Drafts can force your HVAC system to work harder and cost you money.
This is part two of our miniseries Second Nature’s Tips for an Efficient Home. Be sure to check out Part One: How to Pay Off your Car by Changing your Light Bulbs as well.
You can’t see it. You don’t know it’s there until you’re standing right in front of it. It sneaks into your home right under your nose and drives up your electric bill. It’s air.
Well, not just any air. Specifically, we’re talking air from outside your home that sneaks in via drafts. Poor insulation is one of the most effective ways to throw away money on your monthly bills. When outdoor air enters your home in the summertime, it forces your air conditioning to work that much harder to keep your home at the desired temperature. The same is true when you’re trying to heat your home in the winter. Fortunately, there are options to fix this issue that you can do yourself.
The first step in this process is to identify where your air leaks are coming from. Different places will require different tools and steps to seal correctly, so identifying your significant problem areas is a critical first step. Doors and windows are obvious places to start, but less frequented areas of your home, like your attic, may be considerable areas of concern.
Knee walls, which are walls in your attic that hold up rafters, are a common location for sneaky air leaks. Most people don’t spend too much time in their attic because it’s dark and creepy and it has spiders. Thus, most people don’t know that their knee walls and other spots in their attic are a burden on their bank account every single month. Sealing them up is an excellent place to start.
A lot of homes still have fiberglass batts or mats for insulation up there and swapping that old stuff out for a more effective insulating material is a must for energy-conscious folks. There are lots of different options for insulating your attic that are more effective than rolls of fiberglass. Cellulose, loose-fill fiberglass, and spray foam are all better choices to fix your attic and begin to save money.
Loose-fill fiberglass and cellulose both require blowing machines to cover your attic. As loose-fill insulation, they're sold in bags of small particles that are sprayed around your attic via the blowing machine. Installing them is something of a project, but the savings are well worth the effort, and it isn’t challenging as much as it is time-consuming and uncomfortable (it can get hot up there). Spray foam, a third quality alternative, comes in different varieties and is even more effective than the aforementioned options. It’s particularly expensive though and usually requires a professional to install properly. You can learn more about advanced attic insulation options from professionals by clicking here.
Outside of the attic, electrical outlets can often be an accessory to the assault on your electric bill. This fix tends to be one of the easiest around, and you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it can make. Gaskets specifically designed to seal electrical outlets can be purchased at your local hardware store for less than three dollars. There are different varieties, but many have an installation process as simple as taking off the plastic cover, applying the sealer or gasket to the wall, and then reinstalling the plastic cover.
Once you’ve successfully installed the gaskets around your outlets, continue to monitor them for drafts. In certain circumstances, these may not be enough to secure the outlets adequately. If you’re finding that to be the case, you might need to bring out the big guns—caulking guns that is. Sealing the edges of the outlet hole with caulking or putty may be necessary to deny air any entrance entirely. Consider installing a larger plastic cover as well. Depending on how much putty is used, it may try to seep out the sides if you merely reinstall that same outlet cover you were using.
Finally, It’s time to discuss the obvious perpetrator: doors and windows. You may think closing and locking your doors and windows is enough to keep outdoor air outdoors. It helps, but it’s rarely sufficient. You need something better. Weatherstripping is a good starting point. There are many different types of weatherstripping, including felt, foam, and silicone, and most can be picked up locally for relatively cheap. The use of v strip weatherstripping around the frames of doors and windows is a common practice to prevent air leaks. Like gaskets for outlets, it’s easy, cheap, and effective.
Thoroughly sealing your home may seem like a lot of work for a little reward. If you do it right though, there are plenty of savings to be had.
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