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OST energy efficiency professionals agree: damaged or disconnected ductwork can be a serious energy hog. Those same professionals also know that it is an all too common problem in a typical home.


In homes with conventional forced-air or central heating and cooling systems, ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout the home. This is generally accomplished through two types of duct systems—supply ducts, which deliver conditioned air to various rooms within the home, and return ducts, which deliver air back to the furnace or air conditioning unit so it can be heated or cooled.


Repairing damaged or disconnected ducts can really pay off.


A well-designed and properly sealed duct system can make your home more comfortable, energy efficient and safer. Experts believe, however, that leaky ductwork is a culprit in as many as one out of every four homes, resulting in energy losses ranging any- where from 20-40 percent. “If an attic or crawl space


duct comes loose and goes unrepaired, you can lose a tremendous amount of conditioned air,” confirmed Craig Hendrickson, Home Energy Auditor for Northeast Oklahoma Electric Coopera- tive. “In essence, you could be paying hundreds of dollars each year to heat and cool the outdoors.”


Hendrickson said that if a return duct located in the attic is disconnected, heated air (up to 150 degrees) may be drawn into the system, forcing it to work even harder. This could eventually contribute to system failure. He further explained that some homeowners may, in fact, be recirculating vehicle exhaust (depending on the location of the furnace) or combustion fumes from gas appliances. During normal operation, gas appliances such as water heaters, clothes dryers and furnaces release combus-


Northeast Connection 10


Put your ducts in a row to save energy M


tion gases like carbon monoxide through ventilation systems. Leaky ductwork in your heating and cooling system may cause “backdrafting,” and gases can be drawn into living spaces rather than expelled outdoors.


Indoor air quality can also be impacted by fumes from household and garden chemicals, insulation particles and dust that can enter ductwork, aggravating asthma and allergy problems. Sealing leaks can help eliminate these risks. How do you know if your ducts are performing poorly? A tangled or kinked duct may be easy to spot, but less obvious indicators of leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts include: • High summer and winter utility bills. • Rooms that are


difficult to heat and cool. • Stuffy rooms that never seem to feel comfortable, regardless of the thermostat setting.


Because ducts are often concealed in walls, ceilings, attics and basements, repairing them can be difficult. Many homeowners choose to work with a professional. Others choose to take on duct sealing as a do-it-yourself project.


Start by examinining your ductwork for cracks, splits or bad connections. Next, turn on your system and feel for escaping air. Look for tell-tale black marks around the duct’s insulation, especially around the joints. These are caused by dirt collecting around air leaks. Start by sealing leaks using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access. Never use duct tape; it deteriorates quickly. Make sure that the connec- tions at vents and registers are sealed where they meet the floors, walls, and ceiling. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.


Always remember to keep ducts exposed to extreme


temperatures in attics and crawl spaces insulated with reflective duct wrap rated R-4 or higher.


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