Cleaning furniture and flooring and keeping windows and doors closed are things everyone should be doing to reduce dust and pollen inside but there may be hidden causes that may be the main culprit in circulating unwanted pollen. These culprits have most likely been present since the home was built and are also causing you to overpay your utility bill. They are air and duct leakage and how the framing, drywall and insulation were installed aka the thermal boundary and they may be residing in your home.
The Problem: Our Homes
Small and large holes from any penetrations and duct connections in the house are not only a major source of energy loss but also can have negative health and air quality affects. Every other week your home may get a good cleaning from dust build-up and the regular activities; now imagine how much more you would have to clean if a 12-inch by 12-inch hole was made directly to the attic and was just left there. Put a large fan above the hole pushing your attic air into your home, and you’ll get a clear picture of the negative effects of duct and air leakage on an average home in the US.
Duct leakage explained
Duct leakage is common to every home and it is so important because the air handler is putting the distribution system under a lot of pressure, so a hole the size of a penny becomes a hole the size of a basketball under pressure. On the return side where you change your filter, a negative pressure is sucking in dirty attic air post filter and distributing that throughout the house. Want to stop indoor allergies; don’t clean your ductwork until you seal your ductwork first. Do unwanted critters frequent your home? Try sealing all the holes in the house from wires and plumbing vents to recessed lights.
Insulation performance explained
All attics are dusty but if the insulation is not in contact with the drywall, you can bet your attic will be excessively dusty and that dust will find a way into your home through air and duct leakage. Insulation is like a blanket, it needs to be touching your body to keep you warm. If the insulation is not in contact with the drywall (attic floor or kneewalls) as is sometimes the case because of electrical wires walking studs, recessed lighting or changes in the ceiling height that insulation is not working. The gap between the drywall and the insulation allows air to pass through the insulation, depositing dust and dirt on the insulation. That’s why you may see a cloud of dust form if you just touch your insulation. If the insulation was installed directly over an electrical penetration, leaky recessed lights or any gaps between the drywall- that insulation will be darkened with dust deposits. All the dust in the attic is more likely to enter the home and worsen allergen reactions.
Both the APS Home Energy Audit program and SRP Home Energy Audit program will assess and measure the condition of a home’s ductwork, air leakage and insulation performance among other tests. A cost savings analysis is given to each homeowner upon completing the home energy audit but the main benefit that some homeowners will feel is the cleaner indoor air quality, reduced dust and allergens and a more comfortable home. Learn more energy saving tips here and visit our friends at Everyday Health to learn many more tips on stopping home allergens here.