How to Find Air Leaks in Your House

How to Find Air Leaks in Your House

One of the common causes of high heating or cooling costs is air leaks in your house. In fact, several studies from the Department of Energy show that an average 25% of the cost of compressed air can be saved by eliminating leakages. Air leaks occur when outside air enters your home and the inside air leaves through cracks and openings. Knowing how to find and seal air leaks is important for both your comfort and the energy efficiency of your house.

Also according to the Department of Energy, there are many common areas of your home that can be the cause of air leaks. If you feel your energy bills are higher than you expect, you may want to take some time to check your home so you can find and seal as many problem areas as you can.

Where most air leaks occur

In the main part of your home, air leaks are most often around windows and doors. However, air leaks can occur around your chimneys, exhaust fans in the kitchen, dryer vents, furnaces, plumbing, electrical wiring and switch plates.

In attics, air leaks are common and are often larger and easier to spot than in other parts of the house. While smaller leaks will often be present, the larger leaks are more draining on your insulation and warrant greater concern. A tell-tale sign of air leakage is dirty insulation. To plug the leaks, strip away the insulation, plug the cavities and re-apply the insulation.

Basements also contribute to air leaks. When one forms, it is usually found between the basement wall and the ceiling. If you have small cracks in your foundation, those could be the source of cold air that will get pulled up as the warm air is rising up through the attic and out of your home.

Your HVAC system can also be a source of air leaks. The good news is the problem is usually easy to determine. When air leaks occur in an HVAC system, they are most likely to be found in the cover panels, pipe entrance or at the base of the air filter. But sometimes it could also be the result of a faulty installation. If the installers didn’t secure the unit and seal gaps, your house has probably been leaking air for quite some time.

How to find an air leak

You may already know where some air leaks occur. Most typical culprits include ill-fitting windows and doors. Leakage can also come from minor cracks throughout the basement, attic and living areas. Take a good look at your windows for easy-to-spot problems that may have crept up over the last few years. Cracked glass, rotting wood and obvious air or water leakage are common culprits in heat loss.

The most common methods used to find air leaks in your house are:

  • Flashlight, lit candle or hand
  • Soapy water
  • Leak detector

Flashlight, lit candle or hand

You can use a flashlight, lit candle or just your hand to identify air leaks.

  • If you suspect a gap, have someone shine the flashlight through the potential gap from indoors when it is dark outside. Stand out side and see if any light is getting through. This will tell you where there are gaps to fill.
  • From the inside, place a lighted candle near areas of potential leaks such as electrical outlets, light fixtures, baseboards and other all fixtures. The flame will flicker if there is an air current.
  • During the colder months of the year, you can detect larger drafts with your hand. Place your hand on areas throughout your house. If you feel air, there is most likely a leak.

Test exterior doors, windows, air vents and fans for issues. Check around electrical outlets, light fixtures and baseboards as these can also be sources of air leaks. Caulk around the frames and add weather-stripping where needed. Also caulk and seal where plumbing or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors and ceilings.

Soapy water

Another way to find air leaks in your house is to use soapy water. Create soapy water from your favorite dish washing liquid. Use a paint brush to apply the water to areas you suspect there is an air leak. If there is, bubbles will form and you can close up the leak. However, this method does take time to go through your entire home. But if you feel there is a leak, this is one way to find out for sure.

Leak detector

A thermal leak detector can help you find and repair leaks in locations like windows, walls, ductwork, fireplaces and more. A color-changing LED and easy-to-read display screen give you quick and intuitive feedback, while the ergonomic design provides a comfortable grip. The device will scan the area that you are pointing and signal whether there is a leak. The light will change to red for warmer spots and blue for cooler spots to detect air leaks in both warm and cool weather. 

Simple air leaks in your home can be fixed with by weatherproofing and caulk. But if your HVAC system has an air leak, you should call a professional to have the unit inspected and fixed. Contact Lakeside Oil if you think you have air leaks from your heating and cooling system.