Knowing how to insulate and seal drafts in your house is the best way to keep energy bills down.
Improving your home’s energy efficiency with insulation, caulk and weather stripping not only keeps it warm and comfortable, but also leads to reduced energy use and heating bills that can dip by as much as 20 percent. To get an even better idea of the impact such low-cost improvements can have, you can measure your home’s efficiency with the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick.
Insulating and sealing drafts in your home is also a relatively easy do-it-yourself project. Here’s where to begin:
Insulation, the first step for an energy efficient home
Lack of insulation is common, especially among homes of a certain age (25 and up), and spending just a few hundred dollars to improve insulation can save you far more in the long run. Insulation performance is measured by R-value, the ability to resist heat flow. The higher the value, the stronger the insulating power. R-value requirements vary for different areas of the home, and the climate you live in will determine overall needs. Refer to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Insulation Recommendations for details that’ll help you design the ideal wrap.
Once you’ve researched your insulation needs, start at the top with a check of your attic insulation, which should have at least 12 inches of batt or blown insulation between its rafters. An attic should also be well-ventilated for insulation to be at its efficient best: air circulation combats the natural humidity that develops when heat rises from the spaces below, and if just 2 percent moisture works its way into fiberglass insulation, that insulation’s R-value can tumble by 33 percent! Other areas to insulate include crawlspaces (which can send cold air up through your home’s floor) and garage walls and ceilings that separate that spaced from the heated and cooled areas of the house.
Seal drafts and air leaks to cut energy costs and add comfort
Sealing and draft-proofing your doors, windows and any other elements that link your home’s interior and exterior is an important way to cut expensive drafts. To help find drafts in your home, try doing your own draft test by holding a tissue, lit candle or stick of incense near window and door frames. If the tissue, flame or smoke moves, you need to seal the draft by applying weatherstripping or sealants. Paintable latex caulk is a great choice to help seal drafts around window or door trim whether indoors and out.
For super drafty windows, you can seal an especially leaky window shut for the season with DAP Seal ‘N Peel, a caulk is designed to be easily removed when warmer weather arrives. For drafty door thresholds, add a door sweep to provide extra protection against winds that whip in under the door. You can find easy-to-install door draft-proofing kits at your local hardware store or home improvement center.
Tips to insulate and seal drafts in tough places
Drafts can also be found at otherwise unassuming switch plates and outlets, which allow air to flow from room to room if not properly sealed. Outlets on the exterior of your home let in even bigger breezes, so remove all of their covers, install pre-cut foam gaskets on the backs of the covers and replace them. Seal big gaps around such receptacles with a quick application of handy expandable foam like Great Stuff.
Finally, watch out for can ceiling lighting, which can be another well-disguised source of big drafts. If you need to insulate and seal drafts around these, make sure you follow the manufacturers and National Electric Code guidelines which typically require three inches of clearance around each fixture to prevent overheating. Ideally, you should have IC-rated fixtures, which are designed to be covered with insulation and are the most airtight and energy efficient.
With heating costs on the rise and everybody’s budgets tightening, spending a little time to insulate and seal drafts in your house for winter will be well worth the effort!