Every home has air leaks. In fact, one estimate claims that the average home has enough small air leaks to add up to a two-foot hole! And while searching for air leaks can seem like a tedious, unimportant job, you probably wouldn’t leave a window open all winter.
The most obvious benefit of finding and sealing air leaks is energy efficiency. If your home is better sealed and you’re not “paying to heat the outside”, your energy bills can go down! But there are other benefits, such as minimizing the risk of pipes bursting in freezing temperatures and avoiding pesky moisture problems that can lead to mold growth.
Sealing air leaks is simple in theory, but you do need to know what you’re doing. Here are five steps to find, and seal up, the air leaks in your home.
Step One: Locate Leaks
Before you do anything, you need to know where the air leaks are. You can hire a professional to perform a home energy audit, but whether you’re hiring a pro or not, you’ll want to see what you can find yourself.
There are a few different methods, for best results use more than one.
- Visually check all areas where different building materials meet on the exterior of your home. In other words, where the siding meets the foundation or chimney, around outdoor water faucets, etc.
- Perform a similar visual check indoors. Look for cracks or gaps around baseboards, electrical outlets, and anywhere else you can think of.
- Conduct a building pressurization test at home to locate hard to find leaks. Energy.gov has directions for this. You can perform “the flashlight test” by shining a light and suspected problem areas at night, while a friend stands outside. If light can get out, air is getting out.
- Check your insulation. However, this may be harder to determine without the help of a professional.
- Use the dollar bill test. This is an easy test for windows. Try closing the window on a dollar bill. If you can move the dollar, it’s leaky.
Energy.gov also has a great visualization of air sealing trouble spots, that may be a huge help.
Step Two: Add Weatherstripping
For moving components, such as doors and windows, weatherstripping is going to be your go-to. Different types of weatherstripping are better suited to different areas, so keep that in mind before you buy, thinking about your specific home and specific needs. For example, door sweeps are effective for stopping under door drafts, but they can snag carpeting. Keep in mind that less expensive weatherstripping options tend to be less durable, so you may have to replace them sooner.
Step Three: Caulking
For non-moving components, caulking can help you seal up small cracks (less than ¼ inch wide). While fairly straightforward, caulking can be tricky if you aren’t used to it. Make sure the surface is clean and dry first and read the instructions. Also, remember that the best time to apply caulk is during dry weather.
Step Four: Insulation
Insulation can be trickier to DIY than weatherstripping or caulking, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Older homes were built with much less insulation than newer homes. But even newer homes, unless they were specifically built to be energy efficient, could often use more insulation.
You don’t just want to add insulation wherever, though! To add insulation to your home, you’ll need to know where your home is and isn’t insulated well, the type of insulation you have, and it’s R-value (basically a number for how well your insulation is insulating). Then you’ll need to determine what type of insulation to add, and where. How much of this you handle yourself is going to depend to some degree on your comfort level and DIY experience.
Other Things to Consider
If you are looking to make your home more energy-efficient this winter, there are many big and small things you can do. Sealing air leaks will go a long way to keep the warm air in and the cold air out, but you can also make sure your chimney is properly closed up, change your furnace filters, and consider energy saving curtains.
Worried about staying warm or keeping heating costs under control this season? Get in touch with our team of home improvement and remodeling experts in Terre Haute for a free estimate.