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Finding Air Leaks with a Wizard Stick

 

A great new tool for home performance diagnostic testing has come onto the market - the Wizard Stick. It's basically a small, handheld theatrical fog machine that uses the Wizard Stick, a great device to find air leaks with a Blower Door (photo from Educational Innovations website)same non-toxic fluid as its larger, more prolific brethren.

For the home energy auditor or the home performance contractor, this device provides an effective way to find air leaks and a compelling way to demonstrate them to homeowners. With a Blower Door depressurizing the home, you can walk around with the Wizard Stick, pull the trigger, and watch to see if the smoke just hovers near where it's released or is blown away by air being sucked into the house through a leak.

It makes a nice stream of smoke and produces it quickly when you pull the trigger. Although it doesn't have the neutral buoyancy that chemical smoke puffers have, I haven't noticed that it's far enough away from neutral to be a problem for home energy auditors.

And of course, it has the big advantage of not being toxic. The common chemical smoke puffers available use titanium tetrachloride, which is very corrosive. Several years ago, I kept one of these in a metal locker, and even though it was in a plastic bottle inside a plastic bag, the inside of that locker showed significant corrosion after a short time. I'm happy to find a non-toxic smoke device that works.

Wizard Stick being used to find air leakage during a Blower Door testIn the photo at left, you see me holding the Wizard Stick near an air conditioning vent during a Blower Door test. The air rushing out of the vent (with the AC turned off!) indicates leakage in the duct system, which also counts as infiltration when the AC isn't running.

What makes this story even more interesting to me is that the Wizard Stick has reconnected me with a company from my past. I'm a recovering academic, having taught physics at both the high school and college levels, and one of my favorite places to buy fun physics demonstration products was Educational Innovations. As it turns out, they sell the Wizard Stick for the best price I could find on the web. Check 'em out.

(And while you're there, go ahead and pick up one of my favorites, the Solar Tube, a 60' long black plastic trash bag that floats like a zeppelin when heated by the Sun and becomes a kid magnet when you take it out to a park.)

[Photo at top right from Educational Innovations website.]

Comments

Nice! This use of the Wizard Stick is (I think) becoming more popular than the "just for fun" users.  
 
I sought out this sort of article looking for people interesting in reviewing the Wizard Stick for us, as we sell tons of 'em on our own site. If you'd like to write a review, please do by clicking here
 
Oh..and as a humble plug, our store sells the Wizard Stick for $0.04 more than EI, BUT we charge less for shipping so our overall cost is a better deal. Thanks!
Posted @ Tuesday, June 22, 2010 7:36 PM by Eric B.
Thanks for your comment and the invitation to review the Wizard Stick, Eric. I'll try to get over there and do that. I'll also let our raters know about your store. 
 
I've been wondering if maybe more energy auditors than teachers were buying Wizard Sticks. It seems that maybe that's the case.
Posted @ Wednesday, June 23, 2010 8:57 AM by Allison Bailes
Than teachers, I'd say almost certainly. Educators (and "Edutainers" like me) mostly use the stick to demonstrate lasers or blow fog rings out of an Airzooka. And I don't know too many teachers even doing that. 
 
Dedicated Energy Auditors, though, particularly larger companies dedicated to the field--more often order the more appropriate (but lesser known) Zero Toys product, the Airflow Indicator Kit. It's a Wizard Stick packed with a bunch of accessories that make it an even better air-leak/airflow indication tool.  
 
Thanks! I was amazed to find somebody that thinks this thing is as cool as I do. 
Posted @ Wednesday, June 23, 2010 9:24 AM by Eric B.
I purchased the wizard stick and am not very happy with it. It constantly is leaking and unless you hold it at a minimum 45 degree angle, the smoke does not come out the end. Now this is a problem when doing spillage testing on DHW.
Posted @ Thursday, July 08, 2010 9:42 PM by Josh
Hey Josh, 
 
Your Wizard Stick is not functioning properly. You shouldn't have to hold it at an angle to get lots of fog. I'd contact your retailer (where you bought it) and ask for an exchange (or at least look into what their return policy is).
Posted @ Saturday, July 10, 2010 7:06 AM by Eric B.
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