The majority of homeowners in the United States overspend on heating and cooling bills because they fail to seal air leaks in their homes. The Environment Protection Agency states that nearly 25-40% of energy is lost due to air leaks. If you have an older house, it is even more important that you use proper ways of fixing these air leaks. Let us study some easy ways of sealing air leaks around the home:
1. Conduct an air leak test
Professionally conducted air leak tests can show the ‘air tightness’ of your house. Blower fans are available for this purpose. A technician will use these fans and draw the air out to measure air tightness and locate leaks. You can also conduct DIY tests to determine leaks-simply wet up your hand and hold it near windows and AC ducts. Even a slight leak will make your hand feel cool.
Caulking is an easy way of sealing air leaks. A caulk is a toothpaste-like substance that is available in card or rope form. It is very easy to apply and you can use your fingers for sealing cracks in walls and around windows. Just make sure you choose a good caulking agent that can withstand extreme temperatures depending on the area you live in. A sales rep at your neighboring home depot store can help you choose the right caulking agent. Some caulking products are also waterproof so choose them if you are caulking the exterior of the house. It is best not to scrimp when buying caulking products as the higher end varieties usually assure a better seal.
3. Foam sealants
These are another easy way of sealing air leaks and are most suitable for gaps of over an inch. Foam sealants come in 2 varieties-urethane and latex. Latex foam sealants are easiest to apply and also come in reusable, non-messy applications. On the other hand, urethane sealants are difficult to remove from clothes and skin and also not too easy to apply.
Weatherstripping is available in many formats including rubber, vinyl or felt. This is a useful method of sealing air leaks around doors and windows which comes in pre-packaged window or door kits. Ask a sales person to help you select the right product. Self adhesive weatherstrips are easiest to use though you also have products that can be nailed or tacked on. For loose windowpanes, use window putty. Remember: 10% of air leaks around the house occur at the windows. If your house is very old, you might want to consider replacing them. Go for storm windows which are low cost option. Locking windows also creates a good air tight seal.
5. Start at the top
Once you have determined where the air leaks are and have purchased the right products, it is time to start sealing the home. Always start with the attic and work your way down the home. Make the attic hatch or pull down stairs air tight. Check the attic floor, around electrical wiring, chimneys, ducts, plumbing vents, and stove flues. Wear gloves, goggles and dust masks when checking or sealing the home for air leaks. For small gaps around chimneys and stove flues, use a good quality caulking agent. A sheet metal collar is best for larger gaps. For the attic door, use a weatherstripping product.
6. Insulate the ducts
Ducts in the air heating and cooling systems are most prone to air leaks. Plug any holes you find with foil duct tape or you can use water based mastics coupled with fiber mesh tapes. Additionally, insulate the ducts by wrapping insulation around the duct and tie or tape it in place.
7. Seal the low spots
After you have sealed the attic and ducts, it is time to tackle air leaks around the windows. Seal all door and window leaks. You may use any materials described above depending on how large the cracks are. For areas behind electrical outlets, use foam gaskets. Make sure you use heat resistant products around chimneys and flues. When tackling air leaks in the basement make sure you do not seal too tight. You need a bit of ventilation for fresh air in this part of the home to circulate around the home’s gas furnace and water heaters.
Sealing air leaks has many benefits and no matter whether you do a DIY job or hire a contractor, the time and money will be both well spent. You will definitely get many returns especially when you take care of leaks around the attic, floors and ducts. We hope this brief guide on easy ways to seal air leaks in the home helps you.