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The Crawlspace Survivors Guide for Homeowners

One of the biggest topics in today’s media is energy efficiency. Every day I go into crawl spaces where the ductwork is leaking, poorly insulated, or not connected at all. As you can imagine, pumping hot air into your crawl space is not an efficient way to heat your home, nor can you claim it as a way to “keep your floors warm” (I’ve heard it).

The biggest deterrent for most people to checking their ductwork is actually entering the crawl space. I know it is scary down there but there could be big money savings hiding in your crawlspace! There are a few reasons not to go into “the underbelly” of your home; these are standing water, an abundance of feces, or lots of live or potentially dead animals. Generally, these issues can be cleared up fairly quickly by having us do a crawlspace clean-out  Its okay to ask for help on this part. (NOTE: if you want to skip doing this altogether, we can test and seal your ductwork using Aeroseal from inside the comfort of your home)

Once you have verified that your crawl space is acceptable, let’s get suited up (yes, that is me outside the uni-bomber cabin). Unless you own a hazmat suite, here is what you will need:

Baseball Cap – This and a hooded sweatshirt are probably the most important things when it comes to crawl space survival. The lid on the cap will limit your ability to look up at creepy crawlies and your drawn tight hood will give you much more courage, trust me. Out of Site, Out of Mind.

Hooded Sweatshirt with Drawstring – Like many of the things listed, we are trying to keep the crawl space and its contents (mainly insulation) off of your skin.

Long Sleeve Shirt – This needs to be an oversized shirt which will provide you with extra sleeve length (for tucking into your gloves) and shirt tail length (for tucking far enough into your pants that it won’t come out while you are crawling around).

Jeans (with belt) – Standard crawlspace jockey stuff

Knee Pads (not required, but nice) – If you can get your hands on a pair, these can make or break the experience!

Long Socks – The trick is to have really long socks that you can tuck your pants into.

Flashlight (head lamp if you have it)

Latex Gloves – I prefer just the standard latex glove because it is water and gluck proof (what is gluck? you'll find out.)

Dust Mask – Your choice, but crawl space dust is the other side of funky. Also, sometimes crawlspaces can smell pretty bad, if you wear a mask, you will just smell your own breath. Gum might be a good idea.

Digital Camera – So you can communicate your findings to your spouse or friends!

Small Notepad and Two Pens – This will be for making notes on leaks and insulation. One pen you will probably lose, the other is your back-up.

Three Foot Stick – A helpful tool that always comes in handy

Once you are all set, turn the fan “on” at your thermostat or turn on the heat, grab your flashlight in one hand and your 3 foot stick in the other. Do a swipe of the crawl space entrance to remove any spider webs that might be hanging down, and then jump in head or feet first!

Whew! Now that you are in you have two objectives. Find air leaks and note poor insulation. In doing this, you are going to find that cobwebs are your friend, as their movement will be the clearest indicator of air leakage around the ducts. Always remember before you swipe with your stick, shine your light ahead of you. Next, make your way back to where the ductwork begins at the furnace. As you take baby steps, use your stick in circular motions to clear the path. Be sure to inspect any duct work you encounter along the way so you don’t have to do more than you need to.

When you reach the beginning of the duct work, you will see a metal box (that is where all the duct runs come from). This is the most common spot for leaks and poor insulation so inspect it thoroughly. Next, you want to make your way along each duct run, noting poor insulation and checking for air leaks in the ducts and duct joints. Generally, any exposed metal is poorly insulated, so the easiest way to reach your goal is to make sure all the exposed metal will be covered with insulation to prevent heat loss. Once you have inspected all your duct work, crawl back out for a breather. Good job!

If you discovered leaks or need insulation, you will need to go to the hardware store for Mastic Duct Sealant and 5” Insulation. Mastic is applied with a brush to all your air leaks and sticks to everything. Insulation should be applied to any exposed metal you noted during your inspection. It can be bothersome to work with, so you may want us to get involved if you have to re-insulate all of your ducts, etc.

Here is a video on how to apply Mastic:

Depending on what you found, correcting these two simple things can make a huge impact in your energy consumption. Once you have sealed and insulated your ducts, equipment replacement and energy performance testing will need to be considered to improve your home’s energy efficiency. That's were we come in!

Now, remember, Barron Heating is a full service Duct Sealing, Weatherization, Insulation, Heating and Cooling Company. So feel free to call with questions.


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