Save Money in 2016 by Stopping Home Air Leaks

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Q: How much does the typical family waste every year on air leaks?
a. $3.50 b. $35.00 c. $350.00 d. $3,500.00

If you guessed c, you are correct. A typical family spends about a third of its annual heating and cooling budget — roughly $350 — on air that leaks into or out of the house through unintended gaps and cracks. There are many ways to spend $350.00—weekend getaways, dinners out, retirement savings – so we’ve got a few tips from HouseLogic to help you seal those air leaks and save money this year.

Start in the attic, since that’s where you’ll find some of the biggest energy drains.

First, insulate around recessed lights. Researchers at the Pennsylvania Housing Research/Resource Center pinpointed recessed lights as a leading cause of household air leaks. Most have vents that open into the attic, which allows a direct route for heated or cooled air to escape. Consider that many homes have 30 to 40 of these fixtures and it’s easy to see how much energy is lost over the course of a year. Lights labeled ICAT, for “insulation contact and air tight,” are already sealed; look for the label next to the bulb. If you don’t see it, assume yours leaks. An airtight baffle ($8 to $30) is a quick fix. Remove the bulb, push the baffle up into the housing, then replace the bulb.

Next, weatherstrip the attic access door. A 1/4-inch gap around pull-down attic stairs or an attic hatch lets through the same amount of air as a bedroom’s heating duct. Seal it by caulking between the stair frame and the rough opening, or by installing foam weatherstripping around the perimeter of the hatch opening. While you’re at it, add caulking and new weatherstripping around your windows and doors, especially old ones. HouseLogic recommends adhesive-backed EPDM rubber weatherstripping (about $8 for 10 feet and rated to last at least 10 years) as an affordable, long-lasting option. A door sweep installed at the bottom of a door is another inexpensive fix for drafts (less than $10), or get crafty and make a “draft snake.” See some ideas at: GoodHousekeeping.com

Finally, plug medium-size and skinny gaps. Low-expansion polyurethane squirt foam in a can is great for plugging openings 1/4-inch to 3 inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents. A standard 12-ounce can ($5) is good for 250 feet of bead about 1/2-inch thick. For openings less than ¼-inch wide, such as those cut around electrical boxes, caulk is best. Silicone costs the most ($8 a tube) but works better next to nonporous materials, such as metal flashing, or where there are temperature extremes, such as in attics. Acrylic latex caulk ($2 a tube) is less messy to work with and cleans up with water.

For more tips, visit House Logic.