Does your home have a hard time keeping its heat in the Winter?
If so, you’re one of the many homeowners that may have poor home air sealing.
These are signs that your home is not operating as efficiently as it should be because it has air leaks. Proper home insulation locks off the outside air, preventing the transfer of heat between the two environments. This process is called air sealing because the right insulation seals the air inside your home.
Unfortunately, its very common for homes to be poorly insulated, or not to insulated to the full extent it should be done. This is generally blowing new insulation over old insulation, which does make sense – to insulate your home better you can add more. This method only works to a certain point and is not going to protect your investment in the long run. Homeowners that use this method usually end up having trouble heating and cooling their home in the long run.
Benefits of Air Sealing Your Home
The most beneficial thing you can do for insulating your home is keeping the air from transferring, which is called air sealing. When we insulate your home we are either moving or removing whatever insulation you have in there already, then we air seal and add insulation.
Air sealing is important because it keeps heat and moisture from escaping by plugging up air leaks. To visualize what we mean by air sealing, it has to do with holes drilled by electricians that guide wiring down to all your home’s outlets. So if you were to take off the faceplate of your outlet or light switch you would see the opening in the wall, where all the wiring is located. If you were to follow that wiring up to the roof or attic you would see it goes through a hole about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide in the attic, covered by some type of board or plate. If these holes are not sealed, that warm or cool air you are regulating your home’s temperature with, can escape right through your outlets and out the top of your home. Proper air sealing plugs these holes, preventing heating and cooling problems in the Summer or Winter. Adding roofing intake vents after air sealing can prevent unwanted heat buildup in your attic, reducing the likelihood of ice dams forming in the Winter.
As you can see, we use foam to air seal ANY spots that could have air leaks. This is actually more important and beneficial to have in your attic than just insulation. We have used foam to seal areas where ceiling lights are located, as well as interior walls. Small spaces between the drywall and the ceiling can still release heat, making your home less efficient.
If you want to prevent air leakage in your home, but cant afford to pay for a professional air sealing job, check out this DIY guide. While we don’t recommend DIY insulation, this article may prove useful for you.
How To Air Seal Your Home
Homeowners who want to save on their heating and cooling bills by air sealing leaks in the attic should easily be able to do so on their own. There are a few safety measures and tips for air-sealing your own home that we’ll walk through here. What should you do first? And is it possible to DIY?
Get Your Home Assessed
To see how energy efficient your home is, you can request to get a home energy audit by your local utility company. Contractors can also do home energy audits with a method they call the “blower door test.” A home blower door test depressurizes your home and can quickly detect where any leaks are occurring. It can be done super quickly by a professional, but the cost can definitely vary, and if you don’t want to spend the money, you can also detect your own leaks at home.
Common places for air leaks include;
- Electric outlets/switch plates
- Cable or phone line plates
- Door and window frames
- Wall-mounted AC unit
- Ceiling fans
- Vents and baseboard heat
- Attic access door
- Basement door
To do your own home energy audit, there are a few things you can look for and some tools you can use to find even the smallest leaks. First, you can use a laser thermometer to detect drastic temperature changes, especially in the cold months where your heat should be working properly, but cold spots can be a good sign there is an inefficiency nearby.
Another simple way to check for air leaks is a visual assessment, of course, as you walk around your home checking doors and windows to make sure they’re sealed properly. You can also use a candle and hold it near windows or electrical outlets. If the flame flickers or moves or even blows out, that’s a sign you have a draft, and it isn’t the most accurate measurement, but it can point you in the right direction.
Sealing the Attic
Your attic is one of the biggest culprits of air escape. You have all of your electrical work leading up to the attic, which means there are holes in the attic floor to allow for that wiring. As small as these holes may be, if they aren’t properly sealed, the air immediately escapes up and out of your home. You may also have some small windows in the attic (especially in older homes) or your chimney passing through the attic.
All of these areas are susceptible to air leaks, and although a professional is the best route to go for air sealing the entire attic, you should be able to do a few things yourself. Using spray foam, you should be able to seal those electric holes, places for ceiling lights or fans, any windows, vent fans, and of course, your attic access door. If that isn’t well insulated or sealed, that can definitely aid in heat escape.
Check Your Basement or Crawl Space
As you inspect your basement, you’ll find a slew of things that feed up to your house from the basement. Things like rim joists, HVAC systems, dryer vents, electrical work, heating ducts, etc., all make their way through your basement ceiling to the rest of the house. These connecting points are a spot for air escape, and if you have an unfinished basement, that means you probably don’t heat it, and that cold air in the winter goes right up into your home. Sealing all of these points is critical to keeping that cold basement cold and your first floor above nice and warm (or vice versa in the summer).
Exterior Air Sealing
Any place on your home’s exterior where two materials meet, or there is some sort of structure like a vent or chimney, is at risk of air leaks. Take a look at where your siding meets your foundation, the roof, or the corner of your house, and ensure there are no gaps or cracks. Any poorly installed siding, or aging siding, can be extremely susceptible to air leaks and should be repaired. These types of leaks can be filled with foam, or pay to repair these gaps in your siding so it can last much longer.
Seal Your Interior & Windows
Your interior walls and windows should be tightly sealed to prevent any air leaks. These might be some of the easiest to do yourself and only require a few materials. You can replace or install weatherstripping for your windows that will keep warm air in and cold air out. You can purchase and install foam gaskets that go in right behind the faceplates for any outlets or light switches. For added protection, child safety plug-ins can help seal any outlet when not in use.
Your front and back doors can also have gaps on the bottom that let outside air in or even basement air. A very quick fix to this issue is putting a draft stopper on the bottom. These are just like a foam-filled fabric that slides under your door and blocks the gap without any complicated installs or having to get a new door or anything.
Home Air Sealing in Action
We recently air sealed a relatively new home, just two years old, and the customers were complaining that an upstairs room was way too cold. When we took a look, the home had not been air sealed, and only had about six inches of cellulose insulation in the attic. That insulation is porous and without air sealing a lot of air can leak in or out. So what we did was air seal around any spots we deemed necessary and came back the next day. The customers raved about how much warmer their daughter’s bedroom is – we hadn’t even insulated yet! Adding insulation solidified the security seals we put in place, removing heating and cooling issues for the homeowners.
Unfortunately, this situation is all too common. Whether the home builder forgot about air sealing your home or skipped it to save time and money, many homeowners have cold homes and high heating bills in the Winter because the builder didn’t seal any air leaks. If your home is poorly insulated, it isn’t always because the builder made a mistake. If your home is older, it may just be time to revamp the insulation. All homes break down over time, and insulation is by no means exempt from that. If you have had ice dam issues in the past, air sealing is a great way to prepare your roof for Winter.
So if you suspect your home’s insulation isn’t performing as well as it could, have a professional come take a look. They’ll know exactly where to check, and what needs to be fixed or added. Just make sure you vet the inspection company before you hire them over, they need to be trustworthy otherwise they could very easily take advantage of you and sell you something you don’t need. First American Roofing would be happy to help you with this! We pride ourselves in the good work we provide, and the integrity we hold in the selling process.
If you are looking for further reliable information on air sealing and air leakage prevention, energy.gov has some great reading for you here.
Types of Home Insulation
Types of insulation typically used are fiberglass and cellulose. Fiberglass insulation is made up of extremely fine glass fibers. It can come as rolls or a loose filling. It works to trap pockets of air and keep in warmth or cold, fixing heating and heating and cooling issues. It is very commonly used, as it’s inexpensive and very easy to install, however it doesn’t prevent or plug any air leaks. It is very important to wear safety gloves and glasses when handling fiberglass insulation. The tiny glass fibers can get into pores in the skin or eyes and cause itching and rashes.
Cellulose insulation comes in a few different forms but generally in loose-fill or dry-wet spray fill. It’s a great, green alternative to fiberglass insulation. It contains recycled paper material, or sometimes other plant material. Its flexibility makes it easy to fill any shape or size area, including going around pipes or wires.
We love to not only help educate our customers but educate everyone else. You could be running a poorly efficient home, and spending more on heat by cranking it up to make up for lost air that you didn’t know about. Keep in mind, if you are in a position of installing new insulation, remember to air seal first! Laying more insulation on top of existing is going to do nothing for you if you don’t air seal those gaps and potential air leaks. Give First American Roofing a call and we can look over your insulation, and check for leaks that need to be sealed.
If you found this interesting, we spent some time debunking myths about your home’s carbon footprint! It goes over the basics of home insulation and has some sweet custom designs. Give it a read here!