The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy has discussed the scope of basement insulation and house sealing and mentions that these measures help boost a building’s thermal performance. In addition, the basement insulation and house sealing are essential to transform the basement into a usable and dryer space for the inhabitants and improving the performance of HVAC equipment.

Further, basement insulation and house sealing are helpful if you do not want to pay high energy bills every season. For example, with proper insulation and sealing, your house’s basement will retain cooler and warmer air in summer and winter, respectively. Thus, the demand on the HVAC setup will be reduced.

However, these two measures often addressed simultaneously for improving the energy efficiency and thermal comfort of a building are actually different. We will discuss how these processes differ, how many differences they make, and their benefits and costs.

Is Air Sealing the Same as Insulation?

Not quite. As the name suggests, air sealing is the process of sealing leaks in various areas of your house, including the basement. Air sealing becomes necessary when there is no control over the outside air entering your house and conditioned inside air escaping the building.

The common areas of a basement needing air sealing are rim joists, foundation walls, ceilings, floors, etc. A blower door test conducted by an expert air sealing and insulation contractor will tell you if the basement of your building needs air sealing.

How does Air Sealing Work?

The blower test helps in detecting the location of cracks and holes in your house. On finding the unwanted presence of crevices, cracks, or holes and assessing the house as drafty, the professional seals the air gaps. There are many sealing agents available, and based on the size and location of air gaps, the sealing agent is selected.

The professional selects the sealant suitable for air sealing in the basement. The application process of the sealing agents differs based on the property of the sealing agent used. With air sealing in required places in the basement, the air from outside cannot enter. This aspect comes in handy, especially in the cold or rainy season.

Also, the sealing prevents the to and fro movement of air during summer, making the job of cooling the house with fans and AC easier.

How does Insulation Work?

The professional hired assesses the condition of the space that requires insulation. Based on the location and insulating agent selected, the professional plans the procedure of adding insulation.

Before understanding how insulation works, it’s wise to explore the movement of warm air or heat inside the house. Heat travels from warmer areas to cooler ones. So, as you switch on the heater during winter, the heat goes from the warmer part of the house to the colder sides.

But, as the summer comes, you use the cooler or air-conditioner to keep your house cooler compared to the outside. Then, the exterior heat aims to invade your comparatively cooler house. And that’s when insulation comes into play. The insulation prevents or slows the entry of unwanted heat by providing an envelope or protective barrier.

Furthermore, as the job of keeping your house cooler becomes easy, you can use the AC less. And during the winter, the heat inside the house will take longer to leave the house, thus helping you keep a somewhat higher temperature in the interiors.

Cost of Basement Insulation

Considering the insulation types available for the basement, the cost of insulation materials can reach anywhere between $0.2 and $3 per board foot. Getting foam insulation can require you to spend anywhere between $0.2 and $15 per square foot.

The overall bill for basement insulation can reach somewhere between $1000 and $6500. The price variation occurs due to the variation in installation costs of professionals hired for basement insulation, regional cost difference, and the type and amount of insulation you need.

Types of Insulation in the Basement

The variety of insulation in the basement comes from the location of insulation and types of insulation used. You can insulate the walls, floors, and ceiling of the basement, and that is how we have three types of basement insulation based on location.

But, mainly, the basement insulation rises from the varieties of ingredients used in insulation. Sprayed foam insulation involves the use of a sprayer for insulating the ceilings and walls in the basement. The insulation takes a hard form after its application. Thus, this variety serves well for closing gaps in the basement walls or ceilings and, therefore, acts as giving good barrier for protecting you from unpleasant weather.

Foam boards, another type of basement insulation that can be used on floors, ceilings, and walls in the basement, involve a rigid type of insulation. This aims to cut down the heat flow into and out of the basement through structures or crevices. This type involves integrating insulation materials that are easy to handle and vary in thickness, thus giving you both ease and convenience.

Apart from these types, we have commonly used insulation using fiberglass. In this type, fiberglass combines with other components to give excellent insulation when applied to basement ceilings and walls. The resulting insulation product can be found in the form of rolls and sheets.

Types of Air Sealing Products

There are wide varieties of air sealing products based on the size of gaps and types of structures that need sealing. You can use caulks to close the small gaps like openings or cracks in non-movable parts like window frames and door frames. But you can get a wide variety of caulks owing to their different properties and qualities.

For sealing comparatively wider openings, you can make use of foams. These polyurethane-based sealants vary in properties. Foams can attach well to approximately every surrounding object and expand to cover surfaces with rough textures and irregular cracks. Among foams, there are subtypes based on application suitability for different sizes of openings.

You may consider affordable one-part foams for filling cracks. For sealing large openings and surfaces, you can use two-part foams.  However, you’ll need specific sealing materials for closing the gaps in movable objects like windows and doors. And for that purpose, we have got weatherstripping materials. But, weatherstripping may not be as suitable as rigid materials for air sealing larger surfaces and penetrations in the basement. Rigid materials include plywood, polyethylene, drywall, and plastic-based housewraps.

Is Air Sealing More Important than Insulation?

Both air sealing and insulation in parts of the house, including the basement, provide protective layers to keep the insides of your house comfortable. But the two processes differ in the aspects they focus on and how they operate.

Insulation aims to control the house temperature and thus prevents or lowers the heat transfer between your house interiors and exteriors. On the other hand, air sealing covers any gaps or holes in your residence, minimizing air passing from inside to the outside and vice versa.

Both processes are valuable for keeping your house temperature apt for living. But what if you have a tight budget and want to choose one of the two? In other words, which one should receive more priority from you as a homeowner among air sealing and insulation in the basement?

Many experts consider both sealing and insulation important, and when working together, these procedures are great for improving your living conditions. But there’s no point in getting good insulation in the basement if it’s filled with small gaps promoting unwanted air movements.

Unattended problems associated with air tightness always bring down the efficacy of the insulation. Moreover, air sealing is thought to be more effective alone compared to insulation. Despite both processes being involved with energy efficiency, air sealing scores higher on the scale of making your house comfy and increasing the effectiveness of the house air-conditioning system.

How Much of a Difference Does Air Sealing Make?

The presence of air leaks contributes to 20% of 40% of energy loss in your residence. And that can be prevented by having good sealing in your house locations, including the basement. Even proper air control aided by air sealing extends to controlling vapor passage.

Along with unwanted air entry, excess water vapor or moisture can enter your house through cracks or gaps. But with air sealing, you can control the passage of excess moisture entry that causes structural damage in your interiors.

Further, you can save approximately 10% on costs for heating and cooling the inside of your house.

Benefits of Air Sealing and Insulation in the Basement

There are several benefits of installing or applying sealing and insulation in your basement.

  • Preventing the entry of pollens, or substances carrying the potential to cause allergy
  • Better temperature control during cold weather, and thus becoming effective, especially in cold regions
  • Improved regulation of interior humidity
  • Cutting out noise from the exteriors of the house
  • Preventing freezing of water pipes in colder regions or during winters

Final Thoughts

We hope you have gained a sound idea of how air sealing and insulation in the basement differ. Both processes make the interiors of your house more suitable for living. But, if faced with the need to pick any single procedure, you can go for air sealing since it is more energy efficient.

Oil tanks are mainly used for commercial and industrial settings. But, they find their places even in domestic settings. People do use oil heat, especially in cold regions, for which they need an oil storage tank.

These tanks may sound simple, but they have versatile designs and components. And thus, oil tanks are never limited to a single context.

Read on to learn about oil tanks and their important aspects.

What are Oil Tanks?

To put it simply, oil tanks provide spaces for oil storage. The tanks act as a reservoir or a container, storing the oil during different stages of processing or making different oil-based products. Moreover, they can store oil prior to its use or consumption.

They are mainly composed of steel, fiberglass, or plastic. Steel tanks can be used for storing oils above or under the ground. Another alternative to these materials is building tanks made of concrete.

Among plastic and steel varieties, the former provides advantages like suitability for processing and low weight, which makes installation or replacement comparatively easy. But, steel components offer overall better services as materials for oil tanks due to greater resistance to harsh weather and durability against accidental harm.

However, combination materials can offer better service based on reliability and sturdiness. In combination tanks, polyethylene composes the inner tank. And galvanized steel builds up the outer tank.

The size of oil tanks have a broader range. Some tanks can be small and hold 250 gallons while large tanks can store fuel in excess of 30,000 gallons.

Here it’s worth noting that the capacity of home tanks differs from that of industrial tanks. The average holding capacity for domestic oil tanks is 275 gallons.

How Do Oil Tanks Work?

How the tank works depends on its context of use. It is used for storing or processing oils in an industrial or commercial setting. And thus, tanks in those settings come with different accessories and helping equipment. And hence these tanks may have varied mechanisms compared to the ones installed for residential use.

Here we shed light on the working of the home oil tank, which is involved in generating oil heat. And the tank functions as a part of a heater or heat-generating system, which can be either furnace or a boiler.

The thermostat senses the drop in temperature. And it gives a signal to the heater installed in your home. The oil travels from the tank through pump lines to feed the flame produced by the heating appliance burner. Sufficient oil must be present in the tank to maintain proper operations. The tank fails to transfer thermal energy if the oil level falls below the minimum level.

What Happens if You Let Your Oil Tank Run Empty?

First of all, letting your oil tank run empty means that enough fuel is not getting supplied to the furnace or boiler. Naturally, the heating system will not be able to produce the required heating for your home. So, you may have problems fetching hot water when needed on an emergency basis.

Secondly, an empty oil tank can be the reason behind a clogged filter, causing disruption or complete breakdown in the functions of the furnace or any other heating system. Also, when the oil tank is empty, impurities and air can gather in the feed line due to clogging in the filter. This blockage can prevent the heating system from functioning even after the oil tank has been filled.

Finally, unwanted water accumulation can happen in an empty oil tank from humid air. This water collection can cause rust formation inside the tank and ultimately weaken the tank.

How Does the Oil Gauge Help in Ensuring that the Oil Tank is Never Empty?

The primary function of an oil gauge is to let you know how much oil is remaining in the tank. As a result, you get to know at the right time when the tank needs to be refilled. Smart oil gauging systems today can even keep you informed by sending notifications to your smart devices.

An oil gauge will help detect any problem in the tank. For example, if your gauge shows that the oil levels have fallen unnecessarily, it may be an indication of leakages and damage to the tank or your heating equipment. In such cases, you can arrange an oil inspection for proper diagnosis and solution.

In addition, an oil gauge helps to know how much heating oil is being used in your house throughout the year or for specific seasons. This will let you know in which months the most amount of heating oil is required in your house and anticipate how much the energy bill may hike during that time. In such cases, the HVAC contractor near you may suggest insulating your home to keep the electricity bill in check.

Types of Oil Tanks

The varieties mentioned below differ on the location of installation, and structural aspects.

Single Wall Tank

This refers to one of the most commonly used types and has a single layer for protection against oil leaks. These types are less costly but come with shorter life spans.

Double Wall Tank

As the name implies, these tanks have a dual layer for leakage protection, providing more durable storage than single walled tanks.

Integrally-bunded Tank

This is one of the safest types among oil tank varieties. The attached bund serves as a secondary catch for the fuel storage and base of the tank in the event of a leak.

Oil Tanks Components

Oil tanks have many components and during an inspection, the inspector will assess each part. These components are the vent-pipe, vent whistle, oil gauge, oil tank, shutoff valve, tank legs, fuel line, fill pipe, and tank filter.


The vent pipe will perform ventilation as the oil travels from the oil tank to your house. Vent-pipes are usually one to two inches in their width.

Vent Whistle

A vent whistle ensures safety while refilling the oil tank. It makes a sound so that the delivery person knows when the tank is full.

Oil Gauge

The oil gauge reads and tells you how much oil is there in the tank. Usually, the gauge will indicate an E or 0 mark to show the tank is empty.

Oil Tank

This is, of course, the space where the oil will remain stored in the tank.

Shutoff Valve

This component is extremely helpful to automatically cut off the oil supply to an appliance in the event of a fire.

Tank Legs

Tank legs ensure that the entire set up in its place and the tank level is maintained. That is why it is important that tank legs are properly maintained and do not gather rust.

Fuel Line

Fuel lines help the fuel in the oil tank to move to the heating appliance.

Fill Pipe

The tank is filled with oil with this pipe. It also makes sure that water accumulation does not occur inside the tank.

Tank Filter

The tank filter eliminates dirt and different particles from the oil. This filtering is necessary to stop debris from clogging the oil line and internal components of the heating appliance.

Underground Oil Tanks

The time spanning from the 1930s to the 1980s experienced a high prevalence of underground oil tanks. However, during the 1960s and 1970s, concerns about the corrosion of these tanks emerged. Starting from 1970 to 1990, technological interventions brought initiatives to safely store oils underground.

Underground tanks hold special importance for homeowners, buyers, and sellers. Older homes may have unused oil tanks abandoned underground, which often go undetected. And that can become a liability for new buyers.

Moreover, the associated pipes and networks increase the risk of leakage. The surrounding water bodies and soils can become contaminated and impact the health of those residing in the affected area.

Further, having an oil tank underground may bring down the value of your property. Potential buyers can associate the presence of a tank in your home with contamination if you fail to provide proper documents.

Cost to Remove an Underground Oil Tank

The cost of removing an underground oil tank is higher than that of removing an above-ground one. An examination of a tank placed underground generates a bill of approximately $500. The average price for its removal can range from $2000 to $5000. However, the pricing may vary depending on the capacity of the tank.

Alternatively, you can choose to keep the tank underground, ensuring its proper processing, instead of removing it from the site. And this, known as oil tank abandonment, involves cutting open the tank and washing and draining it. The abandonment process also involves filling the tank with dirt or foam. The whole procedure can typically range somewhere between $1000 and $3000.

Things to Consider During Installing Oil Tanks at Home

  • Your requirement for thermal energy is based on the number of rooms and size of your building.
  • Understanding of your household consumption
  • Size and the maximum capacity of the oil tank
  • The area on your property where you want to install the tank
  • Guidelines and terms and conditions of the service agency you are hiring for installing or replacing these tanks
  • Gathering testimonials of the agency you are hiring, if possible, from several sources

Final Thoughts

Oil tanks have various uses. They store oil for processing or other purposes. But for residential uses, they are utilized to generate heat or warm up the house’s interior. You can categorize these tanks based on installation area and design. The varieties include above-ground, underground, outdoor, and indoor types.

Also, tanks can be categorized based on the layer of protection. Examples include double-skinned and single-skinned types, and you get better protection from oil leaks from double-skinned varieties.

Home tanks function as a part of the house heating system. The oil gets heated, and the resulting warm oil transfers the heat to a heat-distributing agent, either water or air.

The cost of oil heating tanks varies based on installation and company services.

Before delving into what constitutes an incorrectly wired outlet, we need to understand the components of the electrical outlet and its functions. An outlet commonly available in houses provides a pathway through which electrical devices receive an electrical supply to operate. And any electrical outlet will contain a neutral wire and a hot wire.

Further, the presence of the grounding wire depends on the type of electrical outlet. Grounded outlets contain ground wire, while ungrounded types don’t have this third conductor. Each of these three wires serves a different function. The hot wire brings electricity from the current source (your home’s electrical panel) and transfers current to the device connected to the outlet.

The neutral wire provides a pathway for the return of the electricity to the source. And thus, this wire aids in completing the circuit.

The ground wire, present only in grounded outlets, transfers excess current to the ground and helps in absorbing overload. Thus the ground wire helps in preventing electrical overheating and fires. Moreover, if you have ungrounded or two-prong outlets, you should consider updating your system to grounded conductors or outlets that provide ground fault protection.

Now, speaking of improperly wired electrical outlets, we need to focus on the connection between the wiring components of the outlets. Each of these wires have their designated connection terminals within the outlet itself, setting the required polarity. Faulty connections and incorrectly placed wires will result in a miswired electrical outlet. Here we will discuss a few common scenarios:

Loose wiring:

Loose connections can give electrical supply but carry the potential for fire and shock hazards. A loose connection can result in electrical arcing and overheating of the outlet. Notably, this can happen in both two-prong and three-prong outlets.

Open faults in the neutral and hot segments:

When the neutral or hot wire is not connected to the terminal within the outlet, you get an “open neutral” or “open hot” fault, respectively. With an “open hot” issue, your connected device will not function.

Most notably, if the hot wire gets an electrical current but has no connection with the given path in the outlet, the current cannot flow through the connection of the hot wire to the device. And the current accumulates and flows through unplanned paths, producing arc faults and fire accidents.

In the case of an “open neutral” fault, the current gets no return path to get back into the electrical source. And that causes a high current to flow through the device connected to the outlet, and the resulting surge causes the breakdown of the connected device.

Reverse connection:

Reverse faults can occur between hot and neutral wires. This miswiring involves the connection of the hot to the neutral terminal of the outlet and the neutral to the hot terminal. Hot-neutral reversed miswiring can expose you to current even when the connection is switched off.

When the hot and ground wires are reversed, the pattern is similar to hot-neutral reversed. And this reversal fails to make the connected device function.


Signs of Improper Electrical Wiring

Electrical wiring mistakes exhibit signs which are given below.

  • Electrical sparks or burning smell from the outlet
  • Overeating felt from the exterior of the outlet or plugged in device
  • Plugs no longer fit into the outlet
  • Melted or discolored plastic of the plug
  • Experiencing shock from the device connected to the outlet
  • Dark and sooty color of the outlet area, which gets connected to the device plug
  • Sizzling sound on connecting the device to the outlet
  • Connected device fails to function

What Happens If You Have A Miswired Wired Outlet?

Wrong installation of your electrical wiring system can lead to miswiring. And this comes with harmful consequences. Miswired electrical outlets carry reverse connections and thus alter the supposed path for electrical circulation. In some cases, you may encounter a spark or abrupt malfunction of connected electrical devices. But when your device requires or draws a high current to function, there is a higher chance of major electrical accidents including electrocution and house fires.


Safety Measures to Avoid Miswired Electrical Outlets

With easy yet effective ways, you can surely address miswired electrical outlets. When buying a house, you need to check the presence of faulty electrical wiring. Always seek the service of licensed and experienced home inspectors to thoroughly check the electrical system, including the electrical outlets.

Further, you should not perform electrical work as a DIY project to address faulty installations and improperly wired electrical outlets. Always consult a licensed electrician to perform electrical repairs.


Final Thoughts

Miswired electrical outlets can cause obvious damage to your home and put the lives of residents at risk. The miswiring can arise from faults in the connection of hot, neutral, and ground wires in the outlet.

Precisely, the causes of improperly wired connections include loose wiring, reverse polarity, and open faults. With a miswired outlet, your devices can be adversely affected or may not function at all.

Further, miswiring can lead to sparks and fire hazards. But with several safety measures, you can avoid faulty outlets. And you need to seek the service of experts for correcting improperly wired outlets.

In the winter, when snow falls, there can be many problems; a major one is ice dam formation. When snow accumulates on the roof, the roof becomes more insulated. The combination of this layer of snow along with the heated air inside the home causes the attic to get warmer. As the temperature within the attic increases, warmer air rises up to the roof`s peak and melts the snow. Melting snow and water travel down from the roofs peak it is reintroduced to frigid temperatures near the roof’s   lower edges. More and more water freezes at the roof’s edge resulting in the formation of ice dams.

Consequences of Ice Damming

One of the major problems with ice damming is that the roof’s shingles can be severely damaged. Ice dams can cause a lot of weight to be concentrated on the shingles. Snow melting and freezing cause shingles to curl, crack, and even break. As the water freezes and expands, the shingles can be shifted from their position or stripped from the roof entirely. Shingles that are lost or cracked can result in water leaks and subsequent moisture damage to the roof and the home. Furthermore, ice dams can fade away the paint and cause wood rot of the exterior trim and wall covering.

Ultimately, ice damming can decrease the life span of shingles, costing you time and money. Ice damming causes shingle aging to accelerate due to granule loss and mechanical damage. If frequent ice damming results the likelihood and severity of roof leaks increases.


What Causes Ice Dams?

Poor Ventilation

Attic ventilation plays a major role in regulating the temperatures of your attic space and can influence whether ice dams will form. If the attic is not well ventilated and heat is trapped inside the attic, the temperature of the roof decking will rise. This ultimately leads melting snow to roll down the roof edge, and before dripping off, the water refreezes. Continuous layers of melting snow and refreezing of snow cause a thick layer of an ice dams. If, however, the attic is well-ventilated during the winter, any heat that rises into this space effectively dispersed and removed. This reduces the likelihood snow on the roof prematurely melting and refreezing.

Lack of Insulation

The goal is to keep the temperature in the attic as close to that of the outside of the home to prevent the roof decking from warming before the cold weather subsides. Proper insulation goes a long way with helping accomplish this. By minimizing the amount of heat transfer from inside of the home into the attic, the possibly of ice dam formation is greatly reduced. Not to mention, your heating bill will be lower due to less heat loss.

Improper Air sealing

In every home there are air leaks which can exist on any floor. A home can be adequately insulated and still have air leakages that allow warm air to pass from the living space into the attic. These air leaks can warm your roof and lead to ice dams. Because air leaks can be difficult to identify without specialized equipment, its often best to call an expert team that can search through every floor and close the air leaks to avoid heating of the attic during winter months.

Poorly Maintained Gutters

When the snow on the roof melts, its important that water is able to travel through the gutters unimpeded. Problems with this arise mainly when leaves, moss, branches or other debris fill in the drain and blocks the passage of water. If the gutters are blocked the formation of ice dams may begin or become acerbated.


Warning Signs You Should Look For

When notable amounts of snow is melted at the top of the roof yet snow and icicles are present along the lower edges of your roof it is warning sign of ice damming. If you observe changing color of icicles to dark, this could be an indicator that the moisture has made its way beneath the shingles. This occurs as dust is transferred from inside of the home and into the ice.

Formation of icicles can also be a sign that melted water cannot pass through the gutter due to a possible blockage.  Finally, staining on the ceiling of your home means that ice and water has made it underneath the roof covering and has begun to saturate the interior surfaces of the home.


Heat Cable for Ice Dam Prevention

We previously covered many factors which can contribute to the development of ice dams on your roof. If addressing these factors proves unsuccessful or impractical, heat cables may be an effective measure to eliminate the formation of ice dams. Heat cables provide electrical resistance and create a path for water and snow on the roof to traverse into the gutters. This is helpful as it stops the water from refreezing at the roofs edge. This does not necessarily mean that the roof edges will be snow free, but they will be free from ice dam formation.

Advised Maintenance for Ice Damming

  • It is essential that you call an expert before the winter season to evaluate the roof and repair any areas that may be susceptible to ice and water penetration.
  • Consider getting a home energy audit to identify if and where additional insulation may be needed and where air leaks may exist.
  • Remove leaves and other possible obstructions to your home’s gutters to promote the flow of snowmelt away from the roof.
  • Having heat cables installed can be a good proactive measure to ensure ice dams to not form on your roof. There are many cables on the market, and not every cable system will match your roof design. Consult an expert that can carefully analyze your roof`s need and capacity.
  • It is an excellent practice to check the heat cable warranty, which can range from 1-2 years on you roof to systems that exceed 10 years.

Exhaust vent back-drafting has become a common concern for homeowners with the increasing usage of fuel-fired heating appliances in their homes. Back-drafting is the result a reversed flow of combustion by-products back into the home. Many fuel-fired home appliances like water heaters and furnaces burn fuel and produce combustion gases. If these by-products are not properly vented, this can cause the exhaust to be pulled back into the home.

When this happens, there is a possibility of the occupants becoming exposed to lethal combustion gases. So, it is quite clear that back-drafting poses potential hazards for the residents.  And this is probably the reason why home inspectors search for evidence of back-drafting during home inspections. Being a matter of concern, we should discuss when this problem happens and how it can be resolved.

How does Back-Drafting Happen?

A flue plays a key role in exhausting the combustion by-products produced by fuel-fired home appliances like water heaters, furnaces, boilers, and wall heaters.  Due to their lower density than the indoor air, these combustion gases rise through the flue and escape the home.

An improperly configured flue is often the culprit for exhaust gases back-drafting into the home. The flue vent should travel vertically for a minimum of 12 inches before an elbow or turn is installed. The exhaust vent should always have an upward slope leading the gases up and away from the appliance. The slope should be least ¼ inch per foot. Furthermore, there should not be any dips or sags in the vent. This vent angle provides a good drainage angle for condensing units and creates a strong updraft that can pull in hot air from the appliance.

Any blockages or narrowing of the flue can cause the flow of exhaust gases to slow down and accumulate within the home. This is part of the reason for why its important to have your HVAC system regularly serviced and cleaned.

Back-drafting can also occur as a result of the fuel fired appliance being located in a confined space without a sufficient amount of make-up air which is also referred to as combustion air. The flame produced by the appliance requires oxygen to maintain combustion and produce heat. Having enough make-up air will limit the chances of the house becoming depressurized. If depressurization happens the flame will attempt to pull in oxygen from outside the home through the exhaust vent which will result in back-drafting.

Depressurization (i.e., very low air pressure indoors) can also occur when a large amount of air is expelled to the outdoors through exhaust fans, fireplaces, and dryers, especially in air-tight homes. As a result, the release of combustion gases can be affected, and combustion gases can be drawn back into the home, causing danger to occupants.

How to Identify Back-Drafting?

There are various ways to detect exhaust vent back-drafting. One easy way to identify whether back-drafting happens is by installing a CO detector. This device detects the level of carbon monoxide in a home and sounds the alarm in case the carbon monoxide level rises above a certain level.

Another way to detect back-drafting is to place an ignited incense stick near the exhaust vent. If the smoke passes up through the vent, the system is venting properly. But if the smoke does not pass through the vent, there is a possibility that back-drafting is occurring.

Scorch marks and corrosion can also be indications of back-drafting. However, even without evidence of back-drafting, it is important to eliminate any underlying contributors to back-drafting as early as possible. For this reason, we advise homeowners to hire a professional to perform the maintenance job of fuel-fired home appliances at least once a year.

What to Do If You have Back-Drafting?

If you are quite sure that your fuel-fired heating appliance is leaking exhaust gas into the home, we urge you to take this very seriously. Improving the ventilation system can be the immediate step to get rid of this problem. You can open the windows of your home to allow the outdoor air to come in or even run the nearby exhaust fan to release the exhaust gases from the home.

Of greater important is for you to contact an experienced HVAC technician to determine the root cause of the back-drafting and correct it.

A heat pump mini-split system is also known as a “ductless heating and cooling system.” The name is such because these systems do not require any ductwork to be installed in your house. Commonly these systems are used for heating and cooling functions in a room or particular space.

Further, many people consider ductless mini-split heat pumps more effective than a central air conditioning system, as each system will be responsible for heating and cooling a particular zone. So instead of having the same temperature throughout the house, you could set different temperatures for different rooms. The mini-split systems are also more efficient than centralized air conditioning systems as they do not need ducts, and thus, the question of losing heating and cooling energy in the ductwork does not arise.

Ductless mini-split heat pumps have indoor units for handling air and outdoor units that function as compressors or condensers. Both these units are linked with a conduit containing a condensate drain, suction tubing, power cable, and refrigerant tubing.

A heat pump mini-split system has a very simple working mechanism, and we will discuss this at length. But before that, let’s take a moment to cover how these systems are different from traditional centralized air conditioning systems, mini-split costs, and why it may be worth having these systems in your home.

What is the Difference Between a Split System and a Mini Split?

The conventional central air systems or split systems and mini-splits both have two essential components, the external and internal units. Further, both are efficient in controlling the temperature in an indoor space. However, these have some major differences. One thing you already know is that mini-splits do not require ducts to function. Also, the conventional splits can only perform cooling, whereas the mini-splits can both cooling and heating.

Further, a centralized air conditioner will maintain the temperature of a space with its central thermostat. Mini-splits feature remote control which can easily maintain the temperature of mini-splits in different parts of your home.

Mini-splits are more energy efficient than conventional split systems thanks to their inverter technology and “ductless” feature. Moreover, mini-splits are easier to install, and they occupy less space than traditional split systems.

How Do Mini-Split Heat Pumps Work?

A heat pump mini-split system follows a step-by-step working mechanism. It has two functions, cooling, and heating.

How Mini-Splits Work for Indoor Cooling

  • The process begins as the outdoor unit compresses refrigerant into a pressurized and high temperature liquid.
  • The heat is transferred to the relatively cooler outdoor air. As the refrigerant becomes cooler it then passes through an expansion device which results in a significant reduction in pressure and temperature.
  • This cold refrigerant travels to the indoor unit through the refrigeration lines.
  • Next, the warmer indoor air is sucked by the air blower and becomes cool upon contact with the evaporator cooling coils. In this stage, excess humidity from the air is also removed.
  • Meanwhile the refrigerant is transformed into a gaseous state as a result of absorbing heat from the indoor air.
  • The refrigerant then returns to the outdoor unit.
  • Finally, the compressor in the outdoor unit transforms the gas into high temperature liquid again through the exothermic process facilitated by the heat exchanger. This causes heat to be expelled from the refrigerant, which is why the outdoor units blow out hot air.
  • Once the refrigerant cools, it is again sent back to the expansion device to repeat the cycle.

How Mini-Splits Work for Indoor Heating

As previously mentioned, mini-splits can both perform cooling and heating. Mini-splits have a reverse valve or special switch for heating an indoor space, making the flow of refrigerant reverse in this case.

  • When in heating mode, the outdoor units absorb the heat from the outdoor atmosphere. The relatively warm outdoor air causes the refrigerant liquid to evaporate and turn into a gas.
  • The gas is directed through a compressor, which causes the pressure to increase resulting in a high temperature gas.
  • As the hot refrigerant travels inside, the blower in the indoor units makes the air flow over these warm coils, subsequently warming the surrounding air.
  • As the gaseous refrigerant becomes cool, it is transformed into a liquid state again. When the refrigerant is returned to the outdoor unit, it passes through an expansion device which results in an even greater temperature drop.
  • The refrigerant is warmed and vaporized by the outdoor air before entering the compressor again. Thus the cycle of heating continues.

Do Heat Pumps Work During the Winter?

Earlier versions of the heat pump dating back to the 80s and 90s worked well in moderate temperatures but struggled when temperatures dropped below freezing. Modern heat pumps, however, do not run into this issue. Heat pumps which are designed for colder climates can efficiently handle colder weather — even when the temperature is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius). These cold climate heat pumps are capable of determining the minimum amount of energy needed to provide the desired level of heating and can adjust their output up or down, so that they never waste energy.

Should You Get a Mini-Split Heat Pump for Your Home?

The Department of Energy in the US underlines various advantages of getting mini-splits at homes. First of all, mini-splits offer flexible cooling in different rooms of a house. In many cases, four indoor units or heads placed in different rooms are connected to a single outdoor unit. Each of the heads will have its own thermostat for zone-specific cooling or heating. This flexibility of room-wise or zone-wise cooling and heating is also beneficial for saving energy and money. The Department of Energy further states that mini-splits can save up to 30% of energy consumption as they don’t need ducts.

An easy installation process is another advantage of getting mini-splits for your home. Moreover, these systems offer more flexibility in interior design as the indoor units can be wall-mounted or suspended from the ceiling. You will also find many floor-standing models of mini-split indoor units.

Having mentioned the benefits of mini-splits, these systems are ideal for specific types of homes. Mini-splits are great for cooling and HVAC care in older homes because installing a new duct system can be challenging in these homes. Further, homes with unique historical architecture should go for mini-splits as the HVAC systems. These systems are also suitable for home add-ons or extensions as they can condition the air of that specific space with an easy installation of a mini-split system. In simple words, if you choose mini-splits for home extensions, you will not need to redesign the entire HVAC system of your home.

Moreover, mini-splits are ideal for homes where renovation for installing ducts can be challenging and expensive.

How Much Does it Cost to Install a Mini Split Heat Pump?

The cost of a split system heat pump will depend on a lot of things. The first factor is the number of indoor units or heads you need for a mini-split system. It is possible to get multiple heads installed in multiple rooms of your house, and all the heads can be connected to a single outdoor unit. On average, every additional head will cost you something between $700 and $2300, covering the price of the unit and installation charges.

Another factor determining the cost of mini-split installation is the brand you choose. Also, the efficiency or the Seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) score will impact the cost of a unit. A unit with a higher SEER will cost you more, but it is ideal if you want to pay lower electricity bills. In addition, the number of BTU or British Thermal Units needed for your space will determine the cost of your mini-split. Finally, your location and difficulties in the installation will be a vital factor in how much money you need to pay.

Nevertheless, installing a mini-split in your home will likely cost between $5000 and $18500.

Final Words:

In summary, mini-split systems have similar engineering to the traditional split systems used in home HVAC setups. However, they can perform cooling and heating both and offer more flexibility with zone-specific cooling or heating. Further, being more energy-efficient, these systems can be cost-saving solutions for all homeowners in the long run.

Mini-splits are expensive and need professional installation for proper functioning. So, you should consult a home or HVAC contractor near you to choose the right mini-split system and proper installation.

Smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke automatically and warn you of the dangers of a potential fire with a sharp, distinctive sound. All-in-one smoke alarms consist of a sensor which immediately detects smoke and an alarm which is loud enough to alert everyone.


Progression of Smoke Alarms

Smoke detectors were invented a century ago and have rapidly evolved over the decades. With continuous efforts, scientists have developed sensors, alarms, strobe lights, voice features, etc. Smoke alarms today commonly work with the utilization of a battery backup and the option to be hardwired into the electrical system of the house.


How Do Smoke Alarms Work?

Smoke alarms work by sensing dangerous smoke particles in the air that can lead to a fire. Many homes today have smoke alarms wired right into the household electrical system. In addition, some homes have interconnected smoke alarms. This means if one alarm in the home sounds then the others sound as well. Presently, the two main types of smoke alarms are photoelectric and ionization.


Photoelectric Smoke Alarm – Senses small slow smoldering flames

A photoelectric smoke alarm consists of a chamber through which light passes. Inside of this smoke alarm, there is a light beam and sensor placed at 90-degree angles from one another. If smoke enters this chamber, the light beam will be scattered by the smoke particles and will activate the sensor. These smoke alarms are capable of detecting smoke particles from small flames before they result in a major fire. Photoelectric smoke detectors are quick and less prone to false alarms. These alarms are more effective at detecting fire originates from a smoldering source, like burning wires or a lit cigarette that falls into a couch cushion. Smoldering fires may fill a home with dangerous gases before a fire ever erupts.


Ionization Smoke Alarm – Senses rapid fire flame

An ionization smoke alarm consists of two electrically charged plates within a chamber. This allows a current of ionized air to flow between the plates. When smoke is present, the flow of ions breaks, and the current flow is reduced which then activates the alarm. These alarms are generally more responsive small smoke particles produced by flaming and fast fires such as thin fabrics, paper, and kitchen grease fires.


Potential Problems and Hazards

In one quarter of the homes with smoke alarms, the smoke alarms are not operational. Missing batteries, dead batteries, and disconnected detectors are usually the culprit. When gone undetected a fire can quickly spread and become difficult to control.


Be Prepared

Have an escape plan. Smoke and flame can spread quickly so you need to react quickly. It is vital that you and your family know what to do on hearing a smoke alarm. You should plan an escape route from every area of the home and identify a safe area to meet outside the home. You should rehearse the escape plan with your family. Walk through and identify obstacles that may slow you down such as windows that are jammed or exits that are crowded with storage etc.


Advised Maintenance

  • Smoke alarms come with an ideal life span of 10 years, but this does not mean that you should rest assured they work smoothly.
  • The battery should be checked annually.
  • Performing power tests once a month can ensure sound and sensor are working.
  • The new battery should be replaced  according to the manufacturer recommendation.
  • Clean the smoke alarms using a damp cloth and remove any dust nearby.


Smoke Alarm Installation Tips 

  • It is good practice to install smoke alarms 10 feet away from the kitchen.
  • Install smoke alarms in every room and every floor for the best safety.
  • You should install smoke alarms on the ceiling.
  • Always consider an expert to install the hardwired system for interconnected smoke alarms and manually check it regularly.
  • You can install a combination of photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms for added safety.
  • Consider installing smoke alarms with strobe lights or vibration for anyone who is hearing impaired.


Asphalt shingles are the most commonly used roofing material in the U.S. Its estimated that three quarters of roofs are protected by these shingles. This is in large part due to their durability and resistance to temperature and other external conditions like winds, fire, etc. Furthermore, asphalt shingles are relatively budget friendly and offer a simple yet versatile installation process.

Asphalt shingles are available many varieties, each of which having their unique advantages and disadvantages. They are generally comprised of a base material which gives the shingles  strength and shape, an asphalt layer which provides a water resistant barrier, and a granular surface that reflects UV radiation and provides added durability, texture, and color.

Organic and Fiberglass Based Singles

Organic asphalt shingles consist of a base made from organic materials such as cellulose, wood, cardboard, or paper. These types of shingles are then coated over with a layer of asphalt. Organic shingles are typically heavier and thicker resulting in greater tear resistance and durability. These are, however,  more vulnerable to fires because of the organic matter base. Due to this disadvantage, the manufacture or organic shingles was brought to a halt around 2008, though many were installed during the years that followed.

Fiberglass shingles have a base layer of glass mat fibers attached to the urea-formaldehyde resin. The glass base material is then overlapped with asphalt making it more resistant to external factors. These base materials are safe and perform better in a fire or other like situations. Fiberglass shingles are lighter and thinner than organic shingles, making them the preferable choice for roofers. Fiberglass shingles are considered to perform better in windstorms, though, both types of shingles hold up well in most climates.


Architectural and 3-Tab Shingles

3-Tab shingles have a uniform pattern and shape that makes them easy to identify. They are made from a single layer of asphalt, which makes them a lighter and budget-friendly option compared to other roofing types. 3 Tab shingles have a typical lifespan ranging from 15-20 years.

Architectural shingles are often referred to as “dimensional” or “laminated” shingles. These are comprised of two layers of asphalt and fiberglass to provide a thick and durable surface. Architectural shingles are patterned in a manner that resembles original wood type shingles. Architectural shingles are more expensive compared to 3-tabs, but offer greater quality and strength due to their thickness. Architectural shingles have a typical lifespan ranging from 20-30 years.


Shingle Wear

Asphalt shingles deteriorate from exposure to UV radiation. As the shingles age, granules are removed by the elements which ultimately exposes the asphalt to harmful UV rays. Other factors that cause a roof to wear include leaves and debris, ice and snow, excessive heat, inadequate venting of the roof space underneath, low roof slope, multiple roofing layers and improper installation methods. When cracking, blistering, and or curling of the shingles become evident its necessary to hire a roofer to provide the required repairs or replacement of the roof covering.

Tips for Maintaining Asphalt Shingles

  • Regular cleaning extends the lifespan of asphalt shingles and helps mitigate problems which could have easily been avoided.
  • You should also regularly check the gutters to ensure storm water and ice melt are draining away from the roof and structure.
  • Check for standing water on the roof. This condition can deteriorate the asphalt shingles and result in significant a roof leak.
  • Make sure trees nearby are trimmed to prevent limbs from scraping the surface of your shingles or falling limbs from damaging the roof. Shade cast by trees can block the sunlight from evaporating water and melting snow. Prolonged exposure to moisture can result in accelerated wear of the shingles in these areas.
  • Remove moss and algae growth early on. Left unchecked, these fungi can accelerate the aging of your roof and cause excess granule loss.
  • Check what the warranty covers and choose the asphalt shingle that covers repair and replacement.
  • Hire a pro to perform routine roof check-ups to help identify potential issues.