A leaky house also means extra energy consumption for your heating and air system, leading to higher utility bills and environmental stress. The solution is simple: Weatherproof your home with a few quick, easy methods that won't break your wallet.
1. Break Out the CaulkIf you measured every gap, crack, and air leak in your house, you would likely find you have the equivalent of a window open year-round. Perhaps the most important step you can take to combat drafts and keep the heat either inside or out is to load a caulk gun and hunt down the holes. Choose a quality caulk (you generally get what you pay for) and create a homemade draft detector to test for leaks with a hairdryer and a candle or stick of incense.
Where to Use: Start from the bottom of your home and work your way up. Look for holes in the floor where cables or wires enter the house. Run a bead of caulk along the edge of the foundation, where it meets the siding. Caulk along the subflooring, underneath the baseboard trim, whenever you have your finished flooring removed. Test windows and doors; even newer installations, if caulked with an inferior or improper product, may have caulk that's grown brittle, shrunk, or become loose. Check around any other openings in the walls, such as pipe outlets, the clothes dryer vent or incoming wires. Caulk around any protrusions through the ceiling into the attic, as well as in the attic walls or roofing.
2. Fill it With FoamExpanding foam insulation not only insulates well, it's a natural air barrier, unlike fiberglass insulation. Sold at most department, hardware or home improvement stores, it's fairly inexpensive when used for small areas. (For wall insulation, it's better applied by a professional using industrial machines.) Use low-expansion formulas, sometimes specified as window and door formula, and follow the instructions regarding the application – a little squirt goes a long way. To remove excess, once it has cured as specified, cut it flat with a utility knife. If it gets on fiberglass, on the other hand, wipe it away immediately to prevent an almost impossible removal.
Where to Use: Expanding foam insulation works well for any hole, gap, crack, seam or other opening larger than what is practical to fill with caulk – about 1/4 inch in diameter. Look under the trim surrounding your doors inside; the area between the trim and underneath the doorjambs will often benefit from a foam job. Another practical place to squirt some foam is around your electrical outlets, which are often poorly insulated and prime areas to leak air. Foam may also come in handy underneath crawl spaces and inside basements.
3. Work With Weather StrippingRegardless of the type of weather stripping you choose, you'll find it simple to install and effective at stopping drafts. From felt and foam to vinyl or metal, you can find weather stripping at most home improvement or hardware stores. For the best results, match the type of weather stripping to the area you are working on.
Where to Use: Doors and windows are prime candidates for weather stripping – just make sure you can close them easily (although snugly) with the weather stripping in place. Don't forget your garage, either. Weather stripping windows, entry doors and garage doors can have a profound affect on your home.
4. Get "Guard" AnimalsWhether you're an animal lover or prefer a pet-free home, draft stoppers fashioned into whimsical creatures such as rabbits, snakes and monkeys "guard" doors and even window ledges, blocking the heat or cold from invading your home. Alternatively, purchase and install conventional door sweeps made from rubber or metal.
5. Seal Your AtticUnless you have a finished attic area with a regular staircase, the only thing sealing your attic entry may be a piece of drywall covering the hole in your ceiling or a bit of plywood with a pull-down staircase attached. Neither is much barrier to heat transfers, which means you're losing a lot of your heat and air through your roof. To fix it, purchase an attic stair cover at a home improvement store or make one yourself. The effect will be worth the money.
6. Treat Your WindowsEven the newest windows transfer more heat and cold than insulated exterior walls. Older windows, often single-paned and possibly glazed in place, are even worse. Of course, a house without windows isn't the solution, and upgrading windows is costly.
The Solution: During the winter, storm windows add an extra barrier between the cold outside and the warm within your home. In the summer, take down your storm windows and replace them with screens. This works well for exterior doors as well. Heavy drapes – especially insulated drapes – also help block both hot and cold weather. In the winter you can actually help warm your home by opening curtains on south-facing windows. Bonus: If you have pets, they will probably love basking in the sun.
7. Deal With Your DuctsAs long as the air flows properly, most people don't spend much time thinking about their ductwork. Leaky or poorly insulated ducts, however, can cost you a lot of money - not to mention the time spent battling to keep your home at the right temperature. The typical American home loses around 20 percent of the air moving through HVAC ducts. To seal ducts, use mastic and butyl, foil, or other heat-approved tape. Wrap ducts with duct insulation, which is readily available at home improvement and hardware stores.
8. Install InsulationInsulation is the single most important thing standing between your family and the weather outdoors. Insulation isn't just for cold climates, either. Proper insulation levels will help keep your home cooler in the summer. It really does pay for itself.
Where to Install: Everywhere inside your home needs insulation. However, when it comes to upgrading insulation, the attic and roof are prime candidates, as is the floor and crawlspace, if you have one. Compare the insulation levels you currently have (each type has an R-value per inch of thickness) to what you should have, and add more as you can if your levels are low. Select the type of insulation that works best for your budget and installation - fiberglass and foam board are both popular choices.