Leaky ductwork costs money

bret curry

Bret Curry is the residential energy
manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative

Fall is in full swing, and winter will be here soon. That means it is time to turn on the heat, and if this winter is anything like the last two years, your heat pumps and furnaces will be getting a workout. In 2013 and 2014, colder-than-average temperatures led residents to use 30 percent more energy than normal.

As a reminder, nearly 30 percent of the money we spend on our utility bills each year is for heating. Home heating in our region of the U.S. generally occurs from October to May.

If you are a regular reader of this column, listener of our podcasts or viewer of our videos, you’ve probably learned by now that I routinely stress the importance of properly installed, sealed and insulated ductwork. Properly installed ductwork assures that the hard-earned money you invest to provide heat for your home is delivered “into” the home, and not into the attic or crawlspace.

Disconnected ductwork is a common problem in American homes.

Disconnected ductwork is a common problem in American homes.

Consider this: The fuel delivery system for your vehicle is leaky. Let’s say the gas tank and fuel line leaked at a rate of 35 percent. In other words, for every gallon of gasoline you squeezed into the tank, 35 percent leaks out. I think it’s safe to say we can classify this example as a waste of a valuable energy resource and our hard-earned money. Generally, our vehicles do not leak gasoline, but hopefully you see where I’m going with this analogy. Gasoline is an important energy resource, and if it regularly leaked out of our vehicles at an unacceptable rate we most likely would take action and find a solution. Regrettably, numerous homeowners across America experience similar, unacceptable energy waste through their heating and cooling systems. Practical experience has taught me that most of them are generally unaware that it’s happening. You guessed it — the culprit is leaky and/or disconnected ductwork.

Ductwork, the home’s air delivery system, is generally located in the crawlspace or attic for convenience of installation and aesthetic purposes. Usually, the attic and crawlspace share the same environment with Mother Nature and are considered outside of the living area or conditioned air space. So, when these important air-delivery systems are not sealed properly or become detached, valuable conditioned air now escapes to the great outdoors. Improperly installed or disconnected systems also can pull in unwanted, unfiltered and unconditioned air from outside.

The national average for duct leakage per the U.S. Department of Energy is 20 to 30 percent. Statistics from the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas’ recent energy efficiency makeover contest revealed the average duct leakage from the 17 winners’ homes was 35 percent. One home tested out at 90 percent duct leakage! However, thanks to this year’s makeover contractors, all systems were sealed and retrofitted to meet today’s standards. If you need assistance with ductwork testing, sealing and repairs, contact the vendors listed on the back page of the October edition of Arkansas Living magazine. To view the digital edition, go to www.aecc.com.

Please feel free to contact me at smartenergytips@aecc.com with any energy efficiency questions. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/smartenergytips.org, as well as listen to our podcasts.