Anatomy of a Drafty House

If you're sleeping in ski socks, it may be time for an energy audit. Experts reveal six ways your home may be leaking air (and what to do about it).

Last year, when my husband and I bought our house, a renovated 1932 cottage in Connecticut, our inspector insisted it was in terrific shape. But come winter, we found ourselves sleeping in fleece pullovers and ski socks -- and with utility bills through the new roof. So for $75, we signed up for Home Energy Solution, a Connecticut program for which technicians determine where a home is losing energy and make on-the-spot repairs.

During half a day at our house, workers sealed ducts and weather-stripped doors to prevent warm air from escaping, installed energy-efficient light-bulbs, and caulked like crazy to keep cool air from sneaking in through cracks around the house. They identified tiny openings through a blower-door test, which involves mounting a powerful fan to the front-door frame to suck the warm air out of the house and allow cool air to flow in.

Home Energy Solution's changes should save us an estimated $400 this year on utilities -- not bad for $75. And as we head into another winter, we can already tell that the house is less chilly. Even if there isn't a similar program in your area (check energystar.gov), don't resign yourself to wearing heavy sweaters indoors. Here, our energy experts share some of the common culprits behind a drafty house, which homeowners can identify and tackle on their own.

The Culprit

Gaps between moldings and baseboards.

The Fix

Check for leaks by moving a lit candle around the perimeter of a closed window or door and around baseboards. A flickering flame indicates a trouble spot. Fill in with caulk.

The Culprit

Spaces under outside or basement doors.

The Fix

If a door has an adjustable threshold, it should be snug with the rubber strip when the door is closed. Use a door sweep for gaps of a quarter inch or more.

The Culprit

Ducts in unfinished basements, garages, and crawl spaces.

The Fix

Turn up your fan and hold a lit piece of incense next to the ducts; if smoke begins to blow, air is escaping. Cover duct cracks with Mastic, or hire a contractor.

The Culprit

The attic hatch.

The Fix

To prevent heat from leaking out of an access hatch, use a weather-stripping kit. For pull-down stairs, purchase insulated attic-stair covers.

The Culprit

Recessed lights.

The Fix

These act like little chimneys, pumping air in and out of the space above. To stop this, buy covers that fit around your lights or replace them with LED retrofitted recessed lights.

The Culprit

Openings around pipes and wires in the attic.

The Fix

To find gaps leaking warm air, look for darkened insulation or chilly spots. Fill spaces with minimal-expanding weatherizing foam, and replace the insulation.

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