Drafts, or air leaks, can come into your home through windows, fireplaces and even electrical outlets, making your house feel several degrees colder and driving up your heating bills. The potential energy savings from reducing drafts can range from 5% to 30% per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Here are seven ways to find and fix drafts in your home before winter’s frigid temperatures hit.
Windows and doors
Most people automatically think to check for gaps around their windows and doors, and many will opt to use self-sticking weather stripping or a decorative draft stopper to stop air leakage. Others will caulk around their doors and windows. Caulking, however, isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“Caulking seems easy until it’s coming out of the end of the tube and you can’t control it, it goes all over the place and it doesn’t go where you want it to go,” says Mark Clement, co-host of a home improvement radio show. The problem, he says, is there are so many different types of caulking to choose from. The best choice is to use a high-quality latex caulk that cleans up with water.
You should also check for cracked caulking around your doors and windows. If you find any cracks, you will need to re-caulk those areas to prevent cold air from seeping in. If you want to add an extra barrier between the outside air and your home, you could also install an insulating plastic film over your windows to provide an airtight seal.
An easy way to stop air leakage, says Clement, is to lock your windows. Sometimes a window will look closed but, until it is locked, it’s hard to tell if the window is shut tight, he says. If you can’t lock your window, try opening it all the way and closing it again to make sure the window is still on its track. If that doesn’t work, you might need to call a professional to check your window.
If you have an unfinished basement, there is a good chance your floors feel cold when you walk around in bare feet and even when you wear socks, Clement says. The best way to stop cold air from penetrating the floor is to add insulation under the flooring.
Cable lines and wires
Anywhere a cable, wire or pipe goes from inside to out, there is typically an air leak. If the hole around the wire or pipe is a quarter of an inch or less, you can use caulk to seal it, Clement says. If it is larger, use foam insulation to close the hole.
Contractors often under-insulate light switches and plugs, says Clement. As a result, they can become wind tunnels. If you remove the electrical wall plate around your light switch or plug, you may see a gap between the device and the wall. You can fill up the cavity with low-expanding foam insulation. This video explains how to do it (but when in doubt, consult a professional).
Make sure your attic is properly insulated. It’s important to seal areas where exhaust fans, attic stairs and small holes allow cool air to seep into your home. Foam insulation and weather stripping can be added to the plywood or drywall in your attic to help seal up those areas.
The damper inside your chimney is meant to keep the cold air out but since dampers are typically made of cast iron, they don’t entirely keep the cold away. One way to stop drafts from fireplaces is to insert a piece of thick foam insulation covered with decorative fabric at the fireplace opening when you aren’t using the fireplace.
Buffer your home with landscaping
Shrubs and trees planted around your home can help protect it from the wind in the winter and provide shade in the summer. For instance, says Clement, if you plant an evergreen tree in front of your house it will protect your home from the wind, keeping the cold air from hitting your house and windows directly.