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Sticky Product…Stickier Problems
Original article, HPAC Canada


Figure 1. video cam image with broken dryer connection
Fig 1. The disconnected dryer venting on the video cam.

 

Figure 2. failed dryer venting connection
Fig 2. The disconnected dryer venting - in the ceiling space

  

Sticky Product…Stickier Problems
Copyright (c) 2010, Robert Bean, All rights reserved, originally published in HPAC Canada

We cannot use the brand name but it is known as ‘the handyman's secret weapon,’ also known as “fabric-based tape with rubber adhesive” ala Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (see below), or “a polyethylene, reinforced, multi-purpose pressure sensitive tape with a soft and semi-flexible shell and pressure sensitive adhesive.” It made guys such as Red Green famous, earning the right to add ‘master taper’ to their sparkling resume. But as some learn, certain tape is not all it's quacked up to be and the last thing you want to use on ducts is in fact the handyman's secret weapon. This was validated a few years ago by studies conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) Environmental Energy Technologies Division where researchers discovered that the stuff becomes brittle and fails. You did not need a Ph.D. to figure this out. Any competent sheet metal contractor would tell you the same thing. In fact, if “Do Not Use This Tape On Ducts” was printed on every roll sold at do-it-yourself (DIY) stores we would prevent a significant number of duct leakage problems created by part-time tinsmiths. It would also have prevented an IAQ call that started this way, “Why does our entire house smell like Dipalmitoylethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate?” Ok, they did not say “Dipalmitoylethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate” but they did use the name of a well-known brand of laundry conditioning product. The odorous aroma found a way to spread its bouquet into every nook and cranny of the house. The owners could not figure out how it was happening.

After a few questions such as: “Did your kids play hide and seek with the stuff at their last sleep over?” to “Have you checked your clothes in the closets because the product is supposed to stop static cling but it sticks to your clothes (go figure)?” to “Have you checked to see if there is any air coming out your dryer exhaust hood?” The owner had a eureka moment at this point and came to the same conclusion I had arrived at earlier. Somewhere between the dryer and hood there was a broken dryer venting connection. It was leaking into an equally leaky return air plenum, where it was subsequently distributed through the heating ducts. We needed a video probe for this one. After a call to my buddy Doug Muncaster, who has all the toys, we set out to locate the cracked culprit (see Figure 1). Like all failures, it was in the worst possible location and was accessible only by ripping down portions of a finished ceiling (see Figure 2). The repairs have since been done (braced and clamped) and the video cam is off doing what it does best on some other trouble shooting call but the headaches this once sticky product creates for IAQ and energy efficiency are long term. They often cannot be resolved without major destruction and then restoration work. To this I say, the handyman's secret weapon is cool stuff but it is in need of a name change and should not be sold to DIY’r tinsmiths, unless of course the DIY’r is a master taper with a hit television program.


Bibliography

  1. Sherman, M., Walker, I., Can Duct-Tape take the heat?, Energy Performance of Buildings Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory University of California, LBNL-41434 <accessed Dec. 22, 2010>


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