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Updating duct work in older homes

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Often the first things we focus on when thinking about energy efficiency are windows and the cracks around them. The really big holes, the ones you can put a fist through, are in the places you don’t go—in attics, basements and crawlspaces. The dirty spots show where air is traveling through the insulation and out of your house.

That’s where wires, plumbing or heating ducts enter and leave the house or where foundation meets frame. Then go to your basement and look for gaps between the concrete foundation and the wood frame of the house.

Homes with boiler systems as their primary source of heat lack the duct work needed for traditional central air conditioning systems.

But, just because you have a boiler system doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the comforts of air conditioning.

If rooms are accessible via the attic, you can install the ductwork and vents that way.

If your home has a flat roof with no attic crawl space and no ceiling tiles, the drywall or plaster ceiling must be removed.

For an added layer of protection, you can apply duct mastic to the tape and duct.

When working with fiberglass insulation, always wear: Gloves are a good idea, too, but it can be hard to do the delicate fitting and taping required while wearing them.

Start by turning your heating/cooling system on and feeling along the ducts for air leaks, paying particular attention to any joints or connections in the ductwork.

In this case, access to the ceiling is necessary for installation.

For homes with drop ceilings, tiles can be removed along with the framework that holds the tiles.

The typical home has holes that leak out a full third of its heating and cooling costs.

The biggest issues happen where you can’t see them.

We just purchased a house built in 1953, and it has those metal ducts in the attic and subfloor.

We were thinking that the ducts needed to be replaced, and when we started to inquire about the cost through different vendors, some suggested that simply cleaning is sufficient.

Read Daniel Glickman's Q&A, "Should we replace our PVC-lined flexible heating ducts with another type of duct work?

"to learn more about choosing duct work for a healthy home.