Most people aren’t aware of the fact that there are places in their home where waste is occurring. Have you ever heard your parents quip as you lingered in the doorway that you’re “letting the bought air out”? They are, of course, referring to the fact that opening open doors during the winter months releases the heated air inside the home into the outdoors (air that comes with a price tag via your utility bill), while the same can be said for the AC in the summer months. But you probably don’t realize that leaks around your home could be causing this sort of drain day and night. And while you can certainly call the power company or an independent organization to schedule an energy assessment, you can actually do one on your own for free. Here are a few things you’ll want to check out in the process.
The place to start is with obvious areas for potential leakage like windows and doors. Any part of your home that opens and closes could be a source of waste. You’ll need two people to do this job right, so enlist the aid of a friend or family member. You can start simply enough by looking at each door and window with a flashlight. Have your cohort stand on one side and shine the flashlight around the edges of the frame. If light leaks in you can bet that air is leaking out. Luckily, there is a simple enough fix for this situation. All you really have to do is install weather stripping wherever the light seeps through, and you can find it for little expense at your local hardware store. The fireplace flue and the mail slot could also cause issues.
You’re not done yet, though. There are some other areas you’ll need to check out, as well, namely spaces that could have gaps. This could include the baseboards, ceiling and wall seams, electrical outlets and switch plates, places where pipes and ducts come out of the walls (bath and shower fixtures, drains, heating vents, etc.), and any hatches or ventilation in the attic space or the basement. For the most part, these can be easily treated with caulking or some type of foam filler (although you should definitely ask which products are safe to use around heated pipes and vents to avoid creating a possible fire hazard). And you should also go over any exposed areas of the foundation (especially if you have yet to finish your basement and the entire floor is bare concrete).
But how can you tell where leaks are? It’s not as hard as you might think. You can perform a basic pressure test by closing windows, doors, and other portals (the flue, for example). Then turn off the HVAC system as well as your water heater and turn on any exhaust fans (those that vent to the outside, like the ones located over the stove and in bathrooms). Next, walk around the house with a stick of incense. In the “pressurized” space you can easily see signs of leakage when smoke wavers rather than floating lazily towards the ceiling.
Energy audits aren’t fun, and they could end up costing you more than a Texas mortgage refinance. But at least you can save a little on the assessment by using some of these simple tips and tricks to find the leaks on your own and repair the ones the easy ones before calling in the professionals to tackle the rest. In the end, you’ll save on your energy bill, as well.
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