High Energy Bills? Fix Air Leaks in These 4 Offending Areas

Before you turn the thermostat up another notch or pile another blanket on the bed, it may be time to figure out how and where your house is losing heat.

Whether you’re the victim of a poorly insulated basement or drafty windows, those heat losses add up in the form of big — sometimes enormous — energy bills.

To determine exactly how much energy your house is losing, you may want to hire a home energy auditor. This individual will use an infrared camera and other fancy gadgets to determine where your heat is going. If you prefer, you can do an audit on your own by going through your house and feeling for drafts. These four spots are the most common places to check to heat loss:

Doors

You have to use it to go in and out of your house, so it’s understandable some heat will escape each time you open the door. That said, heat shouldn’t be leaking out from around the door when it’s closed. Door seals and weather-stripping are available at most home improvement stores. Replacing torn, worn or just plain ill-fitting seals is a do-it-yourself job that requires little to no experience.

Windows

Heat escapes both through glass — especially single-pane windows — and around casements and trim. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates a third of a home’s total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. Insulated blinds or curtains can help keep some of the heat inside; so can plastic film kits available through home improvement stores.

For basement or attic windows you don’t need to see through, cover the panes with a piece of foam board glued to 3/8-inch drywall. Cut the pieces so they fit snugly inside the window frame; the foam can be popped out whenever you want to let in sunlight.

If you have single-pane windows, consider installing storm windows or replacing them with more efficient thermal windows.

Fireplaces

Hot air travels upward. When you have a wood fire, more heat escapes through your chimney than enters your house. Even when the fireplace is not being used, closed metal dampers tend to leak air.

Fireplaces that are never used should be plugged and their flues sealed. Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going; if you leave the damper open while you’re not burning a fire, your heating bill can increase by as much as 30 percent.

If your flue doesn’t seal tight, have it replaced or repaired. Also, consider installing glass doors and a heat-air exchange that circulates warm air to make your fires more efficient.

Look high and low

Warm air flowing upward from your heated house to your cold attic is a large waste of heat. Additionally, this warm air is often damp and can cause condensation damage to your roof.

If floors on the main level of your home are cold, chances are your crawl space or basement is poorly insulated. A common area of air leakage in the basement is along the top of the basement wall where cement or block comes in contact with the wood frame. Also check for cracks in brick, concrete or stone basement walls, and make repairs with premixed cement or other filler.

Sealing leaks and installing insulation will help keep the heat in and the cold out.

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