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Seal Your Home from Air and Money Leaks

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energy leaks

The following article is by Kristi Muse, our staff writer. She is a freelance writer, blogger, police officer’s wife, and stay at home mom of two.

The first day of fall is right around the corner (September 23), and hopefully coming with it will be blessedly cooler weather. The blazing heat and humidity of summer is getting old, and I am very much looking forward to cooler days.

As much as I enjoy the colder weather, at some point we will have to turn the heat on. We live in an older home, and there are air leaks galore. One project on my fall to-do list is making sure the house is air tight and ready for winter.

We don’t want to waste our money constantly running heat into a constantly air-leaking home, especially when it costs so much to keep the house warm in late fall and winter. Without filling in holes and sealing cracks, we are literally losing money through the nooks and crannies of our old house.

Window insulation film


Window insulation film looks like it couldn’t possibly do much to keep your home warm, but I can personally attest to how fantastic this product is. Window insulation film is essentially just large sheets of see-through plastic which are cut to size for your windows, taped down, and suction sealed tight with a hair dryer. Once applied you can’t even see the plastic unless you know it’s there. I was highly skeptical the first time we bought a do it yourself kit for window insulation film, but the house was noticeably warmer even just thirty minutes after our main windows were covered.

Door Sweeps

Most doors come equipped with a built in door sweep which acts as a barrier to help prevent air from seeping through the base of the frame. These plastic, silicone, or sometimes even metal sweeps will fail over time, allowing both cold air in and hot air to seep out. Replacing the door sweep is an inexpensive way to seal your home and prevent expensive air leaks.

Weather stripping

Weather stripping around your windows and doors can save you 10-15% on your energy bill in the winter. The pliable tubing material used creates a better seal and suction to prevent air leaks through the cracks between the window or door and the frame, the area around attic and crawl space entries, and indoor duct work.

There are several different types of Weather stripping. One of the most inexpensive options is to apply strips of sticky backed felt around door frames or window jambs. Felt is affordable and easy to install, but it will only last a year or two, so you will need to reapply it more often than the other, more durable options.

A longer lasting option is the V Strip, which seals through tension. It is so-called because of the v shape of its design. The V expands, causes tension, and fills in the cracks. V stripping is usually made of thicker plastic or metal.

Foam tape, which is sold in a variety of sizes and thicknesses, is ideal for sealing off irregularly shaped cracks. All you have to do is cut to size and apply to the tops and bottoms of widows and around your doors.

No matter what type of weather stripping you choose, it is a really simple, straightforward, and cost effective solution for sealing in the heat and keeping out the cold.

Caulking

Although sealing off your windows and doors is important in the colder months, you could be missing almost as much as 80% of the air leaks in your home if you neglect to check the rest of the house. The majority of air leaks which occur in your home happen in places other than the windows and doors.

Caulking is used to seal your home from cold in areas of the house that are not ideal for weather stripping. Check for air leaks and using caulking in and around the door frames, outside of the windows, and corners of window sills. Also use caulking anywhere that a pipe, wire, or ventilation passes into the home, or where furnace or chimney stacks meet the home. Essentially, check and fill with caulking anywhere that there is an unnatural junction.

Remember that not all caulks are created equally. Hundreds of caulks are on the market and each one is made of different material and intended for different purposes. Read the labels carefully, because you don’t want to end up with bath tub caulking as an outdoor seal.

Also, if you aren’t sure whether to use caulking or weather stripping, just remember that caulking is for anywhere that there needs to be a permanent seal. Weather stripping is used where you need to be able to have access.

**Note** If you need to use caulking anywhere on the outside of your home, try to complete the project before the cold weather comes. Caulking dries much easier in the warmth of summer.

Spray foam insulation and sealer 

Spray foam insulation products are fantastic for insulating with a foam sealant. Spray foam gap filler usually comes in 12 oz. pressurized cans. They are used much like a can of hair spray, but with a small straw attached for directing the foam. The foam hardens after it expands and you can even use a precision knife to whittle down the shape. Spray foam is excellent for irregularly shaped cracks and crevices which are too large to fix with caulk or weather stripping.

Making your home airtight is worth the investment

Although sealing your home from air leaks will cost a bit of money up front, most of the products on the market are highly affordable. An extra bonus is that they are all easy to figure out, and anyone can use them. The low price of the caulk, weather stripping, or foam that you buy to make your home air tight will even out throughout the course of the cold winter months on the money you’re saving by heating an airtight home.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer, soak up the last of the heat, but start prepping your house for the cooler weather. Autumn and winter are just around the corner!

Do you check your home for air leaks every winter? What other ways do you prepare for colder weather?

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Image credit: Energy.gov

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Ernie Zelinski September 9, 2015, 1:31 am

    I have never done any of these even though I live in Edmonton, Canada where the temperature can drop to MINUS 40. My half duplex still has the furnace that was installed when the duplex was built in 1970. My neighbor who purchased the other half (when I purchased my half) had a new furnace installed. I believe that I am ahead of him financially given the cost for his new furnace and the maintenance/inspection fees that a new furnace requires. His “new” furnace is now over 8 years old and could crap out anytime while mine may still work for another 15 or 20 years.

    The one thing that I have done, however, is have new insulation of R-50 placed in the roof. My neighbor did this as soon as he purchased his half. It cost him around $1,200. I waited around two years until the Canadian government had some ridiculous program to give people subsidies for insulating their homes. I hired the same insulation company that my neighbor hired. The insulation company told me that the provincial government was also offering subsidies and all I had to do was call the gas company to do the paper work and the pre-energy evaluation report and the final energy evaluation report. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the City of Edmonton was also giving a subsidy. When I pocketed all the three subsidies, I was able to pay the total cost of the insulation, the cost of the pre-energy evaluation report and final energy evaluation report — and end up with around $150 to the good in my pocket. (See, laziness and procrastination do pay off!) The reason I was able to profit from this is that my half-duplex is only 850 square feet. Anyone with a home larger than 1,000 square feet would have had to pay at least a few dollars out of their own pocket to get their home insulated to R-50.

    Insofar as other ways to prepare for colder weather, I am thinking of having a responsible friend live in my place for free and look after it while I head to Vancouver (where it is much warmer during the winter) and write some new books with another friend. As Canadian rock star Berton Cummings sang in one of his songs, “I have my own way to rock.”

    • Kristi September 9, 2015, 9:22 am

      Adding insulation to the ceilings and floors is something that we did in our first home, and their was a marked difference in temperature.

      Moving to a warmer climate for the coldest season is certainly one way of dealing with the chilly weather!

  • Pennypincher September 9, 2015, 4:47 am

    Good timing on these great tips. In Mother Earth Magazine, a zine for back to the land, off the grid farmers and homesteaders, they always have great ways to keep your home warm (or cool) in each season. One big tip was covering the windows w/insulated window treatments. Curtains or shades, purchased or DIY go really far to keep the cold out, especially at night. I say everyone wear polar fleece around the house and sleep under down comforters! The lightest weight down comforter will keep everyone just warm enough, as they regulate to one’s body temperature. Yes, seal up any holes/cracks as mice love to set up shop inside in the winter. Try to keep that thermostat down and wear an extra layer of clothing=more money in the bank!

    • Kristi September 9, 2015, 9:30 am

      I really love the energy efficient window coverings. We have them on several windows, and they really do help regulate our home temperature.

  • Mr. Budgets @MrandMrsBudgets September 9, 2015, 5:35 am

    Mrs. Budgets is really cheap so she would recommend to just pile on the layers of clothing and the take out the blankets once winter rolls around! We do live in So Cal so it doesn’t get as cold.

    I do need to look into weather stripping the front door! Great reminder..Thanks!

    • Kristi September 9, 2015, 9:32 am

      If it were just myself, I would keep the house much colder. With two little ones though, we end up keeping our house at a warmer temperature.

  • Steve Miller September 9, 2015, 9:21 am

    We are building a house now and they have a new kind of insulation that they blow in (becomes foam). Your post mentioned that in a small spray can but you can actually get it done in mass. I’ve heard that it really helps on the heating bill. I will let you know once our house is done.

    • Kristi September 9, 2015, 9:34 am

      Yeah, the spray foam is a fantastic option if you’re building your home. The small cans are just for filling in the irregularly shaped cracks and crevices, but getting it done on a large scale can really improve your energy costs in the long run.

  • jim September 9, 2015, 9:30 am

    I’d also check with the local utility and see if they have any programs to help. Many offer incentives like rebates to help pay for air sealing. Ours offered free energy testing to determine where your homes energy problems were.

    • Kristi September 9, 2015, 9:35 am

      That’s a great idea, Jim. Having an expert come in is a great way to show where your home has the most trouble with inefficiency.

  • Jkr September 9, 2015, 12:41 pm

    What about mold and poor ventilation? Many old houses (pre 1940) were originally built to be heated with an open stove on a daily basis. When we now heat our houses with other techniques its important to not lose the natural ventilation. If your house has the conditions for mold to grow im pretty sure the cost will be very high eventually. In my country we have an orgnization working with councelling old building techniques. I would ask them before i tightened too many air leakages.

    • Pennypincher September 11, 2015, 1:41 pm

      I too have heard and read that many homeowners are sealing their houses up too tight.
      Some ventilation is good. Fresh air is even better. Open those windows when the opportunity presents itself. Stay healthy.

  • Ray @ Squirrelers September 10, 2015, 7:22 pm

    Really good tips, and the savings can really add up with just a couple of strategic moves. One super basic, free way to bring in a little extra heat is to keep the window shades and curtains open on sunny yet cold days. It won’t have a big long-term impact, but on certain days it can be a free way to keep a home a little bit warmer.

  • Smart Money MD September 11, 2015, 2:16 pm

    The window film also works great to keeping heat outside of the house in areas with heat (like Texas and Florida). Likewise, I have seem some people install shutters over their heavily sunlit windows to keep heat out of the house.

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