Understanding Air Conditioning in Arlington: All About Air Leaks

Understanding Air Conditioning in Arlington: All About Air Leaks

Sealing your Arlington-area home to make it more energy efficient is often thought of as a fall or winter activity — keep the cold air outside, the warm air inside.

But sealing your home in the summer is just as important, especially if you notice higher than normal energy bills at the end of each month.

Yes, you want to keep the cool air inside, the hot and muggy air outside but you also want to:

  • keep mold and mildew at bay
  • improve your defense against allergens
  • keep invading pests out
  • protect your home’s structural integrity, which can be compromised by mold, mildew, pests, and a poorly sealed home in the summer.

In this post we take a closer look at sealing your Arlington home from a summer perspective. You can do much of this yourself, but if you’d prefer not to mess with it, then your Arlington air conditioning repair or service tech (or a good handyman) can help.

Air Leak Background

Estimates vary, but homes burn through an amazing 21 percent of the energy used in the United States. Much of that energy is used to cool or heat homes as well as backyards and front porches due to leaks and holes in the building envelope.

If you do some serious work sealing cracks and holes to your home it’s possible you could save up to $600 in annual energy costs and possibly reduce wear and tear on your air conditioner and heater, cutting down on the number of Arlington service and repair tech visit to the home.

Simply sealing air leaks, for example, can provide greater savings than replacing windows because the cost of materials and installation is much lower.

If you are unsure of your home’s energy envelope, call an Arlington air conditioning repair or service tech and schedule a checkup. While a service call is not as thorough as a complete energy audit, a simple visual inspection can provide a basic baseline and begin to educate you on the relationship between heating and cooling, air conditioners and furnaces, and your home’s unique environment.

Air Flow Dynamics

In the winter warm air wants out.

In the summer hot, muggy air wants in.

It’s a silent, invisible exodus through leaky doors, leaky windows, and poorly sealed interior and exterior walls, to name a few culprits. You may think a slight leak is no big deal but exponentially, when added up throughout the home, these losses can become significant and contribute to higher monthly energy bills.

If you’ve had a simple visual inspection during a fall or spring service checkup and want to have a deeper understanding of your home’s energy performance, schedule a formal energy audit with your HVAC service contractor or call an energy specialist in the Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas area. These can cost a few hundred dollars or more, depending on the testing and analysis done at your house, but it’s worth it to know where the leaks are, how much heating or cooling your losing, and what the options are to fix. You most likely can recoup the cost in the energy audit in a few months, then think of the savings over the next few years.

Before you call your Arlington air conditioning repair or service contractor or call an energy auditor, let’s understand the air flow in your home and what it means as we’re now in the summer here in Arlington.

Winter Airflow Dynamics

In the winter homes are impacted by the chimney (or stack) effect.

Cold air infiltrates the home through leaks and cracks in the foundation and walls. Basements are the worst for leaks, but these are not as common in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas.

The cold air rises and works its way up into the attic through structural defects, holes in your ceiling, recessed lighting, leaky duct work, the furnace flue, the plumbing stack, a poorly insulated attic floor, or improperly sealed areas in general.

In some homes, even those without chimneys, the chimney effect is so pronounced it’s like leaving the front door open during the winter.

The chimney effect is the most common air leakage contributor, but there are three other culprits you should be aware of — wind pressure, chimney/exhaust pressure, and duct pressure.

  • Wind pressure. Wind blowing against an exterior wall can push cold air into your home on the prevailing side and create negative pressure on the leeward side. The wind pushes air through holes and cracks in the windward wall, then exits through the leeward wall. The result is a cold and drafty home.
  • Chimney/exhaust pressure. This is created by active ventilation such as exhaust fans and clothes dryers. These fans can be so efficient at removing air that “replacement” air is drawn through holes or cracks in exterior walls or even down your chimney, creating a potentially dangerous condition known as backdrafting.
  • Duct pressure. In homes with forced air heating systems, the furnace blows heated air into the living areas and is resupplied with air through a system of return ducts. If the return ducts system is leaky to the extent that the flow of air back to the furnace is restricted, it may double or triple air leakage through exterior walls compared to not using the furnace at all. It is essential to seal as many sources of duct leaks and possible to keep energy costs low.

If you are uncertain about your home’s duct work, an Arlington air conditioning repair or service tech can provide a quick inspection during a semi-annual system checkup. Like a formal energy audit, duct specialists can also conduct a variety of tests to find leaks and inefficiencies.

Summer Airflow Dynamics

In an air conditioned house in warm weather the process is reversed.

Cool air is denser than warm air, so it sinks as warm air rises. As you cool the air in your house, it gradually sinks through air leaks and is replaced by the warm air from the attic, which is pulled in through air leaks in the thermal envelope separating the attic from the top floor.

Another major air leak culprit in an air conditioned house is the duct system that distributes cooled air. Duct leaks are often hard to find, which is why it’s best to have your service contractor or an energy or ductwork specialist conduct an audit to pinpoint and address leaky ducts. This could save you up to 25 percent on air conditioning costs.

And don’t forget there can be substantial air leakage around windows and doors, along baseboards, through electrical outlets.

Benefits of Summer Sealing

Sealing your home with an eye toward summer air flow dynamics . . .

  • increases occupant comfort
  • saves energy (and saves money)
  • improves indoor air quality, since moisture carries biological contaminants such as mold
  • improves indoor air quality by keeping harmful chemicals from building materials like particle boards and glues at bay
  • keeps bugs, pests, and assorted other creatures out of the home, something homeowners don’t have to worry about as much in the winter
  • prevents moisture infiltration, which can compromise insulation, building decomposition, wood warping, metal decomposition, and mold.