Spot the Culprits
Any elements that link a structure’s interior and exterior are potential leaks where expensive heated or cooled air can escape. Here are the most susceptible leak spots and how to seal them.
Apply acrylic-latex caulk where window moldings meet the exterior wall. For the best coverage, squirt a thin bead of caulk at the intersection of the wall and molding, and then use your finger to spread the caulk into the seam. Follow by using a sponge and warm water to finish spreading the caulk and remove excess. Caulk under the sill, too, as it’s a particularly leaky area of the window, then come inside and caulk around interior window moldings.
Short of replacing it with one of the new, super-efficient fiberglass models, there are several things you can do to eliminate drafts around a door. Start by caulking moldings inside and out, then replace any degraded or defunct weatherstripping. Loose door hinges or low-quality hardware can create air gaps, so tighten screws in existing fittings or upgrade to new brass or brushed steel components. Use shims to re-level the door sill, and add a door sweep to block out drafts. A new, properly fitted lockset will also improve the seal and security of an entry door.
Outlets and Switches
Wall openings around outlets and switches can also let in blasts of outdoor air, so seal the gaps with specially designed foam gaskets. Available at your local home center or hardware store, these gaskets are made to fit between the outlet or switch device and metal cover plate. They’re easy to install—just remember to turn off the electricity first to avoid electric shocks! Bigger gaps around such receptacles can be filled with a quick application of expandable foam.
Can ceiling lighting is another well-disguised source of household drafts. If you need to insulate around these or other ceiling fixtures, be sure to follow manufacturer and National Electric Code guidelines, which typically require three inches of clearance in order to prevent overheating. IC (insulation contact)-rated light fixtures are ideal for energy savings, as they’re designed to be covered with insulation and are the most airtight.
If you’ve got a forced-air heating and cooling system, the ductwork that distributes home comfort can lose about 20 percent of its payload through faulty connections and other leaks. Stop ductwork drafts with duct sealant (a.k.a. duct mastic) or UL 181 tape, a tape that looks like silver foil but, unlike mis-named duct tape, doesn’t degrade, crack or lose its bond with age.