Losing heat can be very expensive. So a relatively small investment of weatherproofing and/or insulation is definitely worth the trouble. Furthermore, it’s something the do-it-yourselfer can do safely. Usually, we give most of our attention and service to the furnace. It’s the proverbial squeaky door. If it’s not working or makes noises, you call someone immediately. But leaky windows, doors or even the attic go unattended. So you fix the furnace and give much of its energy to the atmosphere.
Where to start.
Insulation, or should I say lack of it is a serious problem but it’s not the place to start. Let’s talk about the doors and windows first. We know that 30 or 40% of your energy loss is caused by leaky windows and doors. You can start outside looking at joints where different materials meet, like where the siding meets the windows. Check existing caulking or weatherproofing. They deteriorate over time, especially in extreme weather. Shake the windows. If there is any kind of rattling that signals they are loose, there’s likely to be a leak. Do the first floor with a small ladder first. Upstairs, if you have one, needs more time and a bigger ladder. Skip it for now. As you go around the outside, use some kind of colored tape to mark what you’ve found. There are a lot of windows and you will forget. Get a caulking gun and be sure when you caulk that the caulking spans the gap between the materials so that there’s no exit possibility.
Inside, you can do all the windows. Very often, what you can’t get from outside, you can handle inside. Look for the same things inside. Caulk around loose windows and where there seem to leak. Frequently, on a cold day, you can literally feel where the cold air is coming in. Mark with tape and caulk. Most houses today have built-in storm windows. If you have an old house without them, that’s a very important and not insignificant expense. But that’s another topic.
The same is true about doors. Caulk around them but you have to consider that doors open and close so the bottoms and tops of doors have to be weather-stripped. Constant opening and closing of doors wear the weatherstripping down. It should be replaced periodically and that means taking the door off to reinstall stripping. If you’re not up for that right away, there are decorative strips you can put on the floor at the doors to keep the drafts out and heat escaping.
One thing that’s ignored is the electrical outlets. Remove each of them and feel if any cold air is coming in. It’s obvious when you remove the cover if there’s a leak. Also, if you have window air conditioners, they should be removed in the winter. They are a constant source of leaks which you ignore in the summer. But in winter, they have a dramatic effect on energy loss. Another thing you can do is to measure the temperature in different parts of the house and different parts of a room. Much can be learned from that. Next time we’ll go into details about the more difficult weatherproofing tasks.