Weatherizing, sealing and energy efficiency

Savings as much as 40 percent

Increasing energy costs have left property owners seeking ways to keep their homes warm and their energy costs down. While furnace upgrades and wood stove installations are often suggested as quick fixes, there are plenty of things both do-it-yourselfers and non-DIYers can do to control air leakage and improve their home’s energy efficiency.

Most energy issues can be traced to air leakage through such areas as drafty windows and doors, recessed lighting and the basement sill plates. Energy efficiency experts cite controlling air leakage as the primary way to lower energy costs, reduce moisture levels, air infiltration and drafts, increase property longevity, provide pollution and environmental protection and control pests and insects. Proper air sealing and weatherizing can alleviate most air leakage issues.

“Commercial, residential and industrial property owners can reduce their energy costs by up to 40 percent with weatherizing and air sealing,” said Patrick Balistreri, president of Total Energy Savers in Milwaukee, Wis. “These methods have resulted in cost savings year after year.”

Balistreri suggests a couple of initial steps that do-it-yourselfers should focus on to reduce air leakage: replace worn or cracked weatherstripping around windows and doors, seal windowsills and frames, install gaskets behind electrical outlets and insulate behind baseboards, in the basement, attic floor and attic heating ducts.

Once these initial problem areas have been addressed, Balistreri targets a couple of additional areas requiring a closer look.

“Recessed light fixtures, sliding windows and attics are susceptible to air leakage and infiltration,” said Balistreri. “By air sealing and weatherizing these areas, property owners can prevent warm, moist air from escaping the living area.”

Mold and mildew in the attic is the result from poorly sealed recessed lighting. An insulating foam or caulking can be used, but overheating needs to be considered.

Many drafts can be stopped by properly weatherstripping windows. Applying a “V” type of weatherstripping to the window’s sides, base and check rail, a bead of sealant under windowsills and around frames and sealing pulley holes with plastic pulley covers will reduce air leakage.

Stopping warm air from getting into the attic is the goal in air sealing this area. The heating and air conditioning ducts, chimneys, plumbing stacks and exhaust fans are just a couple of the areas that will require air sealing. It is also important to bring the insulation in the attic up to R-49 or higher. Extended roof life, prevention of mold growth, improved comfort and lower energy bills are some of the benefits.

To ensure proper weatherizing and sealing of trickier areas such as attics, crawl spaces and roof walls, Balistreri suggests the use of an air sealing and insulation professional.

“Air sealing and insulation specialists provide expertise in compartmentalizing and air sealing and providing pressure testing inside the property to determine all of the air leakage sources,” said Balistreri. “Industry professionals have extensive experience working in all areas of commercial, residential and industrial properties and access to industry-specific materials and practices.”

Weatherizing products to complete this process can be found at your local hardware store. Many energy efficiency professionals will perform a free home assessment to identify air leakage areas.

From the Dec. 21-27, 2005, issue

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