Science & Technology



Sealing homes' leaky HVAC systems is a sneaky good climate solution

Leslie Kaufman, Bloomberg News on

Published in Science & Technology News

There's a hidden scourge making homes more harmful to the climate and less comfortable: leaky heating and cooling systems. Plugging those leaks may be the dull stepchild of the energy transition, but that doesn't make it any less important than installing dazzling solar arrays and getting millions of electric vehicles on the road.

The problem, however, is that energy efficiency pays back over time, but it comes with high upfront costs.

“It can be a very, very labor intensive process to capture all the efficiency improvements in the housing stock and a lot of the issues — as well as a lot of the solutions — are pretty much unknown, or invisible to the average consumer,” said Jennifer Amann, a senior fellow with the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s buildings program.

“You could pay somebody a few $1,000 to come in, and insulate your home and do air sealing, but those aren't improvements that you are going to see or engage with,” Amann said. “So a lot of times people are thinking, ‘Well, do I want to do that, or do I want to make some improvements in my kitchen or in my bathroom.’“

Aeroseal, a company whose technology was developed in conjunction with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has an ingenious solution. Its computer-tracked system finds and targets leaks, including even those behind walls, and then releases an aerosolized sealant to fill them.

Taking it to leaks


Typically, sealing a home involves a technician searching for cracks and filling them by hand. It’s a time-consuming and costly process. Aeroseal’s technology makes the hunt for leaks easier.

The startup, which won a BloombergNEF Pioneers award, works on new construction just after the drywall stage. For a new building, the contractors seal the entire structure — sometimes by putting a bubble over the house — and then use a fan to blow air into the home and essentially pressurize the interior. Technicians then insert a sensor that can take pressure readings to discover how much air is leaking through cracks in the floorboards or joints in the wall.

After this stage is complete, the company releases an aerosol into the home that spreads like a fog. The pressure differential allows it to be quickly sucked into the leaks.

The non-toxic, water-based sealant coagulates on contact with the edge of the crack and forms a new barrier. Technicians monitor the leakage rates in real time on a computer. For an average-sized residence, the whole process can take 60 minutes and cut leakage by about 80%, the company says.


swipe to next page

©2024 Bloomberg L.P. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus