What would you say is the largest expense you have as a homeowner? According to energy.gov, heating and cooling costs account for 48% of the energy bills for the typical home in the United States. Since this is such a large portion of your energy bill, it's a good idea to figure out if your home's heating and cooling needs are being met in the most cost effective way. In this article, you'll learn how your home's stack effect can cause your heating bill to be higher than necessary, and what you can do about it.
The Vicious Cycle of the Stack Effect
Everyone knows that heat rises. But, did you know that when heat rises in your home it pulls cool air in? Heated air will go up and escape through any available cracks, or transfer heat through the ceiling and into the attic. This is called the stack effect. It causes negative air pressure, which is when the air pressure indoors is lower than the air pressure outdoors. When heat escapes out of the top of the house, the negative air pressure naturally draws cool air in at the bottom of the house.
When the cooler air coming in at the bottom of the home reaches the thermostat, the heating system kicks on and produces more heat. This heat rises and causes the upper level of the home to be much warmer than the lower level. The heat will escape (exfiltrate) through cracks and pull more cool air in, which can kick the heating system back on again. It's a vicious cycle that can empty your pocketbook.
The upper floor could become so warm that you and/or your family members will want to open windows to let the heat escape. This, in turn, causes more cool air to infiltrate into the home at the lower level, keeping the heating system running.
What the Stack Effect Can Do to You & Your Home
Not only can the stack effect cause your heating bill to skyrocket, it can cause dangerous and unhealthy gases to be suctioned into your home. These gases can cause serious health problems, including death. Here are a few examples:
- methane and sewer gas from your septic system or sewer drain
- radon from the ground underneath your home's foundation
- carbon monoxide from your home's heating system
Additionally, the stack effect can pull moisture into your home, which can cause condensation on your ceilings and in your attic. This can cause mold and mildew to grow, which may cause health problems for you and your family.
How to Reduce the Stack Effect
Now you understand why it's important to control or reduce your home's stack effect, not only for your wallet but for you and your family's health. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the stack effect in your home.
- insulate your home, especially the attic to prevent heat from escaping through the roof and the eaves
- seal all cracks and air leaks throughout your home, paying close attention to windows, doors and your home's foundation
- ventilate the attic and the basement equally so hot air exfiltrates and cool air infiltrates at the same rate
- move the thermostat for your heating system to an area that is free of drafts when doors and windows are opened
Contact HVAC services to do an energy audit of your home to determine the severity of your home's stack effect and how it causes your home to have negative air pressure. Ask for a blower door test to be performed, as well as a thermal imaging scan. These tests can help you locate air leaks so you can eliminate them, which can reduce the stack effect.