Caulk the gaps
Gaps in your home’s exterior, such as where building materials meet, can allow conditioned air to leak out of your home or outside air to seep in. Caulk and other materials can help seal the gaps.
Q: My new home feels drafty. I added weather stripping to the doors and windows, but it hasn’t solved the problem. What else can I do to increase comfort?
A: Sealing air leaks is one of the easiest and most cost-effective improvements you can make in your home. Weather stripping doors and windows is a great first step and one that will likely pay for itself within a year.
However, less obvious sources of air leakage can cause significant discomfort in your home. The average home leaks about half of its air every hour through various cracks and gaps. These air-leak openings add up to a 2-foot-square hole in the average home—that’s like having a window open all day, every day! Sealing your home can help keep heated and cooled air indoors, making your home more comfortable and reducing your energy bill.
Places where air could be escaping and where moisture, pollen, dust and pests could be seeping in can include holes drilled into walls, ceilings and attic for plumbing pipes and electrical lines. Outlet covers and recessed lights may also have small gaps where conditioned air can escape. There could be leaks in air ducts in unheated spaces and around fireplace chimneys and attic access hatches.
To find leaks, start with a visual inspection, checking for gaps and cracks where air could escape. Walk around your home’s exterior, and closely examine where different building materials meet, such as around the foundation perimeter, around outdoor water faucets and where the siding and the chimney meet. Indoors, examine common sources of air leakage, including electrical and water service entrances, baseboards, door and window frames, and attic hatches.
The next step is sealing the air leaks you’ve found. The materials you need will depend on what gap is being sealed. Your local hardware store can help guide you to the right products.
- Doors and windows with gaps at the frame need weather stripping.
- Small gaps, like those around outlets or between the baseboard and the floor, can be filled with caulk.
- Larger gaps and holes, such as those around pipes, may need foam insulation, foil insulation, sheeting or a combination of materials.
- Seams or gaps in ducts should be sealed with a special duct sealant or metal tape available at home-improvement stores. Regular duct tape will not be sufficient to seal leaks.
Your home needs some air leakage to stay properly ventilated. A home that is too “tight” can have issues with too much interior moisture, as well as carbon-monoxide risks if combustion appliances don’t have adequate ventilation. It’s especially important that you not plug up vents that bring in outside air to a gas or propane furnace or stove.
But don’t rely on uncontrolled air leaks instead of mechanical ventilation. In cold, windy weather, your home may be drafty; in warm, still weather, not enough air may come in, creating moisture and air-quality issues. An energy auditor can help you determine a healthy level of air infiltration for your home and, if needed, recommend a good ventilation strategy.
Send questions to Energy Q&A, South Carolina Living, 808 Knox Abbott Drive, Cayce, SC 29033, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax (803) 739-3041.