Hundreds of dollars are leaking out of your home each year if your house isn’t properly insulated. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to reduce both your power bill and your carbon footprint. Here are a few simple and sustainable steps to keep air in your house and money in your pocket.
Testing for leaks
Before you begin fixing the areas of your home that are leaking air, you’ll need to know where they are. Here are several ways to find them yourself before you resort to calling a contractor.
Hand and candle tests
Go outside on a cold day and walk around your house, holding out your hand to feel for drafts of air. Check all doors, windows, and bathroom and kitchen air vents. This is the best way to find large leaks. A good way to test for smaller leaks is to hold a candle around all parts of a window or door frame. If the candle flickers, you’ve got escaping air.
Depressurizing your home
To depressurize your home, turn off the furnace and close all windows and exterior doors on a cold day. Turn on all the fans in your kitchen and bathrooms. Light a stick of incense and walk around your house, holding it to the edges of doors, windows and vents. The incense will blow out in the areas that you need to plug. You can also use an air leak detector or hire a contractor to perform a blower door test to see where your home is losing air. Once you know where your problems are, you’ll want to organize your findings by making a list of everything that needs to be fixed, along with how you are going to fill each leak.
Places where the most air escapes
Windows and Doors
You can put a plastic film cover over windows. You can buy a kit at most hardware stores and you can use the heat of a hair dryer to get it to shrink to fit the window. In general, caulking is a good way to seal windows at joints and connections that won’t be opening and closing. Use weather stripping to seal the parts that will be moving. You can also put foam sealant between the frame of the window and the frame of the house. The same goes for doors. Weather stripping all entrances to your house will go a long way in keeping your house insulated.
From Top to Bottom: Attic and Basement Leaks
Most energy lost in leaks comes from the basement and attic. The first focus is to plug big holes. Doing this is one of the quickest ways to start seeing a huge difference in how much air you’re losing. You can use caulk to fill in all the smaller spaces. Also, make sure you weather-strip the attic access door. Use aluminum screen material to cover damaged attic vents. Keep in mind that doing work in the attic and basement can get messy, so wear disposable gloves and fully cover your body. In the attic, watch out for nails sticking through the roof deck.
Dryer vents may be one of the most obvious places that air is getting out your home, and if you have a single-flap vent, it can easily get caught open. Replace it with a louver vent that has four flaps that open and close.
Up Through The Chimney
Lots of air can get out through your chimney, furnaces and gas-fired water heater vents. To seal these leaks, make sure you use fire resistant materials. Sheetrock, sheet metal and furnace cement caulk are all good choices. Make sure to completely close up fireplaces that you seldom use.
Don’t let your electrical boxes contribute to your power bill in more than one way. First turn off power to the electrical box and remove the cover plate. If the space between the electrical box and the drywall is less than a quarter inch, use caulk to fill it. If it is bigger, use foam sealant.
What other suggestions do you have for finding and fixing air leaks in your home?
Garret Stembridge works for www.extraspace.com, which is reducing energy consumption at self-storage facilities in hundreds of cities. You can visit them on Staten Island at the Richmond Terrace self storage yard, found on the web at extraspace.com.
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