Leaks and cracks come with the territory when you buy an old house. Since they hardly add to the charm, why not increase your home's energy efficiency and decrease your monthly bills by taking a couple of weekends to weatherize your home? The rewards are great not only for you and your wallet, but also for the planet.
Conduct an Energy Efficiency Audit
Consider hiring a professional energy auditor--who can examine the exterior of your home, every room in the house, and analyze your energy bills--to determine how to best reduce energy use.
An energy auditor should conduct a calibrated blower door test, which assesses the home's air-tightness, and possibly a thermographic scan, which detects heat losses and air leakage. You may also conduct a less thorough, do-it-yourself energy audit. The U.S. Department of Energy outlines on its website how to find air leaks by checking electrical outlets, switch plates, window frames, baseboards, weather stripping around doors, fireplace dampers, and attic hatches.
Batten the Attic Hatches
Hot air rises, which means most home heat loss goes right out through the roof. But first it passes through the attic. Leaks in attic floors lower the effectiveness of insulation and can deplete up to 50 percent of the energy used to heat your home.
To locate cracks, you typically need to roll back insulation. Or for loose-fill insulation, call a weatherization contractor for assistance. Use latex caulk to fill gaps up to three-eighths wide. Expanding urethane foam in a can or DAP latex sealant works for holes up to 1-inch wide, and cut a drywall patch for larger holes. Seal the edges using urethane foam. Lastly, insulate the attic hatch itself or the door to the attic with weather stripping around the edges.
Check Chimneys and Air Ducts
While you're in the attic--or crawl space or basement--seal gaps around chimneys and stove flues with a sheet-metal collar and caulk. Also check for cracks in your forced-air ducts, which can reduce heating and cooling efficiency by 40 percent. Reconnect any ductwork that has fallen apart, and then feel along supply ducts for air coming out. Place a tissue along return ducts to see if air is being sucked in. Seal small holes with duct mastic. Fiberglass mesh tape or UL-181 aluminum tape can be used to repair larger openings.
For the sake of energy efficiency and safety, hire a professional to inspect your system after you're finished. Then you can rest easy knowing your job was well done--and perhaps for the first time, you'll be able to look forward to the arrival of your next energy bill.
This Old House
U.S. Department of Energy
About the Author
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.
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