According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the typical family spends about 45 percent of their utility bill on heating and cooling their home. One way to keep warm air inside your home this winter, rather than leaking out, is to seal all of the cracks and holes that may allow air leaks.
“If you added up all the small cracks and holes in your home, you could have the equivalent of a two-foot square hole – or larger,” says energy expert Bob Dickey, member of the Energy Education Council Efficiency Task Force. “Caulking and weather stripping help seal those air leaks and will pay for themselves relatively quickly in energy savings, helping you keep money in your pocket.”
To seal leaks, you have to know where they are. Some are more obvious than others, like a visible gap under the door, but others may be a little harder to find. Just wet your fingertips and run them around the door or window frame to feel a draft, or hold up a tissue and see if it waves.
Check these areas for gaps and leaks:
- Door and window frames
- Mail chutes
- Electrical and gas service entrances
- Cable TV and phone lines (where they enter your home)
- Outdoor water faucets
- Where dryer vents pass through walls
- The home's foundation
- Where the air conditioner line enters the home
- Around exterior vents and fans
For an accurate measurement of the air leakage in your home, contact a professional to do a blower door test. This can reveal the location of many leaks in your home. Your electric cooperative provides this service and provides rebates on some energy-saving products.
After discovering where the leaks are in your home, the next step is sealing them with caulk or weather stripping.
In addition to sealing air leaks, caulking can also prevent water damage when applied in wet areas and around plumbing fixtures. Most caulk products come in a disposable cartridge that fit in a caulk gun, while a few are purchased in pressurized tubes that don’t require a gun. There are a variety of caulks for a variety of applications; you’ll find differences in price, strength and properties.
When you caulk, follow these tips to success:
- Remove the old caulk completely
- Make sure all surfaces are dry and free of dirt, loose material, and grease
- Do not apply caulk at temperatures below 50 degrees unless otherwise specified on the caulk label
- Always read the label to see if the caulk you are using is flammable, irritating to skin or gives off dangerous vapors. If so, follow all safety suggestions.
- Choose a caulking material suitable to the size of the crack
- Tape the edges of the crack to keep caulk off adjoining surface
Weather stripping seals leaks around moveable joints such as windows and doors. Dickey says, “You need to choose the proper weather stripping for the proper location. Depending on where the stripping is installed, it might have to stand up to temperature changes, friction, wear and tear and weather.”
When deciding how much weather stripping you’ll need, measure the surfaces (windows or door frames, for example) and add a safety allowance of 5-10 percent. As with caulk, there are a variety of weather stripping options to choose from based, on your installation.
Tips for weather stripping include:
- Install only to clean, dry surfaces in temperature above 20 degrees F.
- Carefully measure the area to be weather stripped before cutting the material.
- Apply weather stripping snugly against both surfaces. The material should compress when the window or door is closed.
Information supplied by EnergyEdCouncil.org