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Air Infiltration and How It's Making Your House Less Energy Efficient

August 18, 2016

Every residential home, regardless of its age or geographic location, is a "building envelope" that needs to "breathe." In fact, in every home, air is constantly infiltrating through the windows and doors, walls and floors, even the roof and attic. Essentially, air infiltration results because of the air pressure difference between the outside of the house and the inside. All homes, even those that are newly built, have some degree of air infiltration - this is where energy efficiency matters. Needless to say, geographic location is a big factor with air infiltration, most especially in regions where winter weather is extreme. Hence, weatherproofing and insulation are critical in ensuring energy efficiency in the home. Undesirable heat loss in the winter, for instance, is a certain sign of low energy efficiency and a certain recipe for energy waste. And this is why many homeowners decide to make upgrades/retrofits that will reduce energy consumption and save on utility bills. Today, governments at every level are making every effort to encourage energy efficient homes. As such, the air tightness of a "building envelope" has become a very high priority - so much so, that home energy audits are being promoted in order to determine how best to make energy retrofit improvements. By any definition, air infiltration is a primary dynamic in energy loss. And this is true in residential homes as it is in commercial buildings and high-rise office buildings. Simply put, air infiltration in a typical home is the cold draft that can be felt around a window or door. More pointedly, cold rooms and cold spots in the home are a sure sign of air infiltration. From a more technical perspective, infiltration is about the undesirable flow of air from outside the home (unconditioned air) to the inside of the home (conditioned air). This is a back-and-forth dynamic allowing inside air to escape out, and outside air to seep in - not very energy efficient. Any building professional will verify that the more airtight a house can be made, the more energy efficient it will be. Interestingly, even newly built homes suffer from air infiltration, and very few are considered on the high level of energy efficiency. In Ontario, the number of energy efficient homes is actually quite unimpressive, even with guidelines from various building codes. It means that many home energy retrofits are not addressing air infiltration issues as well as could be. Homeowners (and new home buyers) need to be aware that the only surefire way to assess air tightness in the home is through a Certified Energy Audit. This is effectively an air blower test that results in a formal EnerGuide Rating - it's the best way to determine where improvements can be made, and what type of energy retrofitting should take priority. The right retrofit, with the right product(s) will ensure enhanced energy efficiency, and long term savings on utilities. At Great Northern Insulation, quality products and superior installations make for viable energy retrofits - homeowners will reduce energy consumption and realize significant dollar savings.

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