Find the draft that's making your family cold
Once identified, leaks can be filled with caulking or weatherstripping
It's no secret that energy bills go up in the winter. In fact, they can double or triple because lights need to be on more frequently, other electronics are on longer, and we need to turn up the heat. Space heating alone can account for 40% to 50% of an electricity bill.
But with a little sleuthing, you can reduce the amount of heat your house loses, which will keep your family comfortable and save you money.
Better yet, you can get a rebate of up to $500 for sealing the gaps and cracks that are costing you money.
Where drafts come from
The air inside your home flows normally, in what are called convective loops. These occur naturally because hot air rises and cool air sinks, and usually this is a process that occurs slowly.
When this happens quickly, you can actually feel the cold air moving down.
There are two main reasons this can happen. One is when the air inside the house is cooling because there's not enough insulation. The second is because there are actual holes in the home that permit outside air in.
Locating the source of air leaks
Because warm air rises, it typically leaves your house from the top of your house, through the ceiling or attic, so that's a place to start. It follows that, as cold air stays low, that it will be coming into the house from the ground or basement.
But there are tricks you can use to target more closely.
- A visual inspection can often identify some leaks. Look at dryer vents and other places on the outside of your house where there are holes. You can also look around your windows and doors to see if weatherstripping or caulk is old and cracking.
- Close all the doors and windows in your house, turn on the kitchen and bathroom fans, and light a stick of incense. Hold the burning incense near the areas that are often the source of leaks: doors, windows, and vents. If there's a leak, the smoke from the incense will drift away. Just like it does for every movie heroine who gets trapped in a dark cave.
- Infrared cameras measure the amount of heat an object is giving off and can be used to accurately measure the temperature of your home in different areas. This is best done by a professional, however, as interpreting the images is not something the average person can do.
- You can also have a certified energy advisor conduct a "blower door" test, which changes the pressure inside your house to identify air leakages.
What you can do about drafts
The solution for drafts caused by poor insulation is to add or upgrade insulation. Don't miss out on savings on insulation included in our home renovation rebates.
But if you've found leaks in your house, you need to seal them. Here are some tips on what you can do yourself.
- Wall outlets and switches: You can purchase pre-cut foam pads for the exterior walls of your home.
- Windows: In the winter, you can use plastic film as a second pane of glass. The air between the window and the plastic becomes a layer of insulation.
- Window and door frames: If you can remove the trim, use non-expanding spray foam to fill the gaps between the house frame and the portal. You can use caulk around the trim's edges if you're not able to remove it. Rope caulk, which is like a putty that can be pressed into seams and gaps, can also be helpful. You can also use weatherstripping around the moving parts of windows and doors.
- Vents, pipes, cables: Use caulk or spray foam to fill up the spaces around these where they enter and exit the house.
- Recessed lights in the ceiling: Remove the light and use duct tape to cover any gaps between the edge of the metal container for the light and the ceiling surface. You can also surround the housing of the light with foam insulation.
- Bathroom fans: Remove the fan and use duct tape to cover the gap between the housing of the fan and the celling.
- Seal gaps in the walls and floors: You can use spray foam insulation even if there is already insulation in place. Just make sure you use gloves and a dust mask when you move the insulation out of the way.
- Air ducts: Duct sealant should be used to plug holes; use aluminum duct tape on the joints.