I have worked my way though more than half of my list and am getting a lot closer to a more energy efficient home. This article will focus on eliminating air leakage from the home to the outside/unconditioned space. We will start at the front door and work our way around the exterior of the home.
The front door can be a huge leak factor for the home. In my earlier list, I shared that door seals and sweeps are great place to find energy leakage. Looking at my front door I saw two immediate problems that needed correction: 1. Light was visible around the door where the door seals meet with the door; 2. The door sweep is falling apart. Both are easy to correct as it only requires replacing these items. When cutting the seals to fit, be careful not to cut them too short (this is why my door seals needed replacement).
For the sweep, if you are unsure what type of sweep to purchase, the u-shaped type is universal and can be installed on any standard width door. You can also purchase sweeps and seals that install on the door frame or the face of the door. A combination of these products will suffice if you cannot find seals and sweeps that match your door configuration.
Over time, caulking around windows will begin to crack, causing a potential area for leaks. Whether your home is Energy Star certified or not, this is a common maintenance item that needs to be completed by every homeowner. Simply remove any caulk that is cracked with a razor blade (this allows for a clean surface for the new caulk to adhere) and replace with either an elastomeric latex or silicone caulk. Some touch up paint might be required depending on how cleanly you can add the caulk and how much you needed to remove.
The next source of leakage are your outlets and switches. Any electrical box on an exterior wall needs to be sealed to prevent air leakage. Because it is cost prohibitive to check the housewrap (exterior water & air barrier), as brick or siding removal is required, it is more cost effective to seal the interior of the home against air loss (if you have a water leak, consult a professional for proper correction). Two methods exist to seal these openings: 1. Caulk the electrical box to the drywall; 2. Install foam gaskets under the cover plate (both pictured here).
As a general note, it is not recommended to caulk any cover plates to the wall, electrical or HVAC. If you ever need to service that outlet, you will need to remove the cover plate. It is also not as effective as sealing to the drywall at the junction box.
The last openings are in your floors and ceilings, the HVAC outlets. At every vent, a boot passes through the floor or the drywall. Unless properly sealed, a lot of air can be lost at this location. To correctly seal these, start by removing the grill and inspect the current connection. With the grill off, you can then caulk the boot to the drywall or subfloor and replace the grill. Again, we are not trying to stop airflow around the grill, but back through the drywall or subfloor, so always seal the boot, not the grill.
When building an Energy Star/Green home, all of these methods are common construction techniques to obtain these ratings. By retrofitting your home using these methods, you are taking one step closer to a more efficient home.
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