We’ve all experienced chilly drafts in older homes. Air coming into the home from the outside, or leaks of heated or cooled interior air to the outside, means that we’re wasting electricity. Heating and cooling systems have to work harder to maintain comfortable temperatures inside the home, and this drives up monthly utility bills.
With simple tools and little expense, homeowners can seal those energy-wasting leaks around the home. By doing so, your interiors will stay comfortable as you enjoy lower monthly electricity bills. Here’s how to get started:
Air sealing windows and doors: windows and doors are the usual culprits when air leaks are present. Over time, older windows and doors may not seal against their frames, letting drafts in from the outside or letting air escape from inside the house. Weatherstripping is an inexpensive solution to reduce these damaging air leaks. Weatherstripping is usually foam or rubber and comes in rolls of various widths. Add a strip under windows and around door frames to stop drafts in their tracks.
Wire and Piping Penetrations: wherever electrical wires or plumbing enter the home, a potential for air leaks exists. Those areas are called “penetrations”, and they are easy to seal. Expanding spray foam or air-sealing caulk can be purchased at any home supply store and are easily applied. Just fill any visible gaps with the caulk or foam and enjoy the savings.
Sealing around electrical outlets: believe it or not, in older homes, the areas around switch plates and electrical outlets are a common source of air leaks. Older homes do not often have sufficient insulation within their wall cavities, and this can allow outside air to leak into the interior. There are foam or rubber gaskets that can be installed behind outlet covers and switch plates. It only takes a few seconds to add these gaskets, and the results are nothing short of spectacular.
Sealing fireplace chimneys and heater vents: furnaces and water heaters need venting to prevent dangerous heat buildup. Of course, these vents are sources of leaks – anywhere a vent penetrates a wall or ceiling to the outside, a potential leak source exists. Regular caulk isn’t sufficient to withstand the heat present, however. It is important to use fire-rated cement caulk to seal these areas.
The space where fireplace chimneys penetrate the roof can also be a common leak area. It is best to seek the help of a professional, who can seal the space with fire-safe materials, flashing, and roof mastic. Stopping air leaks around the chimney can also reduce the chance of damaging water leaks from rain and snow.