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As outside temperatures plummet, drafty doors and leaky windows can make the inside of your home feel downright frosty. What’s worse is that those drafts in your home are costing you hard-earned dollars. It’s almost like watching money fly right out the window.
Drafts are air leaks that come into your home through windows, doors, holes in floors and the foundation, as well as through fireplaces and even electrical outlets. Even one or two air leaks in your home can make the temperature feel a few degrees cooler.
The good news is it’s possible to stop drafts — either temporarily or permanently. The potential energy savings from reducing drafts can range from 5% to 30% per year and these savings can result in significant savings to your bank account.
There are several ways to stop a draft in your home, from do-it-yourself options to hiring a professional.
An initial step is to check and replace door sweeps. These are strips that seal the gap between the floor and the door. They vary in material and form, yet they are the simplest solution to prevent drafts. Better still, door sweeps also stop moisture and insects from entering the house.
Door sweeps are very budget-friendly and relatively easy to install, but to do it correctly, you must first consider whether your door opens towards the inside or the outside. If your door opens on the inside, install the door sweep on the inside. Respectively, if your door opens on the outside, place it on the outside of your door.
Another option is weatherstripping, which blocks drafts similar to door sweeps but can be used in more places than door sweeps.
Weatherstripping can be found in almost every home hardware store, but before buying make sure you know what type you need. The options include V-strips for metal surfaces and felt for wooden surfaces such as doors and window frames. While V-strips go on the window sides and the top of the door, the felt ones are placed around the window and the door. If you are unsure, ask your local home hardware professional.
Another option is to recaulk your windows and doors. For do-it-yourselfers, the best option is to utilize a high-grade latex caulk that cleans up with water. Just look for cracked caulking around your windows and doors. If you find any kind of cracks, you will certainly need to recaulk those areas to avoid cool air from leaking in.
Anywhere a cable, wire or pipe goes from inside to out, there is typically an air leak. If the hole around the wire or pipe is a quarter of an inch or less, you can use caulking to seal it. If it is larger, use foam insulation to close the hole.
For electrical devices, remove the electrical wall plate around your light switch or plug. If you see a gap between the device and the wall, fill up the cavity with low-expanding foam insulation. If you need help, consider asking your home hardware professional for guidance.
Don’t worry about finding all the little gaps and cracks. Focus on sealing up the largest holes first, because that’s where you may realize one of the biggest energy savings. The big jobs can be plugging up open stud cavities and gaps behind knee walls. Also, use foam insulation and weather stripping to seal areas where exhaust fans, attic stairs and small holes allow cool air to seep into your home.
The damper inside your chimney is meant to keep the cold air out. Problem is most dampers are made of metal (usually cast iron) that retain the cold. To prevent this cold from seeping in, install a thick piece of foam or a damper balloon. These products help stop drafts and cold from leaking into your warm home.
If you tackle the drafts in your basement and crawlspace, you could help prevent cold floors and reduce drafts from below. A basement air-sealing project might include using spray foam or caulk to seal cracks and openings in the basement walls, ceilings or floors.
If your basement is unfinished, you may also want to seal the joint where the cement foundation meets your home’s wooden frame (known as the rim joist). Don’t forget to seal the openings around gas, water pipes, electrical outlets, wiring lines and ductwork that passes through your home to the outside (this includes dryer and stove vents). Usually, caulking will suffice but larger holes might need pieces of insulation to help cover them.
If you’re not sure where to start or need a bit of professional help or guidance, then talk to the professionals and your local home hardware store. Whether you do these draft-stopping projects on your own or hire a professional, you can enjoy your cozy house and save some money on your energy bills.