Condo Blues: How to Search for Air Leaks and Drafts

Thursday, April 3, 2008

How to Search for Air Leaks and Drafts

PhotobucketIt’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. How much your home leaks air will vary depending upon the design and construction of the home, where you live, what you do, and how you do it. .

Air leaks make your heating and cooling system use more energy and work harder to do the job you want it to do. This can cost you money. Big money.  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.

Don't worry. It's easy as pie o find those little and sometimes big air leaks in our home. Once you find them, seal them. Then put that extra money to good use, celebrate by buying yourself a pie. Nom....pie...

How to Find Exterior Air Leaks and Drafts

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The easiest way to locate air leaks on the outside of your house is to do a visual inspection. Yep, a lookie loo around the outside of your is all it takes.

If there is a small gap where two different building materials meet such as where the windows and siding meet (as I do), congratulations, you too have an air leak! Check to see if there are gaps in these areas on the exterior of your home:


Welcome to my air leak

  • 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 (like this) or spray foam in a can like this kind to fill the gaps and holes you found during your inspection.

Disclosure: I am including affiliate links in this post for your convenience.

How to Find Interior Air Leaks and Drafts

I use gray rope caulk seals small air leaks around my double paned windows. 
I remove it during the summer so we can open the windows.

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 (learn more here,) door sweeps (you can find both permanent and temporary door draft blockers here,) foam outlet and switch plate gaskets, window film/plastic (I suggest you make it easy on yourself and use a kit like this one), storm windows, or insulted curtains/roman shades/window quilts (there are several options here) to fill the gaps you found during your inspection. Check out the options below!

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