Warm air leaking into your home during the summer and out of your home during the winter can waste a lot of your energy dollars. One of the quickest dollar-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal, and weatherstrip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside. You can save up to 10% on your heating and cooling bill by reducing the air leaks in your home.

How air escapes from a typical home:

  • 31% floors, ceiling, walls
  • 15% ducts
  • 14% fireplace
  • 13% plumbing penetrations
  • 11% doors
  • 10% windows
  • 4% fans and vents
  • 2% electric outlet

Tips for Sealing Air Leaks

  • Test your home for air tightness.
    • On a windy day, hold a lit incense stick next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside.
    • If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weatherstripping.
  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
    • When using caulk, exercise caution. Inhalation of vapors may cause irritation of the nose, throat, lungs and respiratory tract.  Seek medical attention immediately if it is swallowed.
      • If swallowed, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
  • Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
  • Install rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls.
  • Look for dirty spots in your insulation, which often indicate holes where air leaks into and out of your house.
    • You can seal the holes by stapling sheets of plastic over the holes and caulking the edges of the plastic.
  • Install storm windows over single-pane windows or replace them with doublepane windows.
  • When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed.
    • A chimney is designed specifically for smoke to escape, so until you close it, warm air escapes 24 hours a day!
  • For new construction, reduce exterior wall leaks by either installing house wrap, taping the joints of exterior sheathing, or comprehensively caulking and sealing the exterior walls.

Fireplaces: An unexpected source of heat loss

Your fireplace is a very inefficient source of heat. A roaring fire can exhaust as much as 24,000 cubic feet of air per hour to the outside, which must be replaced by cold air coming into the house from the outside. This occurs because hot air rises, so the majority of the air warmed by the fire goes straight up the chimney. Only a small percentage finds its way into the room. The warm air leaving the room is replaced by cold air from other areas of the house. Your heating system must warm up this air, which is then exhausted through your chimney. If you use your conventional fireplace while your central heating system is on, these tips can help reduce energy losses.

Fireplace Tips

  • If your fireplace is mainly for decoration and you never use it, plug and seal the chimney flue.
  • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going.
    • Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
  • When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox or open the nearest window about 1 inch to allow air to circulate, and close doors leading into the room.
  • Install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.
    • Tempered glass doors can also improve the combustion efficiency while the fire is going
  • Check the seal on the flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
  • Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.
  • Use grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.