It’s a sad fact of life that every home has air leaks in its walls, windows, foundation, and attic. Even a newly built home like mine. Of course, how much a home leaks air will vary depending upon the design and construction of the home, and practices of its occupants.
Its important to find and seal the air leaks and drafts you find in your home because if you don't, it will cost you money. Big money. Air leaks make your heating and cooling system use more energy and work harder to do the job you want it to do. In fact, experts say that if you don't seal all of the little air leaks in your home, you might as well keep a window open during the winter.
How to Find Air Leaks and Drafts Outside the House
The easiest way to locate air leaks on the outside of your house is to do a visual inspection. All it takes is a little walk around the outside of your home - how cheap is that?
If there is a small gap where two different building materials meet such as where the windows and siding meet,congratulations, you too have an air leak! Check to see if there are gaps in these areas on the exterior of your home:
· Exterior corners
· Areas where the siding and chimney(s) meet
· Areas where the foundation and the bottom of the exterior brick or siding meet
· Holes for exterior faucets, pipes, electric outlets, and wiring (electrical as well as cable TV, telephone, dish antenna, etc.)
· Cracks or holes in the mortar, foundation, and the siding itself
· In the exterior caulking around doors and windows
· Check that windows, exterior doors, and storm doors and storm windows seal tightly
Make a list of where you found all of your exterior air leaks because you’ll want to use some type of caulk or spray foam to fill the gaps and holes you found during your inspection.
How to Find Air Leaks and Drafts Inside the House
Again, a visual inspection is the easiest way to determine if you have drafty windows and doors. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window leaks. If you can rattle a closed door or window sash, that movement means you have an air leak.
The Candle or Incense Test is another way to determine if you have drafty windows and doors. On a windy day, light a candle or a stick of incense and run it along the sides of an exterior window or door. If the candle flame or smoke from the incense wavers (as mine did) Congratulations you have an air leak!
Doors and windows are not the only culprit when it comes to interior leaks and drafts. Check to see if air can flow through these places:
· Gaps along or under the baseboards of exterior walls (this is more common than you think)
· Around electrical outlets
· Around switch plates
· Fireplace dampers or Gas Fireplace inserts In the case of gas fireplaces use your hand to feel for drafts, NOT a burning candle or stick of incense unless you want to singe your eyebrows off or worse!
· Attic hatches
· Around wall- or window-mounted air conditioners
· Cracks in cement basement or utility room floors
· Look for gaps around pipes and wires, foundation seals, and mail slots in exterior walls.
· Look for gaps around furnaces ducts and dryer vents
· Check to see if the caulking and weather stripping are applied properly, leaving no gaps or cracks, and are in good condition
Make a list of where you found all of your interior air leaks because you’ll want to use either caulk, weather stripping, door sweeps, draft dodgers, foam outlet or switch plate gaskets, window film/plastic, storm windows, or insulted curtains/roman shades/window quilts to fill the gaps and seal the air leaks you found during your inspection.
Sealing all of those tiny air leaks and drafts adds up. Sealing Air leaks was the first step in reducing my home's energy use by 32% and averaging only 15 Kwh of electricity a day and with only minor and cheap home improvements.
What are your strategies?
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This article is a revised reprint of my April 3, 2008 post How to Search for Air Leaks and Drafts.