Small Gaps Can Mean Big Waste

Our bedroom has a vaulted ceiling.  It also sits on the second floor and catches a lot of afternoon sun.  So, it’s typically the hottest room in the house on warm, sunny days.

Even so, I was starting to get a little tired of exactly how hot it was getting and decided recently to get to the bottom of it.

I was noticing that the temperature in the room would rise much faster than in other areas in the house.  I expected that the things I outlined above would have an impact, but after spending some time watching the temperature fluctuations, I figured there was more to the story.  I started seeing the temperatures rising even before the sun hit it.  And, later in the day, I would see the temperatures stay warm even after the sun stopped hitting it direct.

I knew that I had some sort of leak or problem somewhere and was determined to fix it.

This past Christmas, I asked for and received a Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector.  This is a really nifty tool that will read the temperature of surfaces. It works really easy.  You turn it on and point to a spot that sets your baseline.  It will read out the temperature and shine a green light on the surface.  Move it around to where you think you have possible leaks, and it will both update the digital readout, as well as change the color of the light that shines to blue or red, indicating a temperature chane from your ‘baseline’ reading.

I’d used this over the winter to find a leak around the seal for the front door.  I suspected a leak, and when the light changed to blue, sure enough I found it.

This time, since I was looking for abnormally warmer temperatures, this time I was looking for the red spot.

I set the baseline on a wall, and began moving around.  I suspected the warmth was coming from a window, so I trained it all around the bay windows and window box.  While it was a little bit warmer, it didn’t seem to be any more so than usual.  I started going around the walls and up on the ceiling when, voosh, it turned red at the peak of the ceiling.

But, not all the way along the peak, just around the ceiling fan.

Upon closer inspection, I found the problem.  The fan is installed at the peak of the cathedral ceiling.  In order to create a flat surface to mount it, the builders installed a box that the fan hangs from (the box is attached to the rafters).  When I looked, there was a small gap between the top of the fan cover and the box.  Because the mount attaches directly to the rafters, I surmised that the leak was coming in from the attic.

So, the gap was allowing air to come in from the attic, and since we run the fan almost constantly, it was having an even greater effect by drawing air directly from the attic.

The temperature readout was about 12 degrees different in the area immediately surrounding the fan.

I had found my leak!

To seal it, I grabbed a little bit of insulation and stuffed it into the gap.  It’s not noticeable when you look up, but it has sealed that area.  After I did that, I waited a couple of hours and took some new readings.

Sure enough, the temperature around the fan was normal (the light stayed green) and the room no longer heats up like it did.  It still is a little bit warmer than other rooms, but it’s what I would expect.

The part that kills me is that this has probably been like this for the eleven years or so that the house has been standing.  We’ve lived here three years, so I’m just as guilty of assuming that the status quo is OK.  In this case, it was probably about eleven cents worth of insulation that will save a lot of money in heating and cooling costs over the coming years.

If you suspect leaks in your house, this tool will most certainly pay for itself very quickly.  I’d highly recommend it.  Check it out here.

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6 thoughts on “Small Gaps Can Mean Big Waste

  1. I agree on Mike Holmes – he does great things, and has a good show! I have a bottom-floor apartment that, for some reason, has a particularly hot bedroom, too, but I think it's because it's small and has low ceilings. I keep a fan in there and put a can of DampRid in the closet. It's filling with water, so it must be humid in there!

  2. How much did the detector cost? We have a room on the second floor that gets hotter than the other room up there, but I'm pretty sure it's because it gets the most sun all day. Both rooms have two windows each. It would be interesting to see if there really is a 'leak'!

  3. @Serena, I've never heard of Damp Rid but I can sort of imagine what it does based on the name and your description. Sounds like a non-plugging dehumidifier. Might have to check into that just out of curiosity.

    @Penny, I got it as a gift but it is currently selling for $49.99 on Amazon (there's a couple links in the article) but they seem to have had it cheaper in the past (as low as $38) so you might want to set a price tracker on it. https://camelcamelcamel.com/Black-Decker-TLD100-Thermal-Detector/product/B001LMTW2S shows the price history. They've been stuck at $49.99 for awhile but maybe when the heating season comes they might lower the price again.

  4. We have the same bedroom design and it's definitely hotter than other rooms in our house. But not to the extreme you had.

    And, alas, we don't have a ceiling fan.

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