How can your home save you $200 to $400 a year from now on? by K.A.

Brunswick Plantation & Golf Resort is located near Calabash NC only minutes from pristine beaches. We have a mild climate and mild winters with an average daytime high of 59, 56, and 60 degrees in Dec, Jan, and February . The first few weeks in January of this year we saw temps from the 60’s to the upper 70’s with lots of sunshine. But not everyone is so lucky as us. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to keep your home warmer and lower your heating costs without major remodeling or breaking the bank.  

Energy Fact: 40-50% of your energy costs come from heating and cooling your home. The most bang for your buck starts with keeping all the warm air in your home by sealing up all the gaps and cracks that it leaks out of.

Most people notice their homes’ leakiness or “drafts” in the winter. You may notice these drafts around windows and doors and think they are the largest source of wasted energy. However, in most homes, the largest air leaks hide in attics and basements. These air leaks make your home uncomfortable and drive up your energy costs. In cold temperatures, warm air rises in a home, just like it in a chimney. Remember, you have paid to heat this air and it’s wasted by rising up into the attic and then sucking cold air in throughout your home from around doors, windows, holes in your basement or other gaps and cracks. Finding these air leaks often can be tough due to them being hidden under insulation.

Don’t fret about locating and sealing every little hole in the attic; your largest savings will come from filling the big ones. Once in the attic, locate the areas where air leaks are most likely to be greatest: where walls (inner and outer) meet the attic floor, dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas), and behind or under attic kneewalls. Look for dirty insulation—which shows that air is passing through it. Sometimes dropped soffits and filled or covered with insulation and difficult to see. Remove the insulation from the soffits, plugs the stud cavities, and install insulation back over the soffits.

Furnace Flues Require Special Sealing Techniques

Another big source of air leakage in the attic may be through the gap around a furnace or water heater flue or chimney. Most building codes require 1-2 inches of clearance between metal and masonry flues. This gap will need to be sealed with lightweight aluminum flashing and special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk. Then create a metal dam about 1 inch away from the metal pipe or masonry flue and push insulation back in place.

Foam or Caulk Small Gaps in Your Attic

Although most of the leaks are hidden beneath insulation, you can find them by looking for darkened areas of insulation. The insulation gets dark or dirty because it is filtering dusty air from the home as it passes through. In cold climes, you may also see frosty areas in the insulation created by moist warm air condensing and then freezing as it enters the cold attic air. In warmer climes, you will see water staining in these same locations. While this insulation is dirty looking it need not be removed or replaced. Just push the insulation back in place after you have sealed the gaps in these areas.

Seal Larger Gaps

Next, seal the gaps and cracks around plumbing vent pipes and electrical boxes and wires by using caulk or expanding aerosol foam. Be careful to wear gloves and keep foam away from clothes as it is very sticky and does not wash off easily. Once the caulk or foam has dried, cover the location with insulation.

Complete the Job by Sealing the Attic Hatch or Door

Your attic doors is essentially another door to the “outside” and should be treated as such. This means adding weather stripping and rigid insulation. Apply self adhering weather stripping in the frame of the access so the door seals against it when closed. Then cut some rigid foam board insulation (use as thick a piece as will work …R 10 is minimum recommended) and glue it to the hatch door or pull down panel. Another solution is to purchase and install a prefabricated insulated attic door or stair cover available at home improvement stores or online.

If Your Heating and Cooling Ducts Are in Your Attic, Seal Them While in the Attic

Especially when located in attics, leaky and poorly-insulated ducts greatly impede the performance and efficiency of your HVAC system. You can increase the efficiency of your system by 20% just by insulating and sealing the ducts while also increasing air flow.

Simply set your HVAC system to “Fan On” and then feeling around the duct connections for leaking air. Once located, seal the leaky areas with mastic and then foil tape made for HVAC use. Do not use Duct Tape as it will loose its adhesive quickly and begin leaking.

Make sure to seal all ducts that pass through the ceiling or floor by installing expanding foam between duct and floor/ceiling panels.

Ducts should also be insulated—at least R8. If you see gaps or torn insulation then seal and add insulation. This will keep the air inside the duct at the desired temperature as it passes through the system.

Recessed “Can” Lights: Big Source of Air Leaks, But No Easy Solution

Call a Professional to Properly Seal & Switch to More Efficient Bulbs

Locating Basement Air Leaks

The most common place for air leaks in basements is at the top of the basement wall where concrete or block meets wood framing.These leaks can easily be sealed in areas of the basement that are unfinished. This perimeter framing is called the rim (or band) joist. In the basement, the above floor joists end at the rim joist creating many cavities along the length of the wall, and many chances for leakage.

Seal All Gaps and Cracks around Rim Joists

Even though you cannot always see the gaps and cracks in the rim joist cavities, it is best practice to seal the top and bottom of the inside of the cavity. Caulk is best for sealing gaps or cracks that are 1/4 inch or less. Use spray foam to fill gaps from 1/4 inch to about 3 inches. We also recommend you seal penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the floor above. Generally, these are holes for wires, water supply pipes, water drain pipes, the plumbing vent stack (for venting sewer gases), and the furnace flue (for venting furnace exhaust).

These air sealing techniques are just a few of the many reasons our Energy Star certified condos and townhomes (click here to learn more) are able to operate so efficiently.  We are proud Energy Star partners and continue to work hard to bring value, quality, comfort, and durability to our customers.  Let us know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this blog or any other energy efficiency question.  We are happy to help.


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