The Federal stimulus plan ‘Cash for Caulkers’ may never get off the ground, but that is no reason to put off sealing up your home. Before you go out and buy expensive new windows or doors, you should consider that most heat loss/gain through your home is through gaps in windows, doors, ceilings, and other appurtenances extending from your your exterior walls. These heat loss issues can be fixed easily and cheaply.
Detecting air penetration
Option 1: Buy several incense sticks. Light a stick and slowly move the stick around the opening that you want to check. The smoke that is produced from the stick should be a steady, thin stream. If there is any wavering of the smoke, that is where you have air leaking into/away from your house. Do this also for ceiling light fixtures – warm air can escape unnoticeably through these fixtures.
Option 2: KCP&L and MGE have teamed up to provide energy rebates (http://www.hpwes.net/). By utilizing one of their certified auditors, you can have a certified report of the measures you need to take to make your home more energy efficient including what needs to be done to seal up your home.
Expanding foam insulation, caulk, backer rod, weather stripping, and rags
Expanding foam insulation
Expanding foam insulation comes in several application types, so pick the one(s) you’ll need. These applications are: wide cracks, windows & doors, and regular (smaller gaps). The wide and small gaps are self-explaining, but if you plan to foam around doors or windows, utilize the windows & doors treatment because this type is formulated to not expand as much so there isn’t a worry of pressure placed on the window/door. For the more eco-friendly people, there is also a spray foam type that is made from soy beans and can be found in select home improvement retailers.
Expanding foam is not reusable, so prior to using it, figure out all the locations in your house that you can apply it. It is also very sticky – wearing pants and long sleeves is recommended.
Follow the manufacturers instructions to begin the application process.
Caulk and backer rod
Caulking is an application that you need to do wherever there is a possibility of water intrusion. Several types of applications are on the shelves at your local home improvement store, so use the type that is applicable to your situation. Buying high quality caulk cannot be stressed enough. For example, if you plan to caulk around the exterior of your house, it is highly recommended that you use a caulk that has silicone in it. Yes, it is more expensive than the acrylic caulk, but for the longevity of the caulk, there should be no substitute.
The proper way to caulk is to run a thin bead of product along the gap that you want to caulk. Use a wet finger to smooth out the caulk by running your finger the entire length of caulk. Then run your finger in the opposite direction down the entire length of caulk. This “technique” ensures that the caulk will stretch into gaps and not get pushed to one side of the gap. The backer rod should be used if you plan to caulk any gap larger than 1/2″. Backer rod is simply a piece of rod-shaped foam (looks like a miniature version of a swimming pool noodle that kids play with). Simply cut the backer rod to length and stuff it into place and caulk over it using the same technique as before.
In new painting applications, caulking should be done before priming and painting (some people have debated whether the caulking should be done after priming; however, Sherwin-Williams experts state that caulking before priming and painting is the proper way).
Weather stripping is cheap and easy. Check the weather stripping along your doors and windows. If any weather stripping is frayed, cracked, or peeling off, then you need to replace it. Weather stripping is another application that comes in several varieties. These range from large gap to small gap, open cell to closed cell, and other options for specific applications. Pick the one that suits your needs.
Replacing or adding weather stripping is the quickest and easiest way to save you money on the winter heating bills. Simply peel or pry off the old weather stripping and replace it. Depending on the application, this can be as easy as self-stick or as difficult as nailing fins (such as under a door), either way this is typically not a daunting task.
Before you plan to replace your windows or doors this season, think about sealing up your house using these inexpensive and easy fixes to cut down on heat loss.