leaving the upstairs windows open in the dead of winter.

But be careful not to remember to remove the fan cover before turning on the fan again in hot weather, or disaster, even a fire, could result.

Insulation voids are distressingly common in attics even where lots of insulation has been installed. Sometimes it's an installation error, more often the voids occur when someone performs wiring or plumbing work and fails to replace insulation that was removed. Insulation voids also pump heat to the cold attic and thus to outside.

Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

Heating Cost Apportionment Problems

ISTA BTU monitor for heating cost apportionment We -DF- see the problem of heat loss and uneven heating particularly in two-story multi-family homes with an upstairs and downstairs tenant and a single heating system with a single thermostat located on the first floor.

The upstairs tenants are too hot and the downstairs tenants are too cold.

The illustration (left) shows an Ista BTU monitor, one of several heating cost apportionment devices discussed below.

Slowing warm air movement between floors by insulation and sealing may be helpful, but an optimum solution includes separate heating zones and zone controls, or even separate heating systems entirely, permitting accurate heating cost apportionment among the tenants.

BTU Monitoring Equipment may be required by law for rental units in Europe where a common heating system is used to heat (or A/C to cool) multiple apartments in a single building but those devices are seeing increased interest in the U.S. as well.

For details on solving these problems see BTU Monitoring & HEATING COST APPORTIONMENT Issues where we discuss BTU usage monitoring & heating cost apportionment methods used in buildings housing multiple rental apartments or other tenants served by a single heating system..

Also see ENERGY USE MONITORING

Original article

The text above is adapted and expanded from "House Doctors with Better Medicine, Princeton Energy Partners use the latest diagnostic tools to comb a house for the major causes of heat loss". Using infra red scans for finding basement heat loss.

Building heat loss & energy efficiency tools & procedures. How to find and seal building air leaks, how to find and correct points of un-wanted building heat loss or heat gain. Blower door data for a leaky house compared to a tight house. Using smoke guns or tubes for finding building air leaks. House Doctors with Better Medicine - diagnostic tools comb a house for the major causes of heat loss (part II)

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Continue reading at BASEMENT HEAT LOSS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or seeTHERMAL IMAGING, THERMOGRAPHY

Or see THERMAL TRACKING BRIDGING GHOSTING for an example of visual clues that identify building air leaks and heat loss with no instruments whatsoever

Or see AIR MOVEMENT in BUILDINGS to learn about how air moves in buildings & why

Suggested citation for this web page

BASEMENT HEAT LOSS DETECTION at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to BUILDING ENERGY SAVINGS

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