Nearly 50 percent of the average home and commercial building’s energy bill is spent on heating, air conditioning and ventilation, yet duct leakage in residential homes costs consumers $25 billion each year and even more for commercial building owners and operators. That money is literally disappearing into thin air, but since 1997, Aeroseal’s exclusive duct-sealing technology has been solving this widespread problem in the U.S. and Canada from the inside out.
“There’s increasing awareness with building owners, architects, engineers and other industry professionals that air distribution systems are not as efficient as we thought,” shares Neal Walsh, vice president of Aeroseal. “This part of the building industry is nearing radical transformation over the next two to three years. We’ve seen what real energy efficiency is and know there’s a better way to do things.”
Since HVAC allots for such a significant portion of the residential and commercial energy footprint, Walsh says the costs are considerable when these systems are not operating effectively. “The analogy I frequently refer to is HVAC is like the engine of the car and air distribution is the transmission,” he explains. “Even if you put the most efficient hybrid motor in the vehicle, if the transmission is inefficient, you’re not reaping the benefits of your investment.”
Searching for a solution
Homeowners across North America are paying the price, with the average home losing 20 to 40 percent of heating and cooling air through leaks in the ductwork. However, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local utilities, finally stepped in to find a solution to this reoccurring problem in new and old homes and commercial buildings alike.
“The original Aeroseal technology was developed in 1994 and first patented in 1997 at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab at the University of California, funded by the DOE,” recounts Vicki Auditore, marketing manager for Aeroseal. “The problem is there’s this misconception. When people think about energy savings, they think about changing their light bulbs, sealing windows or getting more efficient appliances, but the real issue is deep within the home, in the duct work. The DOE said we need a solution and started funding the research and that’s how the Aeroseal aerosol approach to duct sealing was invented.”
“Aeroseal technology was commercialized in 1999 for the first residential applications,” adds Auditore, who, over the last two years, has talked with dozens of project managers, engineers, dealers and others in the field. “When they see what Aeroseal does, they’re in shock, because they think it’s almost too good to be true.”
The Aeroseal sealant has now been utilized for more than 18 years and is quickly becoming the go-to for residential and commercial applications. “There’s nothing else like Aeroseal on the market,” says Walsh.
Aeroseal is a vinyl material that is suspended in a water solution. “It’s been used as a base for chewing gum, water-based paint and even baby pacifiers; it’s a very safe product,” assures Walsh.
Not only is Aeroseal safe and effective, it also offers widespread application. “This year, we will surpass 100,000 applications in homes in the U.S. and Canada, coming on the heels of federal programs, such as Energy Star and state-level programs,” shares Walsh. “We’ve also done 3 million square feet of commercial building space over the last couple of years.”
On the residential side, Aeroseal saves energy, but also improves air quality and results in more even, consistent temperatures throughout the home. “In the commercial sector, as LEED-certified building is becoming more of a factor, ventilation efficiency is a huge obstacle,” Auditore details.
In fact, the success of the technology has been so prevalent that in 2000, when a panel selected the 100 best scientific accomplishments to come out of the DOE’s existence, Aeroseal earned a spot at the top. The judges narrowed the field down to 23 technologies having the largest potential to save consumers money and improve their quality of life and Aeroseal made the cut.
From the inside, out
Up until the development of Aeroseal, there were very limited solutions to duct leakage aside from going in and tearing down walls and insulation to access leaky duct systems often found deep within the home. Walsh says Aeroseal has turned costly traditional methods upside down, by accessing the problem from the inside, out.
The process starts by sealing all supply and return registers and using a fan to blow air and pressurize the duct system. This identifies where the leaks are and helps Aeroseal’s technicians determine the “before” percentage of leakage throughout the system.
Then, the liquid sealant is injected into the inside of the ducts via an aerosol application and the particles flow through the entire system, only clinging to leaky areas and forming an airtight seal. The “after” test again pressurizes the duct system to determine an overall percentage in leakage reduction. “We’re able to achieve a 99 percent reduction in leakage in most cases,” reveals Walsh. “We’re also able to generate a computer report and graph, which is great for utilities, because it gives them hard evidence and actual documentation to offer rebates.”
Auditore says the Aeroseal team has delivered savings to clients across the board, from private homes to hospitals, massive industrial plants and school districts. In the case of the Licking Heights West Elementary School in Blacklick, Ohio, the district was losing approximately 55 percent of treated air through leaky ducts. After Aeroseal performed an application, the system was effectively delivering 98 percent of treated air.
“With the ductwork effectively sealed, the school district estimates that it will save about $45,000 each year on its utility costs,” shares Auditore. “The school also received a cash rebate of more than $27,000 through an energy savings program offered by AEP Ohio, the local utility company. The district is now looking at having its four other schools aerosealed, as well.”
Not only has the Aeroseal movement taken off in the U.S., but in Canada, as well, and Aeroseal is now being used on an international scale, including a brand-new health care facility in Abu Dhabi. “Word is getting out in the building community,” assures Walsh. “There’s a better way to do things.” By turning the process inside out, Aeroseal is delivering airtight solutions and sealing in savings for a range of environments.