Most homeowners are not aware that there are dozens of ways their homes are leaking air. Air leaks can drastically affect the home’s heating and cooling system, forcing it to run more often than it would if these leaks were plugged. By not addressing and repairing these leaks, you can realistically expect to pay higher utility bills all year long.
But why shell out the money if you don’t have to? As you’ll see, these problems are so easy to fix that any do-it-yourselfer can finish the job over the course of a weekend. In this article, we’ll point out several ways your home might be leaking air and how to fix them so you can preserve the heat this winter.
Tools and Materials
- Measuring tape
- Utility knife
- Duct tape
- Foam insulation strips
- Silicone caulk
- Spray foam insulation
- Water heater blanket insulation
- Fiberglass pipe wrap
- Electrical outlet insulators
- Pipe sleeve insulation
- Foil-backed bubble wrap
Some of these jobs may place you in dusty or dirty areas of the home or in areas where you will come into contact with fiberglass insulation. Always wear eye goggles, a quality air mask and work gloves when in these areas. Also, if you are working with fiberglass insulation, wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt is recommended.
Step 1: Seal Outlet Boxes on Outside Walls
Receptacle and switch boxes that are installed on outside walls have gaps which allow the heat in your home to pass right through. Remove the cover plates and slip a pre-cut electrical outlet foam insulator over the receptacle or switch and then re-install the cover plate. This will help seal the box off and prevent air from escaping.
For even greater heat-loss prevention, fill in the hole where the wires enter the outlet box with silicone caulk before installing the insulator.
Step 2: Insulate Ventilation Ducts
If you have ventilation ducts in your attic, they may be leaking air which will cause them to form condensation. To prevent this, wrap the ventilation ducts with thin batts of fiberglass insulation.
Step 3: Check Windows for Drafts
Leaky windows are perhaps the most common culprit in the fight for heat preservation. Check your windows for any drafty spots. If you find your windows are drafty, remove the casing and fill in all of the gaps with pieces of fiberglass insulation. For very thin gaps, push the insulation in the gap using a paint stirrer or some other thin, long tool.
Step 4: Check the Pipes
Check your plumbing and gas lines for gaps, especially where they are run through walls. Take a can of spray foam insulation and fill in these gaps. Be careful you don’t over-spray an area, however; as this insulation expands tremendously.
Step 5: Insulate the Water Heater
If your water heater sits in a colder part of the house, like the basement, the surrounding chilly air could be sucking the heat out of the tank. To maximize the tank’s heat preservation, you should install a water heater insulation blanket over it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the blanket kit in order to ensure the best results.
Step 6: Wrap Exposed Pipes
Copper plumbing pipes can freeze easily in the winter and sweat notoriously in the summer. To help prevent this, wrap every inch of exposed pipe with either pre-formed foam pipe sleeves or pipe wrap insulation. Secure the insulation with duct tape to prevent it from falling off.
Step 7: Seal and Wrap Duct-work
If you have exposed duct-work in your basement or attic, wrap the ducts with paper-backed insulation or foil-backed bubble wrap. Use spray foam insulation to seal around the ducts wherever they pass through ceilings, walls and the roof.
Originally posted on Realtor.com and written by Dave Donovan http://www.realtor.com/home-garden/do-it-yourself/heating-air-conditioning/preserving-heat.aspx