If you want to take on a renovation project before winter comes, you should look into fixing air leaks in your home. When your home has air leaks, it increases energy costs to heat and cool your home. This causes potential durability issues, and lets in unhealthy airborne pollutants that affect your air quality.
The great thing about renovating your home to fix air leaks and improve your home’s air tightness is that it is cost-beneficial.
Most methods of sealing air leaks are cheap to do, and any improvement you make will help you save future costs on your energy bills or repairs. Here are some of the better renovation projects to help make your home air tight.
Seal Up Electrical Outlets, Switches & Boxes
One of the more common places to find an air leak is behind any electric outlets, light switches, or junction boxes in the walls of your home. All three will have holes in the plates, the wall, and around the wiring that will leak air unless they are sealed properly to prevent it. There are two ways you can seal these air leaks: with foam gaskets, or with non-expanding latex foam.
Foam gaskets are best for simple outlets and switches, and you can buy them pre-cut and pre-sized to fit the type of outlet or switch you use. If you want to be absolutely sure, you can measure and cut out the necessary holes yourself.
First, turn off the circuits to that part of your home for safety reasons. Next, remove the outlet plates with a screwdriver. Finally, you fit the foam gasket over the outlets or switches—make sure they fit snugly—and screw the plates back on.
However, you should know that some homes have their outlets and switches mounted on a junction box that sits deeper into the walls. These junction boxes have other holes that can cause air leaks if they are not properly sealed when they were installed, that foam gaskets will not completely block.
You can fix this yourself with non-expanding latex foam (foam that expands can pose serious fire risks). Carefully aim the spray tube to fill in any holes or gaps between the wall and the box to make it airtight.
Re-Apply Caulking Every Year
A good annual project for your home is to re-apply the caulking around any plumbing, ducts, or electrical wires that run through your ceiling, floor, and so on. It’s best to seal up cracks and gaps on parts of your home that do not move or shift—the movement can cause the caulking to crack and erode quickly. There are different types and materials of caulking that work better in certain conditions, so do your research to make sure you use the best kind in any situation.
First, clear away any old caulking using something like a screwdriver, chisel or knife and make sure the area is completely dry. Hold the caulking gun at around a 45-degree angle to get the best angle at the area you want to fill, and run it in a constant and smooth motion without stuttering or stopping.
While you’re doing this, watch to see if any of the caulking shrinks and fill any areas in that came up short to make sure they are sealed. Also make sure the caulking sticks to both sides of the corners you are sealing.
Replace Old Weatherstripping
For parts of your home that you can’t use caulking because they move or shift (such as the bottoms of doors or the moving parts of windows that can open and close), you should use weatherstripping instead. They are more durable for any friction caused by movement, as well as inclement weather and temperatures.
Like caulking, you can get different types and materials of weatherstripping depending on where and how you want to use it. You’ll want to choose carefully to make sure it provides enough sealing while also allowing for the component to move properly. You should pre-measure the areas you want to apply weatherstripping and then add on another 10% to account for waste and mistakes.
When installing the weatherstripping, the technique to use depends on the kind you have so follow the instructions closely. In general, however, make sure the area where you are applying the weatherstripping is clean and completely dry. You don’t want to seal in any moisture or debris. Make sure that it fits tightly against corners to avoid having smaller leaks that you missed.
Install Double-Pane Windows
The windows of your home are one of the major sources of air leaks. Using caulking and weatherstripping can help seal leaks to the frames, but for the windows themselves, you can help provide extra protection by installing double-pane windows. They are as simple as they sound. Each one uses two panes of glass with a small space between them.
The extra pane of glass and the space between each pane provides an extra layer of protection against an air leak. It also helps provide better insulation against temperatures and noise. If you’ve noticed any particular room in your home always feels too hot, cold or drafty, consider installing these double-pane windows. Just make sure they are installed properly to make sure they are fully sealed against air leaks.
Replace the Exterior Doors to Your Home
The other major source of air leaks in your home are the exterior doors such as your front door, any back or side doors, your garage door, and the door from your home to the inside of your garage. Your garage door in particular can be problematic for air leaks due to its size and the number of moving parts it can have.
Over time, your exterior doors can get worn down by use, weather, friction, and things and people banging into them. If your doors are older, it is a good idea to replace them with new and well-insulated doors. Avoid wooden doors, as they are more porous and do not insulate very well. Instead, look for fiberglass or vinyl doors as they provide the best insulation. Make sure they have new, sturdy weatherstripping installed on the bottoms, and that any windows in the door have fresh caulking.
Re-Insulate Your Home
The last and most involved renovation project to make your home air tight is to replace any old insulation. If you notice that the temperature in your home changes more drastically than it used to, and/or that your energy bills are getting more expensive, there are likely worn areas and leaks that allows the air outside to get into your home. That means it’s time to replace the insulation to seal up all those leaks.
There are many types and materials of insulation that you can use, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Depending on the kind of home you have, and where you are located, you might find through careful research what types would work best. The installation methods will vary depending on what type you use, as well as what part of your home you are having insulated. Make sure all the necessary parts of your house get proper insulation, and follow the best instructions for installation.
About the Author:
This is a guest post courtesy of James Memije, the co-owner at AccuServ Heating and Air Conditioning in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
James Memije is the co-owner of AccuServ Heating and Air Conditioning. He has extensive knowledge in hydronics and forced air systems and is a Licensed Gas Fitter with several certifications including heat load calculation and air duct design.
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