When you think about tips to decrease your heating and cooling bills, what comes to mind first? You might assume the first and only answer is to add insulation to the walls, attic and other places in your home. However, while insulation is important, it isn’t enough. You should also seal air leaks to make your home more comfortable and affordable to heat and cool. But why does air sealing work, and how can you maximize the benefits of this home improvement project? Find the answers to your questions here.
Why Seal Air Leaks?
Insulating your home without addressing the underlying air leaks first is like wearing a knit sweater on a blustery day. The wind cuts right through the fabric and chills you to the bone. What you need is an added windbreaker layer to stop the wind. Then, the sweater provides the extra insulation you need to keep warm. This is how air sealing and insulation work together.
Detecting Air Leaks
Most homes leak two to three times more than they should. The trick is not to counteract these leaks with a more powerful furnace and air conditioner—it’s to find the holes and plug them up. The top techniques for detecting air leaks in your home include:
- Visual inspection: You would be surprised how many air leaks are easy to spot. Check all exterior windows and doors, electrical outlets and switch plates, baseboards, the fireplace damper and attic hatch. Any gaps or cracks indicate wasteful air leaks.
- Building pressurization: Some leaks are hidden behind walls, ceilings and floors where you can’t spot them. That’s why home energy auditors perform blower door tests to pressurize your home and make these leaks easier to find. By pointing an infrared camera at different places in a room or watching the swirls of smoke from a smoke pencil, the auditor can tell precisely where leaks are coming from and seal them on the spot.
Sealing Air Leaks
Whether or not you choose to pressurize your home to detect air leaks, know that buildings tend to leak in the same places. This means you can follow proven air sealing tips to tighten up your home and make it more efficient. You may need a professional’s help to achieve the best results.
- Add caulk to stationary cracks around windows and doors.
- Add weatherstripping to operable window and doors joints.
- Install rubber door sweeps at the thresholds of exterior doors.
- Apply caulk to all wall, floor, attic and ceiling penetrations, including plumbing, ductwork and electrical wiring. Use expanding spray foam to seal larger gaps.
- Install foam gaskets behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls.
- Inspect exposed insulation in the attic, basement or crawlspace for dirty spots, which indicate air leaks. Remove the insulation, seal the hole and reinstall the insulation.
- Seal air leaks in furnaces, fireplace chimneys and gas water heater vents with sheetrock or sheet metal and furnace cement caulk.
- Keep the fireplace damper closed when not in use.
Air Sealing Services in the DC Metro Area
If you need help with the air sealing tips listed here, or you’re not sure where your home’s most hidden leaks are located, schedule a professional energy audit and whole-house air sealing. Accurate Insulation provides BPI energy auditing in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
Contact us or call (301) 358-6411 today to learn more about what we do or to schedule air sealing services in your home.