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Insulating Your Home

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Try these no-cost, low-cost caulking, weatherstripping and insulating tips

If you put together all the cracks and leaks in the average Canadian home, you would end up with a hole in the wall the size of a basketball. Air leakage represents 25 to 40% of the average heat loss in the winter and cool air loss in the summer, so it’s worth your time to seal those leaks.

Here’s the good news: these tips are simple enough for most do-it-yourselfers and don’t require a lot of special tools or skills.

Be a cold air detective

To hunt for air leaks, all you need is two sticks of incense and a windy day. Light the incense and hold the sticks together so you can clearly see the smoke. A strong leak will blow the smoke away and make the sticks glow brightly. A smaller leak will puff the smoke in one direction or draw it in.


Where does the air leak in and out?

Air leakage in an average house breaks down like this: 25% basement, 20% exterior electric outlets, 13% windows and 10% vents.


Is your fireplace damper closed?

Leaving your damper open when a fire isn’t burning sucks warm air out of your home. If you don’t use your fireplace, consider sealing it.


Plug those outlets

Blocking electrical outlets and switches with the right weatherstripping material is one of the easiest, fastest and most effective jobs you can do. In some homes, 20% of that basketball is found here!


Slam the door on air leaks

A properly fitted door closes firmly and doesn’t allow air to leak in on the sides, top or bottom. For a few dollars you can buy rubber weatherstripping to skirt the doorframe.


Invest to Improve

Investing in your home to save energy will pay off for years to come. For some of these projects, you’ll likely need a contractor, so be sure to get a number of quotes and check references. Visit Natural Resources Canada for information on incentives from the ecoENERGy Retrofit program.


Look at your home’s thermal envelope for energy savings

  • A thorough job of caulking, weatherstripping and insulating can reduce your heating and cooling bills by as much as 25% and make your home more comfortable.
  • Replacing single pane windows and uninsulated doors with more energy-efficient models makes a big difference as well.

The basement may be the problem

  • The sill plate where the foundation wall meets your home’s frame is a large source of cold air leaks.
  • Fill the gaps with butyl rubber caulking or an acoustical sealant.
  • If the joists rest on the wooden sill, caulk around the joists, too.

Is your attic overheating?

  • Consider adding attic ventilation to let air circulate and heat escape. Also be sure you have adequate insulation.
  • A qualified contractor can ensure proper placement and sizes of vents, and determine your insulation needs.
  • Wait for a cool day before you inspect your attic, and be sure to watch your step.

A clear look at your windows

  • Check for rot, mould, glass condition, putty and paint.
  • If they are beyond repair, consider replacing them with high-efficiency windows.
  • If they are in good shape, start by checking the trim. If you can easily remove it, stuff insulation between the window and your home’s frame. If it doesn’t come off easily, caulk around it.

Between you and comfort

  • Insulating your walls is most easily done when completely renovating the interior of your home.
  • Once you have the drywall or plaster off the walls, you can go to work laying insulation between the wall studs and joists.

Time-of-Use Tips

Using these tips will help you reduce your energy use and save you money 24 hours a day. You may notice the biggest difference during peak times when electricity is more expensive.

In general, a thorough caulking job gives the biggest payback for lowering the basic energy requirements of a home. This pays measurable dividends during on-peak hours.

Shopping Tips

Read the labels carefully

There are several types of caulking, each with its own characteristics. Take time to read the labels, because often they’re not interchangeable. Be sure you choose the right caulking for the job!

When you buy caulking, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Is it for use indoors, outdoors or both?
  • What colour is it?
  • Is it paintable?
  • What surfaces will it adhere to?
  • What size gap will it seal?
  • What preparation is required?
  • How long will it last
  • How much does it cost?
  • What is the temperature for application?

Check your ventilation

It’s important that you provide adequate ventilation for the caulking to cure and also to clear the air of odours and fumes.


It pays to buy caulking that will last

Although caulking is a relatively easy job to do, you don’t want to do it too often. Today, many types of caulking will last 20 years or more. Check the label for the lifetime.

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