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Stack Effect

Aside from disrupting your home’s air quality, the stack effect also affects its energy efficiency, which leads to costly bills.

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It’s not uncommon for homeowners in Michigan to have a crawl space. Moreover, this type of lower-grade area is so popular that you can find it all over North America. The reason why we love it so much is its main pro. You can use it as additional storage space. However, like everything else, crawl spaces have their negatives too. 

The most common issue with crawl spaces is the stack effect. Namely, this phenomenon refers to the movement of air throughout your home. It affects both temperature and moisture levels, which in turn disrupts the air quality and energy efficiency of your home. Air quality is in a direct link with your health while energy efficiency will mean higher utility costs. Both are bad, as no one wants to compromise their health or use their hard-earned money for unnecessary bills. 

stack effect in action

The unfortunate thing about the stack effect is that not many homeowners understand how dangerous it is, even if builders and home designers constantly talk about it. This leads to an unpleasant realization once you begin to have health issues or your bills skyrocket.  

Here, we’ll lead you through the ins and outs of the stack effect, covering what it is in detail and how to prevent it. 

What Is the Stack Effect? 

Figuring out air movement and heat flow around your home can be a bit tricky. One of the reasons for the confusion is unclear information that some home repair professionals can provide you with. They often say that warm air rises while heat doesn’t. But how so? Isn’t it logical for heat to follow warm air? 

Scientifically speaking, warm air rises to fill the void left behind by cool air at the top of your home. As it goes up, the pressure at the bottom of your home begins to drop. This means that warm air acts like it wants to escape from your home and the low pressure in the crawl space. 

The Stack Effect and the Seasons 

The stack effect brings about two major problems for homeowners depending on the seasons. Like we already mentioned, during winter, this phenomenon causes heat to rise alongside warm air because it’s less dense than the cold outside air surrounding it. The other problem occurs in the summer when the heat goes down into the below-grade areas of your home, following the cold air. Both scenarios are the opposite of what you want for your home. 

When it’s cold outside, it makes sense to heat your home. However, the heat will go out through even the slightest of gaps at the top and the bottom of your structure as cold air replaces it. The opposite of that will happen in the summer when you want to cool down your home. All the little cracks and fractures in your crawl space and attic will allow temperature loss. As such, you’ll have to use more energy to supply your heater and AC system. 

What to Look out For 

The stack effect is behind three major concerns that will affect both your comfort and health. Here’s what they are: 

  1. Entry and exit points: For the stack effect to cause you any problems, you first need to have cracks and holes in your home. The outside air will use the entry points on your structure to go inside and disrupt the pressure which will eventually force the hot air to leave through exit points. The best way to deal with these holes is to contact professional help. 
  2. Upward air movement: The reality is that the stack effect will occur regardless of what we do with our home. The nature of warm air is to move upwards and allow the cool one to replace it at the bottom. And no matter what the temperature in your home is, warm and cool air will move depending on their densities. 

    Unfortunately, having vents in the crawl space doesn’t help. Depending on their state, the air will act in one way or the other. If your ventilation is in poor condition, the cool air will stay in place while warm air goes up. This will lead to warm air going around your home and eventually leaving through the attic. 
  1. Airborne particles: Numerous studies say that around 50% of the air in the crawl space leaves and ends up in the living space of the home above. This means that you’ll eventually breathe in all the nasty particles that thrive down there. These may include various allergens, dust mites, mold spores, and numerous other microorganisms. 

How Does the Stack Effect Affect Me? 

The main thing about the stack effect is that it doesn’t only disrupt the temperature in your home. It also affects health. 

  • Health issues: As we’ve said, the stack effect will take its toll on your health. Allergens, dust mites, and various other microorganisms traveling up from your crawl space will affect your respiratory system. These health problems will either manifest through a runny nose or some other more serious form of infection. Therefore, it’s essential to prevent this from happening. 
  • Mold and mildew: Besides health issues, the cold air from the crawl space can bring tiny mold spores into your home. Their small size allows them to float in the air without any problem and even pass through the slightest of cracks. And once they do, they will attach to damp walls and begin to spread around. 
  • High utility costs: The stack effect isn’t too kind on your wallet either. It will cause you to use more energy both in the summer and winter. As you try to heat your place or cool it down, your bills will increase. This will only further lead to higher utility costs. 
  • Costly repairs: Another problem you’ll have with this phenomenon is that it can create serious structural damage which you’ll need to repair afterward. However, the repairs won’t be cheap as the stack effect will up the humidity levels in your home and allow rot to occur. If this happens, it’s best to immediately contact professional help. 

How Can You Resolve These Problems? 

In case you’re having trouble with the stack effect, you should encapsulate your crawl space. Luckily, you can do so with professional help at FSM. Our team will visit your home and offer a free inspection of the situation. After that, they’ll present you with a series of solutions that will fit both your requirements and wallet. It’s key to point out once more that you should act fast before anything serious happens.

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