What my degree in IPE didn't teach me about baking, DIY, fitness, and life…
And no, I’m not talking about Night Walkers, armies of the half dead, or dragons. Sadly I’m talking about the much more mundane change in seasons heading our way. The days are shorter, the mornings darker, and the temperatures dropping. Our roof was done just in time (and yes it is done, well mostly. We’re just waiting for the scaffolding to go away now. Before and after pictures coming soon – I promise.)
The big heat losses make a difference. Changing out old, drafty, single-paned windows, insulating a roof, plugging a major hole, all these will show up on your heating bill. In fact, changing our windows and doors last year resulted in a 20% drop in our bill -woot! But you expect those changes. What comes as a greater surprise is the effect of little holes and leaks. So, while the roofers did their thing, I got to work plugging some of the less obvious sources of heat loss.
As always, I went to Uncle Google for help and the guys at This Old House (does anyone else remember watching that on PBS as a kid?) had some great tips and advice on how to do a DIY energy audit to spot problem spots in your home. Two of their tips particularly struck my attention. The first was the problem of a leaky flue, but that was being solved by the roofers. The second was small holes left by utilities.
The problem: Holes for sewer and water lines, exhaust vents, and cable and phone lines are typically rough cut and uninsulated, so warmed or cooled air from inside your house escapes and outside air seeps in.
How to spot it: Use a handheld infrared thermal leak detector, such as Black & Decker’s TLD100 ($49.99;blackandecker.com). Pass the device over the solid wall near the hole, then the hole itself. If you see a significant difference in temperature, you’ve got an air leak.
How to stop it: Fill minor gaps of less than ¼ inch with silicone caulk. For larger voids up to 1 inch wide, use expanding polyurethane foam insulation. The long applicator straw on cans of spray-foam sealants, such as Great Stuff, are particularly handy for accessing hard-to-reach areas inside sink vanities and behind heavy washers and dryers. “If you’re dealing with a gap near a combustible device, like a fireplace, make sure you’re using products approved for high temperatures,” says Brown.
The payoff: Prevent 17 percent of treated air from escaping your home by sealing gaps around exterior penetrations.
I knew we had that problem. One particular spot that’s been driving hubby crazy is this…
It may have been the cable; it may have been the phone line, but whatever it was it’s gone now. We can see the hole on the inside, feel the draft, but can we find the corresponding hole on the outside? Of course not. Eventually we decided to give up the search and just fill the darn thing. I picked up some silicone caulk from the hardware store, cut the tip to match the hole, and stuffed it in as far as I could. Then I squeezed. You wouldn’t believe how much caulk went into the hole. It must have been a lot deeper than I thought. Anyway, hole filled.
Now on to find the next source of heat loss. =)