Sealing most air leaks is surprisingly easy and will cut your energy bills. Sealing leaks also reduces drafts, making your home more comfortable, even with your thermostat at a lower temperature setting. And using that lower setting will save you more money.
In this article, we'll show you products and techniques for sealing your house against energy loss. You can do all eight of these projects in a single weekend--most take less than an hour and cost less than $20. Considering what you'll save each year in heating and air conditioning costs, you'll see a good return on your investment. Most of the products shown here are available at home centers; the rest can be ordered online.
Seal leaky windows with removable caulk or film
Leaky windows are one of the biggest sources of energy loss in a typical home. If you don t want to cover your entire window, a quick, low-cost solution is to the gaps with removable caulk. A $4.50 tube seals five 3 x 5-ft. windows.
Apply the caulk over the cracks between the movable parts of the window (sashes) and the stationary parts (jamb) between the two sashes. Keep the ad between 3/16 and 1/2 in. wide. Don't run your finger over the bead after caulking (the caulk will be harder to remove later). In the spring, simply pull off the caulk. Clean off any residue with mineral spirits.
If you don't like the look of caulk on your windows all winter long, cover them with plastic film instead. A $13 kit covers five 5-ft. windows. The plastic also reduces window condensation and can be used with Curtains or blinds. The film is available for the exterior and interior.
Apply double-sided tape (included) to the window casing. Cut the film roughly to size with scissors, leaving a few extra inches on each side. Starting at a top corner, apply the film firmly to the tape around all four sides of the window. Use a hair dryer to remove the wrinkles. When winter is over, take down the plastic and pull the tape off the casing. The tape removes easily without damaging the finish.
thefamilyhandyman.com For more ways to cut your utility bills, search for "save energy."
Fill gaps under sinks
Pull back the escutcheons on plumbing pipes where they enter exterior walls and you'll probably see generous gaps around the pipes. In cold weather, you might also feel the draft coming in. All it takes is some $7-a-can expanding foam to seal those leaks.
Shake the can vigorously, then squirt the foam around the pipes inside the wall. Don't completely fill the gap--the foam will expand. If it expands too much and you can't get the escutcheon back on, wait for it to dry, then slice it flush with the wall with a utility knife.
Caulk and cover room air conditioners
A room air conditioner keeps a section of the house cool. The problem is, it'll keep the room cool all winter long if it isn't covered properly. If you have a window unit, the best solution is to remove it so the cold air won't flow through and around it. If you decide to leave it in or you have a permanently installed wall unit, grab some removable caulk and a $4 window air conditioner cover to keep out the cold.
Place the cover over the outside of the air conditioner, fitting the sewn-in corner straps over the bottom corners. Wrap the middle straps under and up the sides of the unit, then hook them over the top. Inside the house, apply removable caulk around the air conditioner where it meets the wall or window. If the air conditioner is a built-in unit, permanently seal it with latex caulk.
Finding air leaks
Locating air leaks can be tricky. They're often so small as to be hardly noticeable. To find them, follow a trail of smoke.
Close all the windows in the house, turn off all the fans and exhaust fans, and shut off the furnace. Light some incense and walk slowly around the outer walls of the house. Anywhere you notice the smoke blowing away from something or being sucked toward something, there's probably an air leak. Now that you've found it, seal it!
Stop airflow up the chimney
Fireplace chimneys can be very inefficient, letting your warm inside air disappear like smoke up a chimney. If you have airtight glass doors that seal the opening, you're in good shape. (The doors are available starting at $230 at fireplace retailers and home centers.) If not, a special balloon or chimney-top damper will get the job done.
For fireplace chimneys that are seldom or never used, inflate a Chimney Balloon inside the chimney to stop the air leaks. Prices start at $40. Buy it directly from the company (608-467-0229; chimneyballoon.us). Partially inflate the balloon by mouth or with a pump, then stick it into the chimney and blow it up the rest of the way.
Putting in and taking out the reusable balloon can be messy, so you don't want to hassle with chimney balloons if you regularly use your fireplace. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for energy loss. Instead, you can install a chimney-top damper system, like the Chim-a-lator, which seals the top of the flue when the chimney's not in use. A lever in the fireplace controls the damper via a long cable. Prices start at $180. Type "chim-a-lator" into any search engine to find distributors or buy from chimalators, com.
Installation involves attaching the damper and screened-in cap to the chimney top, then mounting the lever in the fireplace. If you don't feel comfortable working on the roof, hire a chimney sweep or mason, who can install the system for about $400.
Seal small attic holes with foam and caulk
Hot air rises, so leaks in the ceiling are even worse than leaks in walls. And in many homes, this airflow through ceilings and into the attic is the No. 1 source of heat loss. You can check for leaks around ceiling light fixtures and the attic access door using an incense stick (see p. 64). But the only way to detect other leaks is to crawl up into the attic, pull back the insulation and look for them. Most leaks occur where chimneys and electrical and plumbing lines pass through the ceiling. Although the attic is a nasty place to work, plugging these leaks is a simple project--mostly caulking and foaming gaps.
thefamilyhandyman.com For step-by-step help with ceiling leaks, search for "attic air leaks."
Stop under-the-door air leaks
If you can feel the breeze and see daylight under your entry door, it's costing you big-time. It also means you need to adjust your door threshold or install a new door sweep. Door sweeps start at $10. The hardest part about replacing them is usually taking off the door.
Start by adjusting the threshold. Newer versions have screws that raise and lower them. Turn all of the threshold screws until the door opens and closes without much drag and any draft is eliminated. If that doesn't work, or your threshold doesn't have adjustment screws, replace the door sweep.
Close the door and pop out the hinge pins with a pin punch to remove the door. Set the door on a work surface and remove the old door sweep. Caulk the ends of the door, then install the replacement sweep. Some sweeps are tapped into place and stapled along the door bottom; others are screwed to the side along the door bottom.
Fill gaps around electrical boxes
The gaps around electrical boxes in exterior walls and ceilings are breezeways for cold air. If the gap between the electrical box and the drywall is less than 1/4 in., fill it with latex caulk. If the gap is bigger and lopsided, use foam sealant that's formulated for use around doors and window framing. The minimally expanding foam won't drip down your walls.
Turn off the power to the electrical box and use a noncontact voltage tester to ensure there's no power. Remove the cover plate. Spray the foam around the box to seal it. After it dries, cut away any protruding foam, add a foam gasket (to reduce drafts through the box) and replace the cover plate. Do the same around register openings on the inside of exterior walls.
Install an airtight dryer vent
Don't expect the thin metal flap on your dryer vent to keep out the cold. Lint or dents in the flap can keep it from fully closing, allowing outside air in. Wind blows them open too. For a more reliable air seal, install a $15.25 energy-efficient unit from Creative Energy Technologies (518-287-1428; cetsolar.com). A cup inside the vent seals the opening when the dryer's off, then "floats" when it's on to direct the warm, moist air out the bottom of the unit.
Remove the old vent and install the new one (it takes less than 10 minutes). The vent comes with easy-to-follow installation instructions. The company guarantees it will keep out birds, rodents and bugs too. You can paint it to match your house.
Art Direction * BECKY PFLUGER Photography * BILL ZUEHLKE, EXCEPT WHERE NOTED Illustration * FRANK ROHRBACH III
Source Citation:Martin, Brett. "Stop throwing cash out the window: seal air leaks and cut energy bills: if you combined all of the air leaks in a typical house--up the chimney, out the dryer vent, under the front door--it would be the equivalent of leaving a window open all day long!." The Family Handyman 58.1 (Dec 2007): 62(5). InfoTrac Small Business eCollection. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 16 May 2009
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