For Immediate Release
1679 Clearlake Road
Cocoa, FL 32922-5703
Phone: (321) 638-1004
FAX: (321) 638-1010
Florida Solar Energy Center Study Exposes Leaks in Air Handlers and Ducts
If you're looking for a way to reduce your air conditioning bills, check your air
distribution system for leaks.
According to a recent study conducted by the Florida Solar Energy Center
(FSEC), this is where most Central Florida homes waste energy - through leaky air
handlers and ducts. The amount of leakage in an average 2,000 square foot home can
cost the homeowner 10-20 percent more in annual heating and cooling costs compared
to an airtight system.
FSEC researchers discovered this while conducting one of the first significant
studies measuring leakage of installed air handlers. The Florida Department of
Community Affairs code division funded the study called "Field Testing to
Characterize the Airtightness and Operating Pressures of Residential Air Handlers."
FSEC researchers Chuck Withers and Jim Cummings - along with help from Janet
McIlvaine, Jeff Sonne and Matt Lombardi - measured air handler and duct leakage in
30 homes built last year in Central Florida.
They found leakage in ductwork was higher than expected. Withers said he was
disappointed that "after several years of educating and training many contractors
about the severity of duct leakage, we are still finding significant amounts of duct
leakage in new homes." Even if contractors do a good job sealing the ductwork, the
air handler cabinet they purchase from the manufacturer can be leaky.
Wasting conditioned air isn't the only problem resulting from leaky systems.
A leaky air handler in the garage can draw in car exhaust fumes or toxins from
chemicals stored near it. According to the FSEC study, the average installed air
handler cabinet allows six percent of the system's airflow to leak in from the
garage or attic. The best location for the entire system, ducts and air handler, is
in a conditioned space.
"The good news is there are test methods and qualified people to evaluate the
overall efficiency of the air distribution system," Withers explained. "Most
homeowners, even those who recently moved into new homes, may be well advised to
take advantage of any utility or independent duct-sealing programs." Although, the
best time to ensure a home will have an airtight system is during the design phase.
Planning an airtight system before construction has other advantages besides
potential energy savings. New homes in Florida can receive energy credits under the
new energy code if a qualified energy rater's test verifies the air distribution
system is substantially leak free. For more information, go to
The Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central
Florida, is the largest and most active state-supported energy research center in
the country. Current research activities include solar water and pool heating, solar
electric systems, energy-efficient buildings, alternative transportation systems,
hydrogen fuel and other energy areas. For more information, call the FSEC Public
Information Office at (321) 638-1015 or go to www.fsec.ucf.edu.