High Heating Bills? Check for Air Leaks

by Carmen Corbin on November 30, 2011

Now that temperatures have taken a dip, it’s time to prepare for even colder weather that’s on the way.  You may have already noticed a rise in your utility bill, but if you think the total is a bit on the high side, it might be time to inspect your home for air leaks.

The U.S. Department of Energy publishes a lot of helpful information for homeowners on one of their websites, www.energysavers.org.  When searching your house for potential air leaks, one method is to hold an incense stick, candle or lighted match next to each area (see below).  If a draft is present, you’ll see the smoke or flame waiver.  You can also wet your hand to make it easier to feel the cold air.

Areas to Check for Air Leaks

Here is a list of places in your home where air leaks commonly occur:

  1. Electrical Outlets and Switches:  Inexpensive foam gaskets can be placed behind your outlets and switch plates to help serve as a cold air barrier. 
  2. Windows:  Test all around the frame for leaks (be careful of your curtains if you’re using an open flame!).  Old windows and single paned windows are especially prone to leaks and general energy inefficiency.  You can have a contractor replace the window with more energy efficient double paned windows, or if you already have newer house windows, re-caulk or put new weather stripping around them.
  3. Exterior Doors:  If you can see daylight coming through around your door, then cold air is getting in too.  In addition to replacing the weather stripping, installing a flexible rubber door sweep at the bottom of the door will help also.
  4. Fireplace Dampers:  If you’re not using your fireplace, close the damper!
  5. Wall or Window Mounted Air Conditioning Units:  Remove it for the winter if possible, or use foam sealant or weather stripping around the edges to seal off air leaks.
  6. Baseboards and Light Fixtures:  Use caulk or foam sealant carefully to avoid unsightly residue, or just use weather stripping.  If you detect an air leak in either of these areas, you may need to improve your insulation.
  7. Attic Access Hatches:  Install weather stripping or check the attic for inadequate insulation.

If you still can’t find the source of your problem, a professional thermographic inspection can also help determine where the cold spots are in your home.

For more information on energy efficient solutions for your home, contact your local home improvement contractor.

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