Better whole-house energy efficiency comes from understanding how the various factors in a home’s energy system interact. By improving just one factor, you can often see energy improvements in many different areas.
Air leaks are a principal cause of efficiency shortfalls. Air leaks in a home allow heat energy to infiltrate in summer or escape in winter. They allow humidity to penetrate and outdoor allergens and contaminants to be drawn into the home. This can upset the air balance in the home. Given a very modest budget and the goal of better whole-house energy efficiency, sealing air leaks could be the single best measure you can take.
Air leaks can be addressed by inexpensive weatherstripping or caulking. Most home air leakage occurs in a few predictable spots:
- Windows and doors account for over 20 percent of leakage. Use adhesive weatherstripping tape to close the gaps between movable surfaces at door jambs and window sashes. Make sure doors and windows can open and close freely without binding on the weatherstripping. To close the big gap under the bottom of the door, a metal or rubber door sweep will suffice.
- Ceilings, walls and floors can host many leaks, depending on the home’s construction. A bead of silicone caulk along the span where the baseboard meets the wall can seal air leakage in or out of wall voids. Look for and caulk any cracks or gaps in corners where walls meet and at the ceiling/wall intersection.
- Pipe penetrations where plumbing and electrical conduits enter the house may require sealing from both the exterior and interior. If the gap is too wide for caulking—more than about a quarter-inch—fill it with expandable spray foam.
- Fan and vent ducts that pass through the ceiling let hot attic air in during summer or heated air to escape during winter. Caulk around the perimeter of the duct with silicone.
- Electrical outlets can be sealed by removing the outlet plate and installing an inexpensive rubber gasket, then replacing the plate.
Air leaks are not always evident or obvious. The very best way to identify them is to have the home performance assessment conducted by a certified and experienced auditor that employs a negative pressure test using a blower door coupled with an infrared camera to identify problem areas. Once identified then you can decide the best course of action be it do it yourself or more professional intervention.
Serving Greater Cleveland for more than 75 years, P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling provides year-round, efficient household comfort. Contact us for more options for better whole-house energy efficiency.
Paul Wadsworth is the President and Owner of P.K. Wadsworth Heating and Cooling. For 37 years, Paul has been providing heating and cooling services to the Greater Cleveland area. P.K. Wadsworth has been a trusted Cleveland HVAC service company for 75 years. The company understand the area's construction and local heating and air conditioning needs. Paul has an MBA from the University of Michigan and a B.S., Industrial Engineering from Purdue University. He's been President of the Cleveland Air Conditioning Contractors of America and a founding member of the local chapter. Paul was born and raised in Cleveland and has been active in the local community. He resides in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and two sons.
The opinions and statements contained in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not instructions. Only trained, licensed and experienced personnel should attempt installation/repair. The author assumes no liability for the opinions/statements made in this article. Any individual attempting a repair or installation based on this article does so at their own risk of loss.