Breathing Easier: Simple and Effective Duct Sealing for Better Air Quality and Energy Efficiency

Aeroseal
Written by David Caldwell

As energy prices continue rising worldwide, home and business owners are pushed to find more ways to reduce expenses while lowering their carbon footprints. Fortunately, one company is emerging to help solve a fundamental building problem.

After years of patient research and development in its Dayton, Ohio headquarters, Aeroseal is helping to create hyper-efficient ducts to help home and building owners live and work more cheaply and environmentally responsibly. With proper implementation of its technology, the company hopes to reduce building carbon emissions by one gigaton each year.

Its flagship product is an aerosolized, water-based, non-toxic formula which is injected into duct networks. The formula is then naturally drawn to any cracks, leaks or incomplete seals in the network, over which it then forms completely airtight seals guaranteed for at least ten years, and has been stress-tested for a potential forty-year lifespan.

The process can range from several hours to as short as sixty minutes, depending on the size of the house in question, and patented sensors provide real-time air efficiency updates. Upon treatment completion, customers receive a printed certificate of air quality and efficiency, as part of Aeroseal’s guarantee of quality.

The company also offers commercial duct sealing, helping raise the energy efficiency and air quality of hospitals, office buildings, high-rise apartments, university dormitories, and military complexes. As an example, the company recently completed a major overhaul of Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), performing duct-sealing work on two high-rise towers. Aeroseal was able to reduce air loss from over 15,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM) to 257, an average leakage reduction of 98.3 percent.

As well as improving ductwork in existing construction, the company offers full building envelope sealing of ongoing construction projects through its AeroBarrier technology. Using a single crew, Aeroseal can provide complete air sealing in one-third of the time needed for manual sealing, with the entire process taking between sixty and ninety minutes.

The result is a fully sealed and pressurized building envelope guaranteed to meet any ENERGY STAR®, LEED, Passive House, or Net Zero requirement. The technology can be applied pre- or post-drywall (sheetrock), and will adhere to various building materials, including drywall, treated or untreated lumber, metal, and oriented strand board (OSB). AeroBarrier can help contractors save money, time, and infrastructure, making it the ideal building envelope sealant.

As an example, Aeroseal was contracted to provide sealing to a Seattle area townhouse complex. The developer’s stated goal was to provide energy efficiency of twenty percent over code cost-effectively. Using AeroBarrier helped drop the townhouses’ ACH50 air loss from an average of 9.28 to 1.49, helping the development earn a five-star Green Built rating. An ACH50 rating indicates the number of times that the air volume changes per hour at fifty pascals pressure differential and shows the energy efficiency of a building.

The company estimates that ninety-five percent of all American homes have leaky ducts and that an average of thirty percent of heating costs pay for wasted air, adding up to $25 billion in annual waste in the USA alone. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) states that the typical home loses between twenty-five percent and forty percent of its conditioned air due to leaky ducts, forcing heaters and air conditioning units to work harder, wear out sooner, and consume more energy. Aeroseal’s products can help homes and businesses operate at maximum efficiency, saving money, infrastructure, and irreplaceable natural resources.

Additionally, sealed ducts mean higher air quality through dust reduction. Particularly in older homes and offices with equally old ductwork, Aeroseal can help block dust, allergens, and other pollutants from entering. The clean air is also low-humidity, preventing mold build-up in largely unreachable duct networks. Finally, sealed ducts provide greater comfort through superior air flow and even temperatures, as poorly sealed homes may be warmer and stuffier on upper floors and colder below. Aeroseal provides comfortable living and peace of mind in homes and offices of any size.

The company’s story begins in 1993 with Dr. Mark Modera, an engineering professor at the DOE’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and the University of California, Davis, who today serves as Aeroseal’s Scientific Advisor. While working at the national laboratory energy efficiency projects, Dr. Modera discovered massive energy inefficiency in plain sight. “He learned there was an enormous problem with leaky ductwork and the role that plays in inefficient homes and buildings,” says Peter Eberly, Senior Director of Marketing.

Dr. Modera’s new product was well-received, but he found it difficult to balance his projects with his academic career and sold the technology to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning giant Carrier. From there, it landed on the desk of Amit Gupta, at the time a product manager at Carrier but now Aeroseal’s Chief Executive Officer. Gupta had developed a reputation for embracing unconventional projects, so Dr. Modera’s work intrigued him.

“As he learned more and more about the duct-sealing technology… he realized that it had enormous potential, from a market and ‘fit’ standpoint,” Eberly says. More specifically, the product had a fundamentally positive potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Amit recognized that at a big company like Carrier, this was “not even a rounding error,” but he had the opportunity to go private. With the help of some friends and family, Amit worked to acquire the technology from Carrier, and Aeroseal as a company was born twelve years ago.

From such humble beginnings, today Aeroseal has serviced over 200,000 homes and earned awards from the likes of Popular Science and the United States Department of Energy’s ‘Energy 100’ award. Eberly and his colleagues see it as a ‘right place, right time’ business. While growth has been steady, this spiked last year as the company approached outside investment groups including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the Bill Gates-led energy investment fund, to accelerate the company’s technologies, advance its mission, and become the default in duct and building envelope-sealing solutions.

The funding is being invested into Aeroseal’s research and development (R&D), all of which is done in-house. “We have an extensive engineering and R&D team,” Eberly remarks. “We’re constantly looking to make the equipment faster and more efficient.”

While the products are simple and easily applied, Eberly says the company is working to upscale production to meet growing demand. “The key for us, from an R&D perspective, is to make a seal faster, less expensive, and more efficient for our dealer partners who do this work.”

The technology, at its core, has stayed the same over time. What has unmistakably changed, however, is the growing importance of improving building efficiency, which Eberly says tends to be overlooked as a carbon contributor. “Folks think of cars. Folks think of manufacturing,” he says. “They don’t think of their houses or buildings that they’re living in as greenhouse gas contributors.” He elaborates that, in traditional thinking, leaky ductwork was seen as an inescapable construction reality.

Fortunately, Aeroseal’s primary advantage in combating climate change is its ability to provide consumers with a largely passive solution. “It doesn’t require them to make a contribution or a difference, doesn’t require them to change their lifestyle,” Eberly says, adding that a single afternoon duct-sealing appointment can solve a building’s efficiency problems for years, if not for its entire lifespan.

Legislation such as the U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act provides significant tax incentives for consumers to patronize companies like Aeroseal. The technology is one of several highlighted as an energy improvement measure. At the more local level, the company has dealers in all fifty states and in twenty-seven countries, overwhelmingly through solar and HVAC contractors and providers.

Eberly notes that, in addition to government incentives, changes in local building codes have spurred the company’s expansion. “Adoption of our technologies often comes in bursts geographically,” he remarks. “Our technologies make it easier… to ensure that code is met.” As Aeroseal continues to grow, new management roles in policy management and international business development will continue to help the company navigate domestic and global building codes and business opportunities.

Aeroseal is rapidly moving beyond its initial start-up phase and, as such, has been developing its own unique culture. This is particularly a passion project of CEO Amit Gupta, who realizes it must exemplify next-generation business.

“Company culture isn’t just an enabler—it is vital to becoming a great company, to meeting our business objectives, and hitting our lofty ambitions,” Eberly says. “It is fuel for our business success and the lynchpin to ensuring we have the right team in place to tackle our big goals.” To this end, Gupta takes a personal stake in ensuring new hires are well-acquainted with the company’s core values, and that veterans reacquaint themselves regularly as well.

As Aeroseal’s growth continues unabated, Eberly and his colleagues are confident that more consumers will see the simplicity and effectiveness of the company’s offerings. It has built solid stockpiles of materials and parts to keep costs manageable and lead times low and is regularly testing secondary materials to serve as alternates. This ensures that it suffers very little downtime, as more consumers realize that the problem of leaky ductwork—once thought to be part of the cost of living—can be solved quite easily.

Moreover, Aeroseal acknowledges that climate change solutions must be global. “This is not just a North American challenge,” Eberly says, “and there’s appetite for these solutions at all corners of the globe.”

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