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Find and Plug Those Leaks

Another article in this issue talks about interesting alternatives to tube caulk for plugging leaks and gaps. After you read this one, be sure to see what fun products you can use for your leak-plugging needs. But before you equip yourself with the sealants, you need to find the leaks. Seek and destroy so to speak. Let’s look at some methods.

Years ago, the EPA website presented instructions about how to find drafts and leaks. It is gone now so let me paraphrase the advice, “On a windy day, light a stick of incense and walk slowly around windows and doors. Stop and let the smoke come to rest. If you see it move, follow it to find the source of the leak or draft.” Dude. Visions of tie dyed shirts and VW buses flooded back. But hey, it actually works.

If you do not have a stash of incense handy, here’s a more traditional set of approaches. My first is the “daylight” method. Look around your doors and windows when they are closed and locked. See daylight? You’ve found a leak. Caution, does not work well at night.

Second is the “I feel a draft” method. Run your hand around the perimeter of windows, a couple of inches away. If you feel a draft, it is from a leak. Don’t run you hand over the glass as it always feels a different temperature and gives you a “false positive.” However, if you see cracks or gaps around the muntins that surround the panes of glass, seal those.

Third, “if you see a crack, seal it” method. The exterior of your home should be completely free of cracks and gaps. Look around windows, doors and where pipes and wires enter or leave your home. There should be no cracks or gaps either inside or out. Plug every one you can find.

Fourth is my “where you least expect it” method. Start under sinks on outside walls. It is rare to find a plumbing job where the hole cut through the wall to feed in the pipes is sealed. This can waste energy on an outside wall and allow bugs and other nasties to crawl about in any occurrence. Seal them all.

Hold your hand over any outlet in an exterior wall. Chances are you’ll feel a draft. You can seal these with little foam gaskets. If you feel a draft through the plug opening itself, use safety covers.
Look in your closets. Sometimes they contain access panels to uninsulated parts of the home. Check to be sure. Plus you might find things you had forgotten you had.

Got recessed can lights or other fixtures? Depending upon what is above them, you might have a dozen little chimneys funneling conditioned air out. Feel for drafts and if you find some, get special kits to insulate them.

For those gadget loving readers, I offer my, “I need this FLIR device for my smart phone to save energy” method. A couple of companies now offer affordable infrared attachments that work with smart phones. You plug it into your phone and using their app, scan for heat leaks. A great way to measure the effectiveness of your sealing efforts. And when you are done, you can look for paranormal entities in your home.

Sealing cracks and gaps provides a terrific return on investment (ROI) since the products used to seal are generally quite inexpensive. Spend a little and save a lot. Why not tackle the inside while the cold winds blow and seal up the rest this spring? Your energy bill will thank you.