Take steps to keep cold air out of your home

By Ed Saleem | Sep 15, 2016

Fall is upon us and although we still have warm temperatures, the animals around us are beginning to look for holes in our homes and outbuildings to snuggle into for the winter.

I have found that our log cabin is either “food” or “shelter” for just about every critter around. So as we go around trying to plug critter holes, we should also take the opportunity to keep out another winter parasite — cold air.

Just like water flows, cold air flows through the windows, doors, cracks and seams in your house as well. If you filled your house with water, that water would come pouring out of every pore of the house. Don’t try that at home. In your home the air can act the same way. Every bit of air that goes into or out of your home costs you heating energy. Cold air in has to be heated, and the lost warm air out has to be made up for with cold air that must be heated. A double whammy.

For example, a 1/8-inch gap under one door, or a missing seal can cost up to $100.00 per year in lost heating as well as create a chilly draft. You can look for gaps around the doors, windows, wall receptacles and light switches with a stick of incense, just watch the smoke.

Another big energy hog can be your forced air heating ductwork. Have your ductwork inspected for leaks, loss of insulation, and mismatched joints. Also look out for crimped or blocked ductwork. Sealing and reinsulating leaky ductwork can save you as much as 30% of your heating bills. Cleaning your ductwork is very profitable for the people selling the service, but does little or nothing for energy efficiency. So unless you are plagued with ductwork mold problems, I wouldn’t do it.

Windows are a big source of heat loss in the home. Single paned windows do little to insulate, but it is very difficult to justify new windows. Storm windows, plastic window seals on the exterior frames, insulated drapes, or even venetian blinds can help with the issues.

Did you know that a very common cause of a cold draft at the windows may not be an air leak at all but a breeze from the window glass itself? Warm air against the glass is cooled by the cold air outside through conduction. This cooler air increases in density, then starts moving down the glass towards the bottom. More warm air is drawn in at the top of the window to take its place, as the cooled air reaches the bottom of the glass it flows out into the room drawing more air behind it. Pretty soon you have a cold breeze created by this circulating air. I have seen restaurants with gobs of caulk around the base of window glass thinking the seams are leaking when in reality it is the circulation of air from the conduction cooling effect. One simple solution is to put a thermal screen or blinds on the window.

Of course you should always have your furnace serviced and inspected by a qualified and trusted HVAC technician to verify that the system is performing and won’t quit on you in the cold of winter. You should do that now to avoid the rush and allow time for any repairs that may be necessary. This also gives you time for a second opinion if things seem too pricy.

You can also have a qualified energy consultant inspect your home – some utilities offer this service for free – to help you find easy ways to keep your home warm and draft free in the winter months ahead.

Good luck keeping the critters out though!


Ed is a Senior Energy Engineer working to promote and develop energy efficiency in homes, businesses, industries, and military installations. He volunteers to help non- profit organizations and others save money and improve energy efficiency. He lives in Maggie Valley, NC.


Comments (1)
Posted by: Buffy Queen | Sep 18, 2016 23:09

Thanks, Ed Saleem, for your excellent article on winter energy conservation, especially the remarks about how to deal with "cold" windows. When I built my solar home over ten years ago in Haywood County, I learned that large windows, which are crucial to letting in daytime heat in the winter, have to be covered when the sun goes down to keep that heat in and not allow it's escape through window panes . When I see designer homes (in magazines) or fancy lodges or restaurants that have huge windows and no shades or covers, I just have to wonder if the decorators or architects have any understanding at all of the principles you write about? Yes, one has to lower those blinds in the winter at night and raise them in the morning, but what does a minute or two of effort matter when it makes your home so much more comfortable and energy efficient? And, yes, in the "cooling" season of spring through fall, everything goes in reverse, lowering the shades in the morning to keep out the heat and opening windows at night to let in the cooling breeze. But by doing this, I don't have to have AC, another energy saver. Hope to see many more articles like this.

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