Sealing Up Your Home

Sealing air leaks in your home can have the quickest payback of all the energy saving repairs that you do! According to the EPA, you can save up to 20% on your heating and cooling bill (10% of your annual utility bills) by sealing and insulating. Most of the work can be performed by a handy homeowner on a Saturday with some caulk, foam, weather stripping, and sweat.

When you look at the air leaks in your home, they break down something like this:

As you can see, the perimeters of your home have the most leaks, and the outlets have the least. To group all these items into a short article would not do them justice, so over the next few weeks I will go over how a homeowner can locate these leaks and correct them.

This week, we will go over some of the basic items that you will need to correct these items; in the energy tip of the week, I’ll quickly cover what is, in my opinion, the least important but sometimes the easiest to fix: electrical outlets.

Supplies:

1. Spray foam: This comes in convenient cans that make application, while somewhat messy, rather easy. Dow is the manufacturer of the most commonly seen cans. They make three basic types: big gap, regular, and low expansion. Each of these has its application; the directions on the cans are rather self explanatory, but for sake of being thorough in explaining the uses, I will give a brief synopsis.
Big Gap: This is used to fill large gaps typically over 1 inch.

Regular: This is the basic foam type and will typically be used more than the others. It can be used in most all applications; however, there may be other types better-suited, depending on the use, such as the big gap or low expansion.

Low Expansion: This foam does not expand as much as the others and will typically be used in small gaps, especially around windows and doors. Doors and windows are susceptible to sticking as the foam expands and deforms the frame. It helps to prevent this from happening.

2. Caulk: There are 3 basic kinds of caulk, ranging from silicone, a silicone polymer mix, and latex. I recommend silicone, as it lasts longer and is flexible.

3. Backer Rod: This is an item that is used to fill large gaps for caulking when spray foam will not work. Simply insert and caulk over.

4. Weather Stripping: This will vary by application, with there being several different types. As I’ll be going into doors and windows more in-depthm I’ll keep this short. Below is a picture of a couple of types:

5. Foam gaskets: There are several gaskets that can help seal around objects in the home. The majority of them come on trim kits, such as fan covers and recessed light trim kits, but you also have items such as the outlet cover gaskets. These do pay a crucial role; other than using this as a lead-in to sealing outlets, it is worth mentioning because many individuals will forget to install the gasket or will tear it in the installation.

Seal your electrical outlets.

As you see the outlets only make up 2% of your total leakage in the home. While this is very small (and I typically recommend these as a last step), they are rather easy to fix – especially if you are building a home.

To stop this leak during construction, there are two steps. One is to seal the penetrations in the walls (which I’ll cover later), and the other is to seal the penetrations of the wires into the outlet box. You can also use air-tight gaskets around the box.

If you have an existing home, you can seal the outlets using the gaskets many are familiar with. However, these will only seal around the outlet and not the outlet holes. You will typically need to use the child proof covers to totally prevent air leakage into the home through the outlets.

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