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High energy prices and increasing awareness of environmental issues are driving many homeowners to increase their home’s energy efficiency. Air leaks can thwart these efforts, however, as even the smallest opening in a home can allow outside air to seep in, decreasing air quality and raising energy bills.
Lori Enszer, marketer for Dow Corning Construction’s Building Assembly group, offers four simple tips that can help homeowners improve their homes’ efficiency.
1) Identify Potential Air Leak SourcesWhile any part of the home is susceptible to air leaks, they are most common around window and door frames, crawl spaces, attics, and basements. While these leaks can be easily felt, finding hidden holes in a basement or an attic can be challenging. Here are a few creative ways to search for air leaks.
- Put a piece of paper in the door frame and close the door on it. Then try to pull the paper out. If the paper can be removed without tearing, an air leak exists in the space between the door and the frame.
- Dampen your hand and run it along the edge of your baseboards and ceiling molding. The moisture will make it easier to feel any drafts. If your ceiling molding is not within reach, use a lit incense stick and watch for air movement.
- Attic entrance and openings
- Bricks and siding
- Electrical outlets and switch plates
- Mail chutes
- Recessed lighting
- Vents and fans
- Window and door frames
2) Seal Air Leaks with a Quality SealantGood sealants are able to maintain high levels of productivity and durability while being exposed to environmental factors such as UV light, temperature fluctuations, and moisture. Silicone sealants offer performance advantages over traditional materials like butyl and latex, including the following.
- Increased weather resistance. The unique structure of silicone sealants makes them resistant to wide temperature and environmental extremes, such as sunlight, ozone, rain or snow.
- High flexibility. Silicones keep a strong bond, even when being stretched or compressed.
- Durability. Silicone sealants resist cracks, splits and tears.
- Long-term performance. Silicone sealants that were applied in the 1970s are still performing today, which means less work over time.
3) Install Energy-Efficient WindowsWhile air leaks can occur throughout your home, windows are the most obvious contributors to inefficient energy use. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, windows account for 10-25% of residential heating and cooling costs. Replacing current windows with energy-efficient alternatives can cut down on energy use and energy bills.
Choosing the right window for a home requires understanding a simple label and rating system. Window manufacturers use either a U- or an R-value to rate the product’s efficiency. The U-value indicates a window’s tendency to transfer heat either in or out; the R-value describes the window’s resistance to transferring heat in or out. Generally speaking, homeowners should select a replacement window with a high R-value and a low U-value.