Tips to cut home energy costs

Monday, November 9, 2009

If you're looking to cut back on energy consumption, make sustainable choices and save up to 20 percent a year in heating and cooling costs, think about air sealing your home.

As temperatures rise and fall, homes tend to expand and contract, creating gaps that leave an incomplete "building envelope." Air sealing is simply closing those holes and gaps. Sealing this envelope means you use less energy to heat or cool while reducing your carbon footprint derived from energy-intense HVAC systems.

Checking For Air Leaks

A quick and easy do-it-yourself home energy audit includes:

*Inspecting where two different materials meet. Examine all door and window frames.

*Shutting doors and windows on a piece of paper. If you can pull the paper out without tearing it, you have a leak.

*Examining electrical and gas service entrances, outdoor water faucets and where dryer vents or cable lines pass through foundation walls.

*Holding an incense stick in front of windows, doors and where exterior meets interior. Drifting smoke indicates an area that needs to be sealed or insulated.

Sealing Air Leaks

Once you determine where the leaks are located, you need the proper sealant to do the job. Quality, over-the-counter sealants work well for sealing smaller gaps both indoors and out. They're permanently flexible, making them excellent sealants to handle joint movement. They're also latex-based, paintable, low odor, low VOC-content and clean up easily with water.

A foam sealant can be used for larger holes and gaps, except around heat sources such as chimneys and stoves, which require a specialty sealant.

Check with a reputable contractor or knowledgeable store salesperson to make sure you are buying the right sealant for the job at hand.