At 5:30 this morning I donned my space suit (dust mask, gloves, work clothes) and climbed into the attic. I should have done it last Saturday, but it hadn't really got hot yet and I was imagining that we could just go all summer without turning on the AC (as we live in Las Vegas, Nevada this demonstrates a serious disconnection with reality).
Many years ago I discovered a leak in the big air duct in the attic, the one that leads from the intake to the machine. At some point someone had tried to climb over the pipe and put their knee down on it, flattening the duct and popping a seam open. Some cracked and crumbly duct tape from an earlier repair was no longer doing any good. Hot, smelly, dusty attic air was being sucked in to my air conditioning unit and then spewed around my house.
Back then, I used fresh duct tape to secure a sheet of aluminum foil over the crack, and that worked for a few seasons. Then last winter I could smell attic air every time the furnace came on. I determined that this year I would not turn on the air conditioning until I had done the repair right.
The grey stuff we call "duct tape" is not very good for repairing ducts. It gets old, cracks, and fails. Nowadays they make a special tape just for repairing metal duct work. I bought some. Armed with my tape, scissors, and a roll of aluminum flashing, I climbed up through the hole and into the attic.
Sure enough, my aluminum foil repair had a rip in it. I tore it away, dusted the duct off, and started the repair. Dust, dust everywhere! Every minute or so I had to wipe dust off the duct so the tape would stick. Crouched precariously with my feet planted on rafters and sharp roofing nail ends inches from my back, I worked while my legs got shaky from the strain.
At last, "TURN ON THE AIR! I WANT TO TEST IT!" I shouted.
"Okay!" my husband's voice called up from the other side of the ceiling.
I felt all around with my hands, but no air moved near my repair. While I was up there I checked the rest of the pipe and found another small leak which I taped up. Last of all I wrapped the insulation blankets around the duct and taped them in place.
I got back out of the attic at about 6:40. After I had cleaned up I stumbled down to the front room and collapsed in a chair. It happened to be the chair that sits right where the air from the vent blows - the best spot in the house on a hot day. Cool, refreshing air washed over me, and not a hint of attic smell. Mission accomplished.