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Home Air Sealing

Installed correctly, home air sealing can reduce utility costs while improving comfort, indoor air quality, and durability.

Preparation
A general inspection of the home for water leaks and moisture, structural, and pest damage shall be performed. A list of all needed repairs shall be provided to the homeowner before air sealing work begins so remediation can be fully addressed as necessary.
Before work is performed, air tightness shall be tested with a blower door test according to the Residential Energy Network (RESNET) Standards for Air Leakage Testing. Based on the pre-test, a targeted level of air tightness shall be determined and provided to the owner.
A combustion safety test shall be performed if any atmospheric vented combustion equipment exists in the home to ensure there is no back-drafting or spillage of combustion fumes. Any combustion safety issues shall be addressed before proceeding with air sealing.
Air Sealing
All gap, cracks, and holes to unconditioned space or outdoors shall be sealed with sealant (e.g., caulk, foam, or aerosol sealant). All sealants used shall be compatible with their intended surfaces and maximum gap dimensions shall be consistent with those allowed by sealant manufacturer’s installation instructions. Fibrous insulation is not an air barrier and shall not be used for sealing.
The seams where drywall attaches to the top plate at all interior and exterior walls shall be sealed from the attic side with a caulk, spray foam, or sprayer-applied sealant.
Larger gaps and openings (such as uncovered dropped soffits and openings under knee walls or at the tops of balloon-framed gable walls) shall be closed off using a solid material such as rigid foam or OSB that is sealed at the edges with caulk, sealant, or mastic.
Gaps around masonry chimneys or gas appliance vents shall be sealed with high-temperature-rated caulk or foam in accordance with building code requirements.
A continuous gasket, such as weather stripping, shall be installed around all exterior door openings.
Indoor sealants shall be low volatile organic compound (VOC) products that meet independent testing and verification protocols, such as Green Seal, GREENGUARD, or comparable certifications.
Commissioning
After air sealing, a combustion safety test shall be performed if any natural draft combustion equipment exists in the home to ensure there is no back-drafting or spillage of combustion gases. Recommendations for remediation shall be made to the homeowner where combustion safety issues are identified.
The home shall be inspected for the presence of a whole-house ventilation system. If one is present, the actual air flow shall be tested and verified to meet ASHRAE 62.2-2013. Recommendations shall be made to the homeowner for either installing a new ASHRAE 62.2-2013 compliant system if one is not present, or repairing an existing system to be ASHRAE 62.2-2013 compliant if airflow is not adequate.
At the completion of the work, a radon test kit shall be provided to the homeowner with a recommendations for a radon remediation strategy if radon measurements exceed EPA acceptable levels.
Air tightness shall be tested with a blower door test according to RESNET Standards for Air Distribution Leakage Testing after air sealing is performed and results shall be provided to the owner to verify that air tightness levels meet or exceed the target levels.

BASC Guides

Retrofit guide describing how to assess harmful gasses such as carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and soot from existing combustion appliances.

Guide describing how to insulate a basement to improve the overall thermal performance of the building and provide more dry, usable conditioned space for home occupants and for HVAC equipment.

Guide outlining how to retrofit an exterior wall and/or attic to provide continuous air sealing.

Guide describing how to use a blower door test to determine building envelope air leakage.

Tips to Sell Quality Installed Home Improvements

Home Improvement Expert (HIE) is a valuable tool for organizations committed to quality installed work. The following tips help optimize the value of this tool when selling home improvements:

  • Be the Expert: Take advantage of Building America Solution Center comprehensive guidance on ‘Existing Home’ retrofits.
  • Earn Trust: Inform homeowners how your work conforms to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) world-class expert guidance and recommend homeowners visit the DOE website as evidence these are indeed official best practices.
  • Clarity with Contrast: Tell prospective homeowner clients to compare your expert recommended best practices with other contractors.
  • Ensure Equivalent Pricing: Tell prospective homeowner clients to insist other bids also include DOE checklists to ensure equivalent quality work.
  • Translate Value: Note your company uses DOE HIE Checklists based on world-class expert recommendations for home improvements on all your public-facing communication including websites, advertising, and signage.
  • Create Emotional Experiences: Provide visual evidence contrasting the difference between poor and high quality work such as infrared images for good and bad insulation and air sealing; pre- and post-energy bills following quality installed work; short and long warranties for standard and high-efficiency equipment; and charts showing amounts of contaminants in homes that can be reduced with effective fresh air systems.

Home Air Sealing Background

Air sealing gaps with sealant

There are extensive holes, cracks, and missing air barriers in older homes that allow unwanted heat loss in cold weather, heat gain in hot weather, and infiltration of contaminants year-round. Air sealing uncontrolled leaks is one of the most cost-effective measures to improve your home’s performance. It can reduce your heating and cooling bills, improve comfort by reducing drafts, keep contaminants such as moisture, dust, pollen, and pests from entering your home, and reduce moisture-related durability problems.