Sticky business: U.S. Dept of Energy invests in CEE aerosol sealant research
The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced CEE among 14 awardees nationally to receive $14 million to increase efficiency in our nation’s homes and buildings. CEE’s grant comes through the DOE’s Building America program which funds projects that are piloting new approaches to create healthier, more comfortable homes that will save homeowners money on their utility bills.
The funding will support CEE's research to evaluate the integration of aerosol envelope sealing into the home building process. The project team will work with builders to characterize the cost, performance, and seamless integration into the construction process, and to determine the best options and protocols to share with the industry on the best use of this technology. The new research will focus on single-family homes, building on CEE's prior testing in multifamily buildings.
Sealant “fog” follows air’s natural path
The aerosol sealing technology was developed by project partner Western Cooling Efficiency Center (WCEC) and is being commercialized by another partner, Aeroseal®. The automated method involves pressurizing the building for an hour or two while applying an aerosol sealant fog to the building’s interior.
As air escapes the building through leaks in the envelope, the sealant particles are carried to the leaks where they impact and stick to the edge of the gap and gradually fill in the opening, sealing the leaks. A standard blower door is used to facilitate the sealing process, and also provide real-time feedback and a permanent record of the sealing. Thus, the technology is capable of measuring, locating, and sealing leaks all at the same time, significantly improving quality control and reducing labor costs.
Cost-effective for builders and owners
CEE and project partners Building Knowledge and the University of Minnesota will work with builders to develop procedures to easily integrate the aerosol sealing technique into standard construction practices and reduce the cost compared to less-effective conventional sealing. In addition, aerosol sealing can help curb heating costs. Here in Minnesota, the cold winter weather can be brutal — and this can lead to especially high energy use. Previous field demonstrations have shown that the aerosol technology is capable of a more consistent sealing performance and improved air tightness, reducing energy use from heating and preventing moisture issues within the building.
Research director Dave Bohac explained what he sees as some of the biggest benefits, based on CEE’s experience in multifamily buildings: “This gives builders a less expensive, more reliable method to achieve tighter envelopes. In apartments, we’ve seen renters and owners not only cut energy costs, but also gain quieter units with much less odor and secondhand smoke transfer from neighbors.”
So what’s next? This research is leading the way for new frontiers in air sealing. “Although we’re currently focused on new construction and major renovations,” explains Bohac, “this project lays the groundwork for conveniently sealing occupied multifamily units and single-family homes in the future.”