If you’ve noticed a few leaky areas in your home, maybe a draft around an exterior door or a window, sealing those leaks is a quick and easy-to-accomplish New Year’s resolution that can provide you with greater comfort. A bonus: taking these actions may also lower your utility bills for the remainder of the winter and beyond, especially when we experience weather extremes.
One of the simplest and cheapest means to reduce energy use this winter, and throughout the year, is to seal air leaks on a home’s exterior walls. Caulk and weather-stripping materials are relatively inexpensive and available at hardware and big box stores.
It is relatively simple and inexpensive to complete some basic weatherization on a home’s exterior. Most homes can be weatherized around windows, doors and at the base of exterior siding using caulk, weather-stripping and flashing. You'll need to wait for a relatively warm day to do exterior caulking (be sure to check the caulk to find the temperatures needed for application). If this winter proves to be too cold, you may have to wait until spring.
Do-it-yourself caulking tips
- Remove dirt and grit or any loose paint from areas to be caulked (small cracks, gaps).
- Choose your timing. Try not to caulk in rainy weather or when the temperature is below 40 degrees. Consider also that caulk sets faster on hot days, leaving less time to trim or clean up messy spots.
- Caulk around new holes or disturbances to outside walls whenever additional pipes or cables are installed. GBX11421JAN
- You can also use caulk to seal any gaps between the wall and the trim on your windows.
- Apply caulk in a continuous motion, forcing it into cracks around windows, by holding the caulk gun at a 45-degree angle to the work surface. Release the handle just before reaching the end of the crack to prevent “run-on” and to reduce waste.
Filling larger gaps
A can of expanding foam sealant can be used to fit larger, irregularly shaped gaps. You may need to use fillers to plug extra-wide gaps. Fillers come in a wide variety of materials—cotton, fiberglass, foam and sponge rubber. However, these fillers are not designed for exposure to the elements so you will need to caulk or seal over them. To close gaps too wide for foam use foil-faced bubble wrap. For really large holes, cut sections of rigid foam insulation to fit and glue into place with expanding foam before covering the area with wood or another appropriate building material.
Put plastic on windows if needed, caulk and seal air leaks around attic doors, and install foam gaskets behind outlet covers and switch plates. Foam gaskets are used to seal switches and outlets that do not already have a tight seal against the wall. Air can leak through interior walls, flowing up into the attic, as well as through exterior walls. So install the gaskets on all your walls, exterior as well as interior ones. Plastic safety plugs can be used to stop air leaks through unused electrical outlets.
Other steps to lower utility costs
In cold weather, turn the thermostat down as much as safely possible, especially when sleeping or whenever the home is unoccupied. A programmable thermostat can help you automatically adjust the temperature for maximum savings and comfort. Add layers of clothing and bedding. Also, turn off extra lights, electronic devices or infrequently used appliances.
Contact us about conducting a home energy audit and for advice on other steps you can take to keep your monthly electric bills as low as possible.
Source: Iowa Utilities Board
- ENERGY STAR's Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Sealing
- Effective Means of Reducing Energy Costs from the Iowa Utilities Board