DIY Furnace and Duct Care for Energy Efficiency

Image from Energy Conservation How-To.
More than $5 billion is wasted annually in America on energy literally slipping through the cracks. Leaky ductwork can account for up to hundreds of dollars wasted, and up to 30 percent of energy costs accrued by a single home during the coldest and warmest months every year.

The average home in Arizona, for example, has the equivalent of a gaping 3.5-square-foot hole in the middle of the house.

To have a truly energy efficient home, you have to be sure your ductwork is airtight. The truth is, very few homes with ductwork don't lose some energy through the spaces in ducts. But as air escapes through leaks, you will miss out on the full impact of your heating or cooling system—and you're wasting a whole lot of energy. But it doesn't have to cost you hundreds to have a specialist come out. You can take certain home energy efficiency steps all on your own.

Symptoms of Leaky Ductwork The only way to know what is happening in and around your home's air ducts is to have a professional home energy inspection, or energy audit. But there are some easy signs that leaks are present:
  • Your cooling system makes a lot of noise
  • Rooms never get properly heated or cooled
  • You notice higher humidity in your house
  • After a storm, you notice worse indoor allergies
  • Your HVAC system continuously needs repairing
  • You don't overdo it on heat or AC and yet your energy bills remain high
  • You don't feel the same level of airflow coming out of vents
In general, if your HVAC system isn't doing what it is supposed to do, you are likely to have problems with ductwork.

DIY Ways to Correct Furnace and Ductwork Issues

Seal Your Ductwork
When heated or cooled air escapes from the ducts, especially in the basement and attic, the furnace or air conditioner has to run longer and use more fuel to bring the living area of the house to the temperature on the thermostat. There's an easy fix: foil tape.

Simply wrap the foil tape around every duct seam in your basement or attic. DON'T USE DUCT TAPE! Despite its name, it isn't approved for duct sealing and it doesn't hold up well over the long term. Trust us on this—all the duct tape we found in the basement at Better Farm on the ducts had to be removed and replaced with foil tape.

Change Your Furnace Filter
Your furnace is pulling cool air from your house through its system, filtering it, and blowing it back out through ducts as warm air in the winter. While most people have their furnace filters changed annually, many homes could use a switch every few months. Click here for a tutorial on changing your own air filter on your furnace.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.