We all know about air leaks around windows and doors, but there are several other places where air can leak in or out of your home. According to Indoorenergy.com "An improperly sealed home wastes around 10%-20% of energy." With fall just around the corner, now is the perfect time to check your home for any air leaks before you crank up your thermostat and turn on the heat.
The Problem: Switches and Outlets
Did you know small cracks and holes around your outlets and light switches can let in cold air? I never thought about it until there was a constant cold spot in my living room last year near an outlet. Anywhere a hole has been cut in the drywall in your home, there is the potential for an air leak.
The Fix: Wall Plate Sealers
Leaks around your outlets and light switches are very easy to fix. All you need are some Wall Plate Sealers. You can pick up a 14-pack of them from Home Depot for $2.28. To install the plate sealers, remove the outlet cover or switch plate, place into the electrical box and screw the cover back in place.
The Problem: Recessed Lighting
While recessed lighting looks beautiful and adds an even lighting element to any room, it can also be prone to air leaks. Leaks in the ceiling where the lights are installed can be worse than wall leaks, because the warm air typically escapes though the attic and right out the vents in your roof! Unless you want to provide heating for your neighborhood, you’ll need to seal any cracks around the lighting.
The Fix: Caulk
Stopping air leaks around recessed lighting is a bit more complicated but is still easy enough to do yourself. The best way to seal up any leaks around your lighting is with caulk. Home Depot has window and door caulk for $4.97 and a basic caulk gun priced at $1.97. Run a bead of caulk around the edge of your lights and smooth it out with your finger to make it less noticeable. If you aren't confident in your smoothing skills, you can always purchase a caulking tool kit for $9.97 from Home Depot. It takes the guesswork out of smoothing out your caulk and can be reused.
The Problem: Chimney
Everybody who has a fireplace knows to close the damper to keep cold air out. What if your damper doesn't work right? Metal dampers can warp after years of exposure to swinging temperatures and may not completely seal your chimney anymore. It can cost upwards of $150.00 to replace a damper, and that doesn't count any labor if you have someone install it for you.
The Fix: Fireplace Balloons
A fireplace balloon blows up to block your chimney and keep the cold air out. Costs start at $55.00 from Amazon. The price will vary depending on which size you need for your chimney. The balloons are completely safe to use. If you forget to deflate it before lighting a fire it will pop as soon as the flames heat it up, so there won't be any clogging issues.
There is no need to hire a professional to do an energy audit on your home to find any leaks. You can do the smoke test yourself with incense. Simply light an incense stick and hold it up up near your outlets, light switches and lighting elements. If the smoke blows erratically, there is probably a leak. This works best if you turn off your HVAC system before testing.
You will save money and stay warmer this winter if you seal up any cracks or holes that may be present in your home. I’m sure your wallet and toes will thank you for taking care of any leaking issues you may have now, before it gets cold.