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DIY Green Home Renovation Tips… Seal Air Leaks

DIY Green Home Renovation Tips… Seal Air Leaks


Going green in your home is a great idea and one that increasing numbers of homeowners are doing on their own. DIY home renovation doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact there are several things anybody can do. One of them is to seal air leaks.

But let’s be sure we agree on the benefits. Did you know that the average home needlessly expends about a third of its annual heating or air-conditioning budget on leaks around windows, doors and other places? That’s true. Experts estimate that the dollar savings to be gained are $300 to $500 per year. That’s not an inappreciable chunk of change, right?

Here’s some things to look at around your home:

Check your recessed lighting. The Pennsylvania Housing Research/Resource Center says that this type of lighting is the biggest culprit in air leaks because these types of lights often have vents that go up into your attic. A lot of energy is just needlessly vented up there but you can stop it by simply insulating these lights. If your lights say, “insulation contact and air tight” you don’t need to. But if they don’t…. you do. It’s a simple baffle that you just push into the fixture itself and you can buy them at most any home center.

Check your stud cavities. Often you’ll find some that are full of nothing but air, but there should be some insulation in there. If there’s not, that’s something you can do. Use unfaced fiberglass insulation, put it in garbage bags, and put the bags into the cavities as you discover them. Works like a charm and does the job admirably.

Plug up and insulate gaps around flues and chimneys. Did you know that building codes in the US require a gap be left between chimneys and flues and wood framing? That’s right. It makes safety sense but not dollars and sense because heat and A/C escapes through those areas. You can plug them up using metal flashing and high-temperature silicone caulk.

You attic access door definitely needs checking. Studies show that the gap around that door let as much air escape as a bedroom heating duct. So… you need to seal it up too using basic caulking and/or weather stripping.

Look for medium-sized gaps anywhere in the house and plug them up with squirtable foam. It comes in cans you can buy at home supply stores. It’s a low-expansion polyurethane foam that comes in a can, is easy to handle and is fine for gaps ¼ to 3 inches wide.

For gaps less than ¼ inch wide, silicone caulk works best. You can also use latex acrylic caulk. It’s a bit cheaper but it’s also messier.
Look for gaps in the wall of your basement. They can let air in or out too but you only need worry about the ones above the outside ground level. Here again, use the same materials you’d use in the attic…. caulk or spray foam.

Last but not least, check your windows. They probably do leak… unless it’s a fairly new house. Caulking and weather stripping is the way to go here too.
If you do all these things you do have a little bit of work ahead of you but it will pay big dividends in terms of comfort and energy (i.e. $$) savings. So… buy some beer, make out your shopping list, get the stuff and get to work. You’ll be glad you followed these tips for sealing air leaks in your very own DIY green renovation program.

If you need help, find a pro contractor at our Building & Construction Directory.