A well-sealed home shell is a vital component to home energy efficiency and comfort. If your home is leaking conditioned air through gaps, cracks and holes, your pocketbook and home comfort are probably negatively affected by it. Learn the basics of weatherstripping to understand how sealing up your home improves comfort and boosts the performance of your heating and cooling systems.
Intro to Home Efficiency
The materials used to construct a home are designed to weather the elements year after year and to be aesthetically pleasing to the homeowner. Many newer homes are constructed for better energy efficiency and air-tightness, with modern storm windows, Energy Star-certified equipment (e.g. kitchen appliances, water heaters, furnaces and A/C systems), ample insulation and better air sealing.
Unfortunately, energy-efficient construction was not the standard in older homes. Homes were built for the bottom-line construction cost and home sell -- not for the cost of long-term energy expenses, and high fuel prices.
Fortunately, home-efficiency upgrades, such as weatherstripping seals, are practical and affordable solutions to save energy, with an excellent return on investment. Moreover, air sealing upgrades should help endure the elements while reducing energy consumption for many years. The following are clues of leaky homes:
- Your windows rattle and whistle on windy days.
- You feel drafts near access doors and windows.
- There are windows in your home with condensation problems.
- There are hot and cold spots from room to room no matter the season.
- Energy bills are suspiciously high.
Better Comfort, Savings and Much More
It is quite amazing how a simple strip of foam installed around windows and doors can boost home comfort and energy savings. But the benefits of air sealing go well beyond comfort and savings.
- A well-sealed home promotes better indoor air quality by eliminating air infiltration through the insulation barrier.
- Moisture issues, such as window condensation, mold and mildew, are common side effects of leaky homes. A well-sealed home stabilizes air and moisture exchange, allowing for effective solutions to moisture issues.
- Heat energy naturally seeks a cooler location. So, your hard earned heating and cooling dollars are leaking -- quite naturally -- through cracks, gaps and holes around windows, doors, attic hatch and walls. During the heating months, warmer indoor air seeks to move to the cooler outdoors. During the cooling months, warmer outdoor air seeks to move into your cooler home. In addition to wasting energy and higher energy bills, your furnace and A/C endure increased wear and tear, resulting in more maintenance calls.
How to Find Air Leaks
To seal air leaks with weatherstripping, you must first find the air leaks. An HVAC professional may perform an energy audit of your home to find the smallest of air leaks using sophisticated equipment. This method is the most efficient and yields the best results. You will also gain insight into the other systems of your home, such as insulation, heating and cooling, air ducts and energy conservation.
That said, weatherstripping is not rocket science, and it is not as messy as sealing air ducts or using caulk. You can locate major air leaks with a simple smoke pencil or incense stick. Here’s how:
- You will have better results on windy days, when air filtration is higher.
- Hold a smoke pencil or incense stick around the perimeter of all access doors, windows, attic hatch and wall switch plates. If the smoke wavers, you have found an air leak. That’s it.
How to Seal Air Leaks with Weatherstripping
Weatherstripping products are available in different materials and shapes. While the materials and design may be different, the goal is always the same: stop air leaks. These are common areas where leaks occur:
- Doors – Weatherstripping (foam strips or tubular plastic) may be easily applied around the perimeter of access doors. Measure the gap for the appropriate thickness. Door sweeps stop air leaks between the door and threshold.
- Windows – V-strip tension weatherstripping may be applied along the sides of sliding and double-hung windows. Foam strips may be applied to the top and bottom of window sashes.
- Switch plates – Remove leaky switch plates and install a gasket behind it.
- Attic hatch – Pay special attention to the attic. Heat rises, and escaping heat energy raises your energy bill literally through the roof. Foam weatherstripping is excellent for the perimeter of attic hatch doors.
For more details about weatherstripping your home in the Chicago area, northwest Indiana or southwest Michigan, please contact Comfort24-7.com to speak with an HVAC professional near you.
Written by Randy Gailit