They've been known to groan. They've been known to roll their eyes. They've even been known to protest, “What? Do I really have to?”
Most adults are in touch with their “inner child,” and many are known to release theirs when a heating system service technician recommends that they should identify and plug leaks and then insulate their home to prepare for the colder days ahead. In fact, this one-two punch is the second most important step all homeowners can undertake at this time of year, right behind scheduling an annual heating system tune-up.
On face value, plugging air leaks and insulating sounds a little like an unwelcome homework assignment. But if you enjoyed a high-spirited game of hide-and-seek as a child, you might find some winning parallels with this home improvement project.
This “homework” pays dividends
The fact is, plugging air leaks and insulating is a great time investment, for unchecked air constantly escapes through your home's “envelope,” or the walls, windows, doors and other openings that lead outdoors.
If your home is like most others in the United States, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that about 20 percent of the warm air you regularly pay for seeps right back outdoors – and that's a conservative estimate.
Put another way: “If you added up all the leaks, holes and gaps in a typical home's envelope, it would be the equivalent of having a window open every day of the year,” the department says.
If this analogy has sent a chill up your spine, warm up to the other benefits of plugging leaks and insulating your home:
- Better indoor air quality (especially in terms of preventing dust, pollen and insects from entering your home)
- Improved humidity control
- Reduced outdoor noise
Before you get started, remember that like all “homework” assignments, help is right around the corner. For example, you might enjoy detecting leaks but need help repairing them. Or you might prefer leaving the entire matter of insulation to a heating system service company.
The bigger point is indisputable: you will keep your heating bills in check and enjoy better indoor comfort when you seal your “envelope,” no matter how you choose to approach the two tasks.
Seek out and repair leaks
Wait for a somewhat breezy day to give you the best chance at isolating the air leaks in your home. Close your doors and windows and turn off all the exhaust fans. You don't need any expensive tools; a feather, long-stemmed lighter or a smoke pen will do nicely.
Although you're likely to find many air leaks in your basement and attic, be sure to check all the other trouble spots in your home:
- Attic hatch
- Cable TV and phone lines
- Door and window frames
- Electrical outlets
- Fireplace damper
- Recessed lighting
- Soffits over cabinets
- Switch plates
- Vents and fans (including your dryer vent)
- Wall - or window-mounted air conditioners
Once you've finished your indoor “sweep,” turn your attention to the exterior of your home, and especially areas where two different building materials abut one another and:
- Where the foundation and the bottom brick, stone or siding meet
- All corners
- Water faucets
- The chimney
Most of these trouble spots can be repaired with caulk (or weather stripping). Gaping holes should be filled with insulation before being caulked.
If you suspect that your home is leaking more air than you can identify on your own, consider scheduling an indoor air assessment with a heating system service company like Experts In Your Home. This is a more scientific process that involves more stringent testing techniques – and is virtually guaranteed to pinpoint even the tiniest of leaks.
Seal in the warmth
Properly insulating your home is a process, but a few pointers should make it infinitely simpler and easier:
- Add more insulation if, as you look across your attic, the insulation is “just level with or below your floor joists,” the department of energy says. “If you cannot see any of the floor joists because the insulation is well above them, you probably have enough and adding more may not be cost-effective. It is important that the insulation be evenly distributed with no low spots; sometimes there is enough insulation in the middle of the attic and very little along the eaves.”
- You do not have to use the same type of insulation that you now have in your attic. In other words, you can put loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets and the other way around.
- Fiberglass is the simplest insulation for most homeowners to work with. Just remember to lay the second layer over and perpendicular to the first layer for the best layer of protection.
At some point during this process, you might find yourself groaning. You might even roll your eyes. But with a heating system service company like Experts In Your Home at your side, plugging leaks and insulating your home is one “homework assignment” that you will learn great lessons from – probably just as soon as you get your first “report card” in the form of your next energy bill.