Air Distribution Retrofit Strategies for Affordable Housing

J. Dentz, F. Conlin, P. Holloway, D. Podorson, K. Varshney

Research output: NRELSubcontract Report


In multifamily and attached buildings, traditional duct sealing methods are often impractical or costly and disruptive because of the difficulty in accessing leakage sites. In this project, two retrofit duct sealing techniques -- manually-applied sealants and injecting a spray sealant, were implemented in several low-rise multi-unit buildings. An analysis on the cost and performance of the twomethods are presented. Each method was used in twenty housing units: approximately half of each group of units are single story and the remainder two-story. Results show that duct leakage to the outside was reduced by an average of 59% through the use of manual methods, and by 90% in the units where the injected spray sealant was used. It was found that 73% of the leakage reduction in homes thatwere treated with injected spray sealant was attributable to the manual sealing done at boots, returns and the air handler. The cost of manually-applying sealant ranged from $275 to $511 per unit and for the injected spray sealant the cost was $700 per unit. Modeling suggests a simple payback of 2.2 years for manual sealing and 4.7 years for the injected spray sealant system. Utility bills werecollected for one year before and after the retrofits. Utility bill analysis shows 14% and 16% energy savings using injected spray sealant system and hand sealing procedure respectively in heating season whereas in cooling season, energy savings using injected spray sealant system and hand sealing were both 16%.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages59
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Work performed by Advanced Residential Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) Collaborative, New York, New York

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/SR-5500-61432

Other Report Number

  • DOE/GO-102014-4394


  • aeroseal
  • air distribution systems
  • airflow
  • Building America
  • duct leakage
  • duct pressurization
  • duct sealing
  • injected spray sealant
  • residential
  • residential buildings


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