Don’t Balk at Caulk

Written By: John Jeppesen

Homeowners and property managers are feeling the pinch in their wallets as the skyrocketing energy costs go up with no end in sight. Something as simple as sealing ductwork joints can really make a difference. According to the U.S. EPA, the average duct system loses around 20% to 30% of its air to holes and leaks in the ductwork. You could be blowing out big money if your ductwork is in your crawlspace, attic, or other unconditioned areas.

We found this on the Contracting Business website about duct sealing:

“One of the first places to start is to air seal around all duct shafts and flues installed through ceilings, walls, and flooring to keep conditioned air from leaking into unconditioned space.

Use silicone caulk air seal around duct boots. You can also use canned foam, or rigid air barrier material cut to fit and caulked or foamed in place around the duct shafts. It’s important to caulk the HVAC boot to the sheetrock before the HVAC trim gets installed. Believe it or not, this simple little joint is controversial and has a huge impact on the testing performance of the duct.

There are a lot of joints in this fabricated fitting as it goes into the building enclosure. The return side of the duct system gets really fun, especially if you’re using panned returns. The leakiest connections we find are where the return duct and floor joist intersect, with the top of the duct being cut out as a return pathway.”

There’s a big marketing payoff for your company if your projects meet ENERGY STAR/Zero Energy compliance.  The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home is a compelling way to recognize builders for their leadership in increasing energy efficiency, improving indoor air quality, making homes zero energy ready.

The DOE program builds upon the comprehensive building science requirements of ENERGY STAR® for Homes Version 3, along with proven Building America innovations and best practices. Other special attribute programs are incorporated to help builders reach unparalleled levels of performance with homes designed to last hundreds of years.

DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes are verified by a qualified third-party and are at least 40%-50% more energy-efficient than a typical new home. This generally corresponds to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Score in the low- to mid-50s, depending on the size of the home and region in which it is built.

For more information and program specifics, visit: https://www.energy.gov/eere/buildings/guidelines-participating-doe-zero-energy-ready-home-program

Use duct tape for everything except ducts:

Sealing other HVAC components such as ductwork must also be addressed. Duct tape has been called “The Handyman’s Secret Weapon” on the PBS series “The Red Green Show,” (find it on You Tube), but it belies its name. It does a lousy job sealing ductwork joints. The same is true with foil tape. It’s because the adhesive in both doesn’t stick well to dirty or oily metal surfaces. Even if they did, the adhesive gets brittle from heating and cooling cycles and delaminates.

David Richardson wrote a long article on the Contracting business website.

Richardson begins by saying: “As a general rule all ducts leak, some worse than others. The trick is to know where the different leaks are located and deal with them before they’re an issue… Installation crews do a great job with the fabrication and installation of a duct system but many times don’t fully understand the importance of a properly sealed duct system. It seems many installers just paint the ducts in an effort to please code officials instead of realizing how beneficial properly sealed ducts are. We oftentimes see ducts with only three sides sealed and mastic applied to the wrap instead of to the duct itself just to appease code requirements.”

Richardson gets more specific: ”Caulking is a much better and long-lasting solution. A high-quality silicone caulk with a UL 181 rating. UL 181 is the standard by which all duct sealants are rated. The main parts of UL 181 that apply to field fabricated ducts include UL 181A and UL 181B. One sealant that has been used by the HVAC industry for years is the one that has proven to be the most unreliable; I’m talking of course about duct tape.” So, when it comes to HVAC ductwork it is anything but a “secret weapon.”

Let’s not overlook existing homes or buildings. Although more skilled homeowners /property managers can fix some leaks, it’s best left to the professionals to get the job done right the first time because some leaks are hard to find or reach, or they lack the diagnostic tools and techniques.

They’re likely to call if:

  • They have high utility bills
  • Their home is dusty
  • Uneven heating or cooling in a room

Comfort is the homeowner’s bottom line according to the Comfort Masters website. They offer this advice: “To focus on only one variable as being more important than any of the others is making a lot of assumptions. When proper duct sealing is combined with proper design and insulation, and airflow delivery that’s been tested and verified, you have an HVAC system that will provide total comfort.” What’s more, they can save big money on their utility bills.

Performance Point strongly supports energy efficiency and its impact on the environment, but we are just as passionate about helping our customers build comfortable homes.  Call us before you start your next project and let us show you how we can help!




COVID Industry News

Industry news has been encouraging, The Washington Post recently wrote: In April, housing starts in the United States on a year-over-year basis declined 29.7 percent to 891,000, according to the Census Bureau. During that same period, housing completions fell 29.7 percent to 891,000. And in April, 1.1 million building permits were filed, down 19.2 percent from the previous April.

Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, anticipates about a 20 percent decline nationally in single-family construction this year “with a rebound taking hold at the end of the year and gains in 2021.”

Specifically, the housing market is beginning to show signs of stabilizing and is moving forward from the pandemic. By mid-May, the latest NAHB-Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, which depicts builder confidence in the construction of single-family houses, increased seven points to 37.

“But being below 50, it is still in negative territory,” Dietz said.

In a research note, Thomas Simons, a money market economist with Bloomfield, N.J.-based investment bank Jefferies & Co., wrote that he’s “optimistic” about the home building sector and that he expects a “sharp rebound” in sentiment in the June data.

“Coming into the COVID-19-induced shutdown of economic activity, there was a housing shortage in the U.S. that was driving prices steadily higher and led this index to reach its highest level since 1999,” Simons wrote. “Despite the massive surge in unemployment caused by the policy response to the virus, we don’t think the fundamentals in the housing market have changed all that much. With most of the job losses either temporary or at the lower end of the income spectrum, they are unlikely to affect the demand for single-family housing.”

But Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting at the Mortgage Bankers Association, was less rosy. In a recent statement, he said the loss of 1 million construction jobs “may potentially slow the rebound in new construction that will be needed to completely revive the housing market.”

For more go to https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/11/business-our-new-normal-pandemics-effect-home-construction-market/?arc404=true

Over at Marketwatch.com, the situation is improving: “The numbers: Home-building activity has staged a significant turnaround from the coronavirus-related slowdown.

U.S. homebuilders began construction on homes at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.496 million in July, up 22.6% from the previous month and 23.4% from a year ago, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday. The pace of home building is now 7% down from the pre-coronavirus high.

Permitting activity occurred at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.495 million, up 18.8% from June and 9.4% from July 2019.

The numbers: Home-building activity has staged a significant turnaround from the coronavirus-related slowdown.

U.S. homebuilders began construction on homes at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.496 million in July, up 22.6% from the previous month and 23.4% from a year ago, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday. The pace of home building is now 7% down from the pre-coronavirus high.

Permitting activity occurred at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.495 million, up 18.8% from June and 9.4% from July 2019.

All regions experienced an overall uptick in housing starts despite rising coronavirus cases across many parts of the country, led by the 35.3% increase in the Northeast. However, single-family starts actually fell slightly between June and July in both the Northeast and the Midwest. Permitting rose relatively uniformly across the country, with all four major regions seeing upticks.

Big picture: Americans’ demand for homes was at a fever pitch before the pandemic, and it’s now returned in earnest. Low mortgage rates have made buying a home a more affordable proposition for millions of Americans, while the reality of living, working, and attending school at home has prompted many households to search for bigger properties, particularly in the suburbs.”

For more, go to https://www.marketwatch.com/story/housing-starts-soar-226-in-july-as-americans-head-for-the-suburbs-in-search-of-larger-abodes-2020-08-18

Make no mistake, the pandemic has changed the way we live and work. Galphin offers this: “I hope we as a company will continue to grow in our understanding of our impact on each other from a corporate and individual perspective.  For example, we’ve seen mental health effects and the impact of charity.  We had several employees who suffered serious mental health effects and/or have been impacted by the mental health of loved ones as a result of COVID.  I want to facilitate an environment that fosters mental, spiritual, and physical health.  We did some outreach efforts like making sandwiches for a homeless shelter and I’d like to see those activities continue as partnerships more than just one-time events.  I personally lean pretty far toward the introverted end of the spectrum so I have appreciated the isolation, but I have come to appreciate my face-to-face interactions with customers and co-workers more than I ever thought I would.”