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.
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 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.
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?
Image credit: Energy.gov