This article was originally published in the November/December 1998 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online November/December 1998


Duct Tape Redux

It's been difficult to avoid the media attention in the past few months on the inability of duct tape to seal ducts. You may have seen articles in Time magazine and The New York Times, or watched feature stories on any one of several television networks. The Canadian Broadcasting Company had extensive coverage--and feedback--and even The Times of London picked up the story. But for readers of Home Energy magazine, none of this news was news because they already had the inside scoop.

The current spate of media reports on duct tape grew out of a press release from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory about scientist Max Sherman's research. His findings were no surprise to readers of Home Energy because we published a detailed article about the research of Sherman and Iain Walker in our July/August issue. But that article wasn't Home Energy readers' introduction to the topic of duct tape deficiencies. Home Energy has covered the problem of ineffective duct tape for several years. Even as far back as 1993 we devoted an entire special issue to leaky ducts.

Since our most recent article preceded the Berkeley Lab press release, Sherman listed the Home Energy Web site in the release and our Web version of his article as a source of additional information. Thousands of curious people visited to learn more. Demand was so heavy that it crashed our Web server!

The big differences between the media fanfare over duct tape failures and Home Energy's version of the story is that we tell our readers how to measure the severity of the problem (with blower doors) and we offer techniques on how to properly seal ducts (with mastic). We've printed at least six articles carefully describing the proper procedures for identifying leaks and applying mastic. Just as important, readers know where to get the equipment and materials because the vendors advertise in Home Energy.

The effect of this hullabaloo about duct tape should not be underestimated. We expect that the media attention will convince many code authorities to finally prohibit duct tape (and require mastic) and will prompt others to seriously enforce existing regulations restricting duct tape use. This is also the opportunity of a lifetime for the building performance industry. Tens of millions of people have now been sensitized to a building performance issue. Armed with this knowledge, they will be much more likely to seek out and hire contractors prepared to offer duct tape alternatives.


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