The cooling and heating bills for your home in the Sarasota area will always be a major household expense, but with a bit of work, you can reduce the amount of energy you use and reduce your monthly bills simply by sealing air leaks around your home. There are many areas in the average home that are prone to leaking air, such as around windows and doors. They allow your heated or cooled air to escape to the outside and allow outside air to find its way inside, especially during our long, hot Gulf Coast Florida summers. This increases the amount of work your HVAC system must do in order to keep your home at the desired temperature.
Sealing air leaks with a combination of weatherstripping, caulk and spray foam can reduce your cooling and heating bills by up to 15 percent. It can keep you more comfortable during extreme temperatures and helping to maintain good indoor air quality by sealing the gaps that allow allergens and air pollutants to enter your home.
Before you begin sealing air leaks, you have to find them. This is best done with the help of a contractor, who can do a full energy audit on your home using a blower door test and, possibly, infrared cameras, to help spot leaks. But there are some ways you can find the major ones yourself:
Finding Air Leaks
- On a windy day, use a smoke pen, available at hardware stores, or a stick of incense and walk around your home’s inside, especially along exterior walls, looking for areas where the smoke starts wavering. Check the areas around windows, doors, outlets, switches, plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, the basement or crawlspace access, and the attic door or hatch.
- Check ceilings for any cracks or discoloration, which could indicate air has been leaking into the floor above.
- If the insulation in the attic is exposed, look for any discolored or dirty areas of insulation. There may be an air leak in that area, carrying dust through and depositing it in the insulation.
- From the outside of your home, check for any loose or damaged siding or trim, gaps in the siding or trim, and any obvious damage to the roof shingles. Check the foundation for any cracks, and pay special attention to areas where pipes or electrical conduits penetrate the home. Inspect areas around doors and windows for cracks or gaps and also check around any electrical fixtures.
Sealing Air Leaks
- Weatherstripping: Use weatherstripping around doors and windows that are not fixed. Self-sticking foam or rubber works well around doors, where they are compressed, as well as the bottom of windows. Vinyl can be used in the tracks of windows, and a door sweep should be added to the bottom of exterior doors.
- Caulk: Caulk should be used to seal around the fixed portions of windows and doors, such as where the trim meets the interior or exterior wall. Inside the home, use caulk to fill any cracks in the ceiling, around electrical boxes in the attic and around attic, basement or crawlspace openings. When you’re sealing air leaks around appliance flues in the attic, use fire-resistant flashing to provide an air barrier between the flue and surrounding insulation and use high-temperature caulk to seal it. Lift the insulation in the attic and seal any cracks, especially above interior walls, plumbing and electrical runs. On the outside of the home, use caulk to seal any gaps in the siding or trim, foundation cracks, electrical boxes, electrical conduit runs and plumbing runs. When you are sealing air leaks with caulk, hold the gun at about a 45-degree angle, which allows the caulk to expand into the empty space properly, and try to fill the space in a single fluid motion, minimizing stops and starts.
- Spray foam: This should be used in any gaps that are too large for caulk, which is only effective just above a quarter inch. Such areas include the voids around electrical boxes in the wall, large cracks in the ceiling, siding or trim, and around electrical or plumbing penetrations.
- Foam electric box covers: Use these for sealing air leaks at your electric outlets and switches by placing them behind the face plates.
To learn more about how sealing air leaks can improve your home’s energy efficiency, contact our HVAC professionals at Aqua Plumbing and Air. We have served Sarasota, Bradenton and Manatee counties since 1974.
Written by John Miller
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