Despite predictions, winter can be cozy with airtight ducts
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The 197-year-old Farmers' Almanac is a predicting a bitterly cold winter for two-thirds of the country and heavy snowfall in the Midwest, Great Lakes and New England.
While modern scientists don't put much stock in the Maine-based almanac's predictive methods — planetary positions, sunspots and lunar cycles — the book's editors say its forecasts are correct about 80 percent of the time.
With this in mind, the people at Aeroseal Solutions, based in Crystal Lake, suggest homeowners think about what their house is like in the winter and plan ahead to make sure it remains warm and toasty throughout the seemingly challenging winter ahead.
For instance, it seems like every home has a room that is barely used because it doesn't warm up in the winter and it doesn't cool down in the summer. Nothing seems to help, so the room gets as little use as possible and basically becomes wasted space, said Joseph St. Pierre, sales director of Aeroseal.
However, chances are that forgotten room can be reclaimed, thanks to a process that seals gaps in a home's ductwork and allows heated and cooled air to better reach those rooms furthest from the furnace.
"This is usually why homeowners call us — because they want to better heat and cool to a particular room, but then they find out the other benefits, as well," he said.
Gaps and holes in a home's ductwork waste heated and cooled air, resulting in higher energy costs and more stress on furnaces and air conditioning systems, but those gaps also allow dust and particles of insulation from between the walls to pollute a home's breathable air, St. Pierre said.
"According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 90 percent of all of the dust blowing through the average home is actually tiny particles of insulation," he said, "so homeowners are taking a double hit by wasting 30 to 40 percent on their energy costs and breathing in pollutants and allergens."
In order to attack this problem, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1990s developed a material and system to seal gaps in ductwork. Those gaps range from those that are practically microscopic, to those as large as five-eighths of an inch in diameter.
The water-based vinyl polymer sealant, which is similar in consistency to chewing gum or hair spray and has been approved by Underwriter's Laboratories, the EPA and the Department of Energy, is forced into a home's ducts, after all of the vents have been plugged and the entire system has been pressurized, St. Pierre said. Thanks to the pressurization, the vaporized sealant is forced into any gaps or holes which exist, without coating the entire interior of the ductwork.
"You don't want the sealant to coat the entire interior of the ductwork because it might attract airborne dirt. You only want it to plug the holes," St. Pierre explained.
The four- to eight-hour process is monitored by a sophisticated computer system involving pressure tubes inserted throughout the ductwork. Certified reports on ductwork leaks before, during and after the application are given to the homeowner.
The Aeroseal duct-sealing system effectively seals a home's ductwork from the inside by using a clean, safe material that is guaranteed for ten years.
The Aeroseal process even won the "Energy 100" award from the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE also rated Aeroseal's duct-sealing process as one of the 23 most beneficial technologies to American consumers that has come out since the agency's creation.
Consequently, Aeroseal customers qualify for a federal tax credit worth up to $500 (if they haven't already taken it on another qualifying energy improvements). If they are customers of either North Shore Gas or People's Gas, they could qualify for up to an additional $500 in rebates from their gas company.
The process has also received awards and recognition from The Green Building Council, This Old House magazine and Popular Science magazine.
"The US Department of Energy estimates that in the Midwest, homeowners who invest in the Aeroseal process will save between $300 and $500 per year on utility costs alone, not counting the reduced wear and tear on your heating and cooling systems," said Lauren Schubert, marketing coordinator for Aeroseal Solutions.
Since homes vary in size, individual cost estimates must be given. They are based on square footage and number of furnaces a home has, St. Pierre said.
Aeroseal travels all over the Chicago area to seal ductwork for those referred to them. Seven out of ten times they also clean the ductwork before sealing it, giving the ducts a fresh start.
"Going into a home and after several hours of work, being able to give the homeowners back a room that hadn't been usable has been hands down the most gratifying thing I have ever done. The instant returns homeowners get from this application are amazing. It is a real investment in your home," St. Pierre said.
"The ductwork that is being installed in homes today is the same as the ductwork that was installed in homes 100 years ago. It doesn't matter whether your home is old or new, the Aeroseal process can help you save energy, increase comfort and improve air quality," he said.
For more information about Aeroseal Solutions, visit www.AerosealSolutions.com or call (815) 356-7325 (SEAL).
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