Reduce Draft and Save on Energy Bills
Save on your heating bills by reducing draft and weatherizing your home!
Reducing energy leaks in your home can save you 10-20% in energy costs each year, according to energy.gov. Every older home is bound to have leaks, especially around windows and doors. Even newer homes can have draft, however. Here are some places to check for air leaks:
- Along bottom and sides of doors
- Around windows
- Around outdoor plumbing fixtures
- Around indoor lighting and plumbing fixtures
- At wall junctures, especially ceiling-to-wall joints
- Attic hatches and doors
- Where additions to structures connect
- Electric outlets
- Pet doors
- Outdoor holes in foundation
There are things that determine how energy efficient your windows are: window-rating, number of panes, insulation, and caulk. If you need a window upgrade, be sure to bring up the issue of insulation when having them installed because this is a step that is often skipped. Any gaps will produce draft. Conversely, if the gaps are overstuffed, it could interfere with the window operation. If you have outdoor or indoor trim to replace, you can sometimes use a spray-type insulation on existing windows. However, be sure not to use too much, as it can also interfere with the window function. Tyvek-taping the windows before trim is installed is another excellent way to seal out draft. The last step is caulking, which is something you will probably need to redo at some point in time. Be sure to buy long-lasting, high-rated caulk, and you won’t have to do it as frequently. Use a paintable caulk for around paint-trimmed windows and a clear silicone for stained or clear-coated woodwork.
Weather-stripping is an inexpensive way to block drafts from doors. It comes in several styles: self-adhering; nail-in, foam-covered wood strips; and screw-in types (usually with a metal support). The adhesive type are generally the least expensive and easy to apply. The screw-in usually have some adjustability built in, which is handy if you have old or crooked doors.
Door sweeps can be applied directly to a door to reduce draft. Some have replaceable rubber strips, which extend the life of the sweep as rubber does deteriorate over time. These come in a variety of lengths so you can cut them down to fit your door. Two types are available--adhesive fasteners and screw-on fasteners. Both are easy to install. Whether you use adhesive or screw-on sweeps might be determined by the door type. Remember, these will wear out and need replacing in the future.
Depending on your threshold type, there are inserts or add-ons with bumped rubber to seal your door bottoms as well. These also sometimes come with replaceable rubber components.
Make sure your attic hatch seals tightly against gasket and has insulation on top. If it doesn’t have a gasket, install your own using a DIY kit. Wall and attic insulation is, of course, the other way to retain heat, but make sure it is done properly. Attic insulation should include a proper vapor barrier to reduce water retention, and vents should be properly cleared (to release condensation). To be clear, while you want to seal most air leaks in your home but be sure you have proper ventilation (ask a contractor or your local authorities for codes particular to your roof and structure). While installing batten insulation is a pretty easy and inexpensive homeowner project, a pro will know how to do it the correct way, with appropriate vapor barriers for your space. Unfinished areas are usually pretty easy to do, with minimal tool requirements, but if you own a finished home that has no existing insulation, you will need to have it blown in.
Over-sized holes can be the source of air leaks both inside and outside your home. For outside faucets, a spray foam can help insulate the pipes (and seal the gaps). Be sure to use the gasket that came with the fixture to seal the hole in the siding. Depending on your siding profile or material, there are also insulated boxes you can put over your fixtures in the winter. These seal against draft and also help prevent your pipes from freezing. Indoor pipes can be caulked using an appropriate caulk material or gasket (at the time of installing the plumbing). There are also tubular foam wraps available for insulating pipes. Pipes are a great concern because of freezing (which impacts usage) and bursting (which will be an expensive, emergency repair). Installing interior shut-off valves for your outdoor taps is also a good preventative measure against freezing. Also, remember to disconnect hoses from outdoor faucets and drain the water from the tap at the end of the season, using bleed valves (if you have old-style faucets). Leaving them connected causes expansion from freezing water, which results in premature failure in your fixture. Consider upgrading to frost-proof faucets with anti-siphon assemblies if you don't already have them. They are less maintenance and have a longer life, provided they are properly installed and you remove hoses come winter.
Walls and Joints
Air leaks in walls should be addressed based on the materials used in your walls. Obviously, if you have drywall, the joints should have been properly taped with mud applied. If you have two different materials meeting (such as paneling and plaster), then it might be appropriate to seal gaps with caulk and apply appropriate molding. Interior brick might require mortar to repair cracks.
Holes in cement can be patched with hydraulic cement, masonry cement, and a variety of other products. There are urethane and plastic-based fillers and caulks for use in cement applications. While messy, mixing a little concrete is a fairly easy DIY project, but if it seems daunting, you can always hire a pro.
Fireplaces, Chimneys and Heat-Conducting Pipes
If you are using caulk to seal air leaks for your heating system, be sure you buy the correct kind for the application. Example: use a heat-resistant, non-combustible caulk when sealing around fireplace or other heat conducting components (such as ductwork). Same for wood burners. While all of these tips are doable for the average homeowner, if you are busy or otherwise unable to complete these tasks, you can always hire a handyman. Get free quotes at Billy.com.