How to Find Air Leaks in Your Home

You will most often notice leaks in your home in the wintertime, as most of us are more sensitive to the cold. These leaks are typically noticed in the form of drafts around doors and windows, but can also show up around plumbing and HVAC ducts to the most sensitive homeowners. There are several sites in the home in which air can enter, and it doesn’t just enter the home in the winter! So how does a homeowner go about finding these leaks?

First, you need a way of finding them, and I have heard several different methods. Here are just a few:

1. Feel for the leaks.
You can simply feel for the leaks. This may not always be the most efficient method for finding the small leaks, but larger leaks can be found by doing nothing more than running your hand around the area that you suspect to be leaking. This is especially true on days when the temperature outside is drastically different than the inside.

2. Use a wet rags to wet your hand and then feel for the leaks around known locations.
I have never personally performed this method and don’t know how useful it actually is, but supposedly the water will help you feel for the temperature changes. Just don’t be fooled by the temperature of the water.

3. Use a candle or other smoke emitting device.
This is very similar to what the professionals do. I have seen several items used, including candles, cigarettes, cigars, and incense. With all of these, you must be careful of the burning end of the item – and this may not be the best for indoor air quality. Professionals will often use smoke-emitting devices that are made specifically for this and do not burn.

4. Have a professional find the leaks for you.
This may defeat the whole purpose of saving money by performing the task yourself, but you may find it beneficial to have a professional use their blower door to depressurize the home and help you find the leaks. Often, I can find leaks without the use of smoke by just feeling for them. You will find more leaks this way, but again, you must consider the cost. Some professionals will perform just a blower door test  without an energy audit for a reduced price.

Now that you know how to find the leaks, it helps to know where to start looking. Below is an image of where some common leaks are found in the home:

As you can see, most of the most of the leaks come from the basement and attic. These are two great locations to start! Here are some other areas to scan when you are looking for leaks in the home.

- Behind kneewalls (walls that separate the attic and living space like in a bonus room)
- Attic hatch
- Wiring holes
- Plumbing under sinks
- Bathroom fan vent
- Recessed lights
- Furnace flue or duct chaseway (the hollow box or wall feature that hides ducts)
- Basement rim joists (where the foundation meets the wood framing)
- Windows and doors

These are just a few sites, so take a look around and see what you may find. Next week, we’ll begin covering how to seal these leak spots.

Use timers or motion sensors to turn off lights when not needed.

Motion sensors have become a common item on exterior flood lights, but they aren’t often used in the home. People tend to leave lights on when they are not in the room; by installing motion sensors or timers in rooms such as the bathroom, storage rooms, garages and closets, you can save money and worry.

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