how to find air leaks in house

How to Find Air Leaks in Your House

Home Improvement

Air leaks can be one of the biggest causes of energy loss in your home, resulting in high heating and cooling costs. Finding a cold air draft coming through the window frame may not seem like much, but a few small leaks are enough to affect energy usage. Those tiny gaps can significantly impact your home’s energy efficiency, whether a chilly draft sneaking through a window frame or warm air from under a door. But fear not! Our guide on “how to find air leaks in house” will help you locate and seal those elusive air leaks to create a more comfortable and cost-effective living environment.

What Is an Air Leak?

An air leak is the unintended escape or release of air from a contained system or structure. It occurs when a system integrity breach allows air to enter or exit through gaps, cracks, or openings. Air leaks can be found in various contexts, from industrial settings to everyday household appliances.

Common Locations of Air Leaks in Your Home

In industrial environments, air leaks can occur in pneumatic systems, pipelines, or compressed air systems. These leaks waste energy and affect the equipment’s efficiency and performance. In such cases, regular inspection and maintenance are essential to detect and repair leaks promptly.

In residential settings, air leaks commonly occur in windows, doors, ventilation ducts, and roofs. Home air leaks can result in energy loss, reduced indoor air quality, and increased utility bills. They can also lead to discomfort by allowing outside air, dust, and noise to enter the living spaces. Weatherstripping, caulking, and proper insulation techniques address home air leaks to seal gaps and improve energy efficiency.

How to Find Air Leaks In Your Home

Detecting and addressing home air leaks is necessary to maintain energy efficiency, lower utility bills, and create a comfortable living environment. Air leaks allow conditioned air to escape and unconditioned or cold air to enter, resulting in energy waste and potential discomfort. Locating and sealing these leaks can enhance your home’s insulation and promote energy conservation. Here are some effective methods to find air leaks in your house:

  • Use an air leak detector.  An air leak detector is a device used to detect and measure airflow. It uses an audible sound that increases in frequency as the air leak gets more extensive, allowing you to locate leaks quickly and accurately. Additionally, ultrasonic air leak detectors detect high-frequency sounds that can be heard when air is escaping from a hole or crack. 
  • Visual inspection. Conduct a thorough visual inspection of your indoor and outdoor home. Look for gaps, cracks, and openings in windows, doors, walls, ceilings, floors, and foundations. Pay close attention to areas where different building materials meet, such as corners, around electrical outlets, and at the junction between the walls and the ceiling. Also, look for signs of daylight entering through cracks or gaps to detect air leaks.
  • Incense test. Perform an incense test to detect air movement. Close all windows, doors, and vents in your home, and turn off any appliances that could create air currents. Light an incense stick and slowly move it around common leakage areas, such as windows and doors. Observe the smoke from the incense and note any sudden shifts or dispersal, as they indicate air movement.
  • Candle test. Similar to the incense test, the candle test utilizes the flickering flame of a candle to identify air leaks. On a calm day, close all doors and windows and turn off any fans or HVAC systems. Hold a lit candle near suspected leakage areas and observe the flame. If the light wavers or moves erratically, it suggests the presence of air drafts.
cleaning of a window after air leak
Your hand can detect air leaks by running it along a window frame. 
  • Hand inspection. Run your hands along potential leakage points, such as window frames, door frames, baseboards, and electrical outlets. Feel for any noticeable drafts or temperature differences. You can also use this method to check for air leaks around pipes, vents, and chimneys. Your hands can be sensitive enough to detect even small amounts of airflow.
  • Thermal imaging. To find air leaks, consider using a camera to identify temperature differences. These devices detect temperature variations, making it easier to spot areas of heat loss or infiltration. Scan around windows, doors, and walls to pinpoint potential leakage points. However, thermal imaging cameras can be costly, so renting or borrowing one, if available, may be more practical.
  • Blower door test. A blower door test is a comprehensive method to assess the airtightness of your entire home. It involves using a specialized fan to create a pressure difference between the interior and exterior of the house. By measuring the airflow, you can determine the extent of air leakage and locate specific problem areas. However, this method should be performed by a professional energy auditor specializing in blower door testing for accurate results.

Once you have identified air leaks, addressing them as soon as possible is important. 

How to Stop Air Leaks 

Simple strategies can effectively stop air leaks and improve energy efficiency. Here are some actionable steps to identify and seal air leaks in your home:

  • Conduct a thorough inspection. Start by identifying the areas where air leaks are most likely. Common culprits include windows, doors, electrical outlets, plumbing penetrations, attic access hatches, and ventilation ducts. Scrutinize these areas, paying attention to gaps, cracks, and any signs of airflow or temperature differences.
  • Seal windows and doors. Apply weatherstripping around windows and doors to create an airtight seal. Weatherstripping comes in various materials, such as adhesive-backed foam, V-strip, and door sweeps. Ensure gaps between the sash or frame and the window or door are sealed thoroughly to prevent air infiltration. 
  • Seal your basement. Use reflective foil to cover soffits and fit aluminum flashing on the openings surrounding your furnace and water heater flues. Your next savings opportunity may come from tackling the basement and crawlspace, where sealing air leaks can help prevent cold floors and reduce drafts from below. A basement air sealing project might include spray foam or caulk to seal cracks and openings in the basement walls, ceiling, or floor.
  • Insulate electrical outlets and switches. Electrical outlets and switches can be hidden sources of air leaks. Install foam gaskets behind switch plates and outlet covers to reduce drafts. Consider using childproof outlet plugs when outlets are not in use to prevent air from seeping through.
  • Caulk gaps and cracks. Inspect walls, ceilings, and floors for visible gaps, damages, or holes. Use caulk or sealant appropriate for the specific material (for example, silicone-based for wet areas). Fill gaps around pipes, vents, and cables penetrating walls or floors. Be mindful of areas where different materials meet, such as where siding meets the foundation or around chimneys. 
sealing windows with silicone after air leak
Caulking your window sills can prevent air leaks.
  • Seal attic access points. The attic is a common area for air leaks. Ensure the attic access hatch is adequately insulated and fitted with weatherstripping. Seal gaps or cracks around pipes, vents, and chimneys that pass through the attic.
  • Insulate ductwork. Leaky air ducts can significantly reduce the efficiency of heating and cooling systems. Inspect ductwork for loose joints, gaps, or separate sections. Insulating the ducts with appropriate insulation material will further enhance energy efficiency.
  • Consider window treatments. Installing windows such as blinds, curtains, or shades can help reduce air infiltration. Opt for insulating window coverings or add thermal linings to existing curtains to form an additional barrier against drafts.
blinds on windows pare preventing air leaks
Window coverings can reduce air draft.
  • Maintain a well-sealed attic. While attic ventilation is necessary, it should also be well-sealed to prevent air leaks. Ensure attic vents and fans are correctly installed and sealed to avoid unintended air exchange between the attic and living spaces.
  • Call an expert. Contact a professional to conduct a blower door test to find major air leaks in your home. This test uses a powerful fan to depressurize the house, revealing hidden leaks that are otherwise difficult to detect. Once identified, you can address these leaks using appropriate sealing methods.

Taking proactive steps to stop air leaks in your home can significantly improve energy efficiency, enhance comfort, and reduce utility costs. You can create a more airtight and energy-efficient living environment by conducting a thorough inspection, sealing windows and doors, caulking gaps, insulating ductwork, and implementing other strategies outlined in this guide. Implementing these measures benefits your wallet and contributes to environmental sustainability by reducing energy consumption.

Contact PuroClean for Air Leak-Related Property Damage!

When an air leak leads to unexpected property damage, contact PuroClean! We’re here to quickly respond to your emergency and provide the necessary expertise to protect your property and loved ones. Whether you’re dealing with water, fire, or mold damage caused by an unsuspected air leak, our experts take decisive steps to mitigate your disaster. Our skilled technicians will handle the situation with precision, professionalism, and care. We are available 24/7, ready to provide immediate assistance and restore your peace of mind. Please call (800) 775-7876 today!

Last edited on 17th of January 2024