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Each year we waste energy at a very costly rate for the homeowner due to air leakage. 

We all know to close windows and doors, but it is the air leakage that is not always evident that is the culprit.  The DOE has made the following information available to assist us in correcting the primary causes of energy loss through air leakage.   


Leakage Through Ceilings, Walls and Floors

  • Electric outlets -- Install foam gaskets behind all the light switches and electrical outlet covers, even on interior walls. These simple foam gaskets help seal the holes created when the outlets and light switches are built into homes. Then use child safety plugs to keep the cold air from coming in through the sockets.
  • Windows and doors -- Weather strip and caulk all visible cracks and gaps between non-moving parts of window trim, especially under the window sills. Replace broken glass and putty any loose windowpanes. Caulk around the moving parts of windows with a non-permanent caulk during the winter. This type of caulk can be easily removed in the spring.
  • Wall Baseboards -- Use a clear siliconized acrylic latex to seal any visible crack or gap at the top and bottom of baseboards. Otherwise warm moist air will leak into the walls and up through the attic during cold weather.
  • Other wall holes -- Seal around all ceiling fixtures, heat registers, medicine cabinets, bath tubs, kitchen cabinets, drains and water pipes where they pass through walls wall and any other holes in exterior walls.
  • Fireplace Dampers -- Missing or poorly fitting dampers allow air to move freely up and down the chimney. Install a new damper or repair the existing one so it closes tightly.
  • Recessed lights and bathroom fans -- Caulk around these from below with high-temperature flexible caulk.
  • Air conditioners -- Remove window air conditioners before winter. If they can't be removed, seal up the area around the unit with removable rope caulk and add an AC window insulation blanket.

Monsters In The Attic and Basement

The attic and basement are the biggest air leak culprits in homes. Sealing up the air leaks in these two areas is the best guarantee for a comfortable home.

  • Doors and hatches to the attic -- Weather strip the edges and insulate the backside of the attic door. Fold-down stairs can be covered with a lightweight box made of rigid insulation board.
  • Holes in the attic floor -- Don't be surprised to find holes in the floor of the attic -- especially around the outside walls, ducts, recessed lights or near plumbing utilities and other outside penetration. Also, look for dirty spots in your insulation, which often indicates holes where air leaks into and out of your house. You can seal the holes by stapling sheets of plastic over the holes and caulking the edges of the plastic. Carefully check for these trouble spots.
  • Around the chimney-- Any chimney that runs from the basement through the attic should be sealed at both the basement ceiling and attic floor by use of sheet metal or metal duct tape. Fire codes prohibit the use of combustible materials within 2 inches of chimneys.  NOTE: Fiberglass is not an effective air barrier.
  • Around the sewer vent pipe -- A sewer vent pipe typically runs vertically from the basement through the attic and should be sealed at both the basement ceiling and attic floor by use of wood, sheet metal, or metal duct tape.
  • Basement windows -- Use masonry caulk to fill any cracks where the frames of the windows are set into the walls. Windows that are not used for summer ventilation or as fire exits can be permanently caulked shut.  In the basement, you are likely to find air leaks around the windows, along the sill plate and band joists, and where the ducts pass through the basement ceiling.

Stop Drafts

Next, weatherize the rooms that are used the most, such as the living room, family room and bedroom. Caulk around the windows, doors, baseboards, lighting fixtures and any other cracks in the walls or ceiling. These holes may seem small, but their net impact is huge. It is estimated that the accumulative effect of all the cracks and holes in the average U.S. home is equal to having a large window open.

Caulking also stops drafts and, therefore, makes the room feel more comfortable. This reduces the urge to reach for the thermostat and turn it up, which reduces energy consumption and cost.

All of these tasks are easy enough for most people to complete. If you feel some of these jobs are beyond the scope of your abilities, hire someone to help you out, or get creative and barter services with a handy friend. Home tightening products and services also make great gifts that last for years and keep giving in energy savings.

I certainly hope this information has been helpful and that you will see a reduction in home heating expense.


Comments (6)

Vincent McKamy
Samson Properties - Fredericksburg, VA
Realtor Fredericksburg Virginia
Nice reminder, Karen
Oct 28, 2007 10:15 AM
Karen Kruschka
RE/MAX Executives - Woodbridge, VA
- "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS"

Vincent Thank you, Karen

Oct 28, 2007 10:20 AM
Mark D. Tyrol

How To Reduce Your Heating Bills This Winter

By Mark D. Tyrol, P.E.
Battic Door Energy Conservation Products


Imagine leaving a window open all winter long -- the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan or AC Return, a fireplace or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.


These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause heat to pour out and the cold outside air to rush in -- costing you higher heating bills.


Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts.


But what can you do about the four largest "holes" in your home -- the folding attic stair, the whole house fan or AC return, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.


Attic Stairs


When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood.


Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood.


Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door -- do you see any light coming through? These are gaps add up to a large opening where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day. This is like leaving a window open all year round.


An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover. An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing the air leaks. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.


Whole House Fans and AC Returns 


Much like attic stairs above, when whole house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only leaky ceiling shutter between the house and the outdoors.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan cover. Installed from the attic side, the whole house fan cover is invisible. Cover the fan to reduce heating and air-conditioning loss, remove it when use of the fan is desired.

If attic access is inconvenient, or for AC returns, a ceiling shutter cover is another option for reducing heat loss through the ceiling shutter and AC return. Made from R-8, textured, thin, white flexible insulation, and installed from the house side over the ceiling shutter with Velcro, a whole house fan shutter cover is easily installed and removed.



Sixty-five percent, or approximately 100 million homes, in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home especially during the winter home-heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers.


Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing. One research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent.


A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the air leakage and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.


Why does a home with a fireplace have higher heating bills? Hot air rises. Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find, and when warm heated air is drawn out of your home, cold outside air is drawn in to make up for it. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking the heated air from your house.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace draftstopper. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, a fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.


Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts


In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house.


Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce this air leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay open.


An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.


If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan, an AC return, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, you can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes. At Battic Door Energy Conservation Products, we have developed solutions to these and other energy-conservation related issues.

For more information on Battic Door's energy conservation solutions and products, visit www.batticdoor.com or send a S.A.S.E. to P.O. Box 15, Mansfield, MA 02048.

Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover and a fireplace draftstopper. To learn more visit http://www.batticdoor.com/

Oct 28, 2007 12:56 PM
Karen Kruschka
RE/MAX Executives - Woodbridge, VA
- "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS"
Mark, Thank you for the additional information, Karen
Oct 28, 2007 11:06 PM
Dale Campbell
Virginia Real Estate - Mechanicsville, VA
Great reminders and tips - Karen!
Nov 02, 2007 03:02 AM
Karen Kruschka
RE/MAX Executives - Woodbridge, VA
- "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS"
Dale, Thank you, Karen
Nov 02, 2007 03:22 AM