Sealing the Deal for Energy Savings

Caulking, weatherstripping, and insulating are easy ways the average DIY home handyman can make their home more energy efficient, comfortable, and less expensive to heat/cool. Soaring energy costs make good insulating practices beneficial even for homes with high efficiency heating and cooling systems. Many companies (frequently those trying to sell you remodelling services) will offer to do home energy studies. These studies will identify areas where your home can be improved to become more energy efficient. Here are a few ways you can help make your home more comfortable yourself year round and reduce your energy bills (and it's good for the environment!).

Doors and Windows - One of the most common reasons for energy loss is directly through the seams around your windows and doors. If you can feel a draft, then this is probably the place to start. During heating/cooling season, run your hand along the gap between your door and doorjamb or around the channel/guide for your window. If you can feel the draft then you can probably start with the simplest of DIY weatherproofing projects - weatherstripping.

Weatherstripping - The function of weatherstripping is simple, a flexible material is surrounds your door or window providing providing a barrier against drafts when closed. The material may be rubber, foam, cork, plastic,or even metal. The material itself will often be sold in rolls and usually adheasive backed although heavier duty weather stripping (such as those used for a garage door) may require nails/tacks. Your home supply store should have the type appropriate for your application and be able to make recommendations where necessary

The process of applying weatherstripping is simple. For doors and awning/casement/hopper style windows open the door or window and remove the existing weatherstripping if it is worn or damaged. Cut the new weather stripping to length and apply it to door jamb/window frame making sure to press it firmly into place (it does no good if it falls off the first time you open the door/window!). When done, the door/window should close and latch with no undue force. If you cannot close them, you probably used the wrong stripping for the job.

For sliding windows/doors you may only have weatherstripping on the top and bottom of the frame that may be replaced as noted above. Usually the sliding portion of the window will have a free floating material/teflon strip to help prevent drafts through the channel. These are slightly harder to replace and you may need to contact your window manufacturer if they need to be replaced.

Caulking - If you have replaced the weatherstripping and you are still getting a draft you may have seams and/or cracks around your window frame or door jamb. Just as you would use caulk to seal your sink or bathtub to prevent a leak, you can also use it to seal your windows and doors against energy loss. You home supply store can again provide you with all you need to do it yourself. An inexpensive caulk gun can be purchased for under 10 dollars and the average home store will stock a vast array of different types of caulking materials (usually conveniently labeled by application). Caulking a door jamb or window frame is basically the same as any other caulking process - remove any worn or loose material and lay down new bead of caulk to replace it.

Insulation - Most home owners know they have insulation in their walls and ceilings and may not be need to (or be able to) make changes to that. However, they can still save money by making sure the areas around doors, windows, and any other place which may allow drafts to enter the house are appropriately insulated. Wires, pipes, vents, windows, and doors are all points where you let something into or out of your home. The areas around these are often neglected when it comes to insulation.

When insulating around these areas, your first concern should be to make sure you use an appropriate insulating material. If you have an area where flame or heat are present, make sure to use you are using heat/flame resistant products, if your area is prone to moisture, use a material that will not absorb moisture.

If you are sealing up exposed areas, then you may not need to do much to prepare the area. If you are working in finished areas (as you usually will be when working on doors or windows) you may have to remove molding prior to adding insulation. Here are some suggestions on how to insulate common problem areas

Switches and Outlets - You may not realize it, but outlets and switches on exterior walls are often the source of a draft. These drafts are easily addressed by installing simple foam forms (should be available at your local home/electrical supply store). Installation consists of removing the switch or outlet plate, placing the form over the outlet, and replacing the faceplate.

Doors and Windows - Once the molding around the frame has been removed, you should be able to see how large an area you need to insulate. You can pack the open space with standard insulation or more commonly these days you may use a spray/expanding foam insulation. Here are a few tips for using these aerosol foams:

    Choose the right insulation for the job - different types of insulation have different applications. If you are not sure, check with your home supplies expert. Some foams expand more than others and are not designed for areas where over expansion can cause problems (such as a door jamb)
    Plan Ahead - One can of insulation may be enough to do several windows/doors. Make sure you are ready do a few at once so you don't waste half a can of insulation.
    Follow the directions! - some foams expand more than others and some continue to expand until cured - if the directions say to fill half the depth of the opening, don't over fill it unless you want foam everwhere.
    Be careful and Be clean - This stuff is sticky! - protect your skin and all finished surfaces. Clean up any excess immediatly.

Others access points - You may have to hunt to find other areas where heat can escape (or enter in warmer climates). Some areas to check for: external outlets, outside hose connections, skylights, vents, kitchen or bathroom exhaust fans, attic/crawlspace access, dryer vent, cable/phone wire. How to treat each of these differs from case to case - use common sense, follow the directions for your insulating method, and check with the professionals if you are indoubt - better a cold house than a pile of ashes!.

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