Fall is definitely in the air. This wonderful weather makes me want to get outside and do a few projects around the house. In fact, I have a list of projects that need to be done this weekend. One of those projects is to reduce the air leaks in my house.
Air leaks are the greatest cause of wasted heat and cooling energy. The most effective way to rid your home of costly drafts is to caulk and weatherstrip. Caulking and weatherstripping are two easy do-it-yourself jobs that only take a couple of hours, a few dollars and make a big difference in your energy use. No matter if you have a new house or older one, just about all homes have air leaks. Because of the summer’s hot weather, existing caulking and weatherstripping may have cracked or come loose, so now is a good time to check your house.
When checking your home, first look around your windows. Check the outside for any sign of caulking that has cracked or peeled. Check the inside safely using a lit incense stick or lit candle. On a windy day, move the draft checker around windows, doors, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside. Air movement around these spots could mean that’s an air leak that may need caulking, sealing or weatherstripping. You’ll probably be surprised at what you find!
You should also caulk and seal where plumbing, ductwork, fans or where electrical wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors and ceilings. Install rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls. Inner walls may also need gaskets when the wall cavity is open or air leaks into the attic from the wall cavity.
Use a paintable caulk to seal around the window frames and door frames where the interior frame meets the wall. On the exterior, seal around the window where the frame meets the siding. Don’t seal the exterior window weep holes shut since they allow any water or moisture that does not get into the window area to get out. Because caulking can be time consuming, use a high quality caulk or sealant suitable to the materials and location. Caulk is used when the crack is less than 1/4-inch wide. For cracks wider than that, use materials suitable for the gap such as metal, wood, rope caulk or other materials that will supply a base. Then caulk the area.
What about weatherstripping doors? Even a 1/4-inch opening around all sides of a typical exterior door can result in the equivalent of a huge opening to the outside. Check existing weatherstripping around exterior doors with a flashlight. Outside the closed door, move the flashlight slowly around the door edge. If a helper inside the house can see light shining in, it’s time to weatherstrip.
Use quality weatherstripping that will last several years and that can be securely attached. It comes in a variety of thicknesses, widths and materials so choose something that will work for your need.
What about sealing a gap under an exterior door? Door sweeps, thresholds and door shoes are good ways to do that. A door sweep can be used on a door with no threshold. A gasket threshold replaces an existing threshold and can be attached to the floor directly under the door. This type of gasket wears quickly in high traffic areas. Door shoes have rubber or plastic gaskets set into a metal bracket and affixed to the door bottom.
A few hours and a few supplies can make a big difference in keeping your home comfortable year around. For further information about sealing air leaks as well as other energy-saving information, go to www.eXtension.org.
Carrie T. Brazeal is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at email@example.com. or 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.