Cut down on nasty drafts!

On a nice, hot summer day there's nothing like a nice cool breeze to make you feel better. But take that same cool breeze and put it in your house in the middle of winter and it's not so nice anymore!

A cold draft in the middle of winter can be one of the most annoying things to live with...not to mention a drain on the energy efficiency of your home.  We'd all like to get rid of those pesky winter drafts, but it helps to understand what causes them if you're serious about getting rid of them.

Basically, your house acts like a chimney - the hot air rises.  And as that hot air escapes through gaps in the exteior, cold air is drawn in from the lower portion of the building through gaps and cracks. This creates drafts in the house and contributes to higher energy bills.

Stack effect diagram

 

Seal in the heat

The first step is to keep the heat from escaping in the first place.  Walk through the upstairs of your house looking for anywhere that air could escape.  Usually this will be around windows and the attic access hatch.  But don't forget to check the baseboards on exterior walls.  The drywall may not have been installed all the way to the floor and if the vapour barrier was not installed correctly (or not at all!) then you could have an air leak around the baseboards of a second floor home.  A simple way of testing for air leaks without removing trim is to hold a candle or a smoke pen up to the window and floor trim and around the attic hatch.  If the flame or smoke dances, then there's an air leak that needs to be sealed.

After sealing in the heat, complete the job by sealing out the cold.

Seal out the cold

A good area to look for open holes and gaps is along the top of the basement wall where the floor system meets the top of the foundation wall.  Since the top of the wall is above ground, outside air can be drawn in through cracks and gaps where the house framing sits on top of the foundation.  Another likely area is around your basement windows; in the same way that your upstairs window let heat escape, your basement windows will let cold air in. 

Sealant or caulk is best for sealing gaps and cracks that are 1/4 inch wide or less.  For larger openings, use expanding spray foam.  It's also recommended that you seal penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the main floor.  These may be holes for wires, water supply pipes, drainpipes or vent stacks, and ventilation ducts.

Sealing your attic and basement will go a long way to improving the comfort and evergy efficiency of your home so that you can enjoy cool breezes in the summer...and never feel them in the winter!

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