Arkansas Living — February 2011
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Sealing Your Home From The Elements
Brian Sloboda

When a home feels too cold or too warm folks often purchase air conditioners or space heaters to improve comfort. But in many cases these appliances only address the symptoms, not the actual problem. However, there’s often a simple and relatively inexpensive solution — seal air leaks and add insulation.

To find leaks, walk around your house on a cold day and feel for drafts around exterior doors and windows, electric outlets, and entrance points for TV and telephone cables. In basements, target dryer vents, gas lines, or any place with an opening in the wall.

To fix leaks, apply caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping to these areas. Spray foam should be used on large openings. But be careful: the foam expands and could damage weak wood or lose brick. When purchasing caulk pay careful attention to whether it is rated for interior or exterior use and if you can paint over it.

An insulation kit provides a temporary solution for older windows during winter. Apply a clear plastic sheet to the interior of the window, then use a hair dryer to remove wrinkles and make the sheet almost as clear as the glass.

If you have a forced air heating or cooling system consider sealing the duct work. According to ENERGY STAR, a standard for rating energyefficient consumer products, about 20 percent of the air moving through duct work is lost to leaks and holes. For exposed duct work in basements or attics, apply a duct sealant — either tape, aerosol, or mastic — depending on your skill level.

Once leaks are sealed, focus on adding insulation. Insulation is your home’s first line of defense in keeping out heat and cold and comes in fiberglass (batt or blown), cellulose, rigid foam board, spray foam, or reflective (also called radiant barrier) forms. Your local hardware store can help you choose the one that best fits your area and particular needs.

When buying insulation, consider its R-value. Typical insulation levels for an attic range from R-30 to R-60, while floor requirements vary from R-13 to R-30.

The most difficult area to add insulation will be your walls. Ideally, you would add wall insulation when replacing the siding on your home. In most areas of the country you will need either R-5 or R-6 insulative wall sheathing, and then fill the wall cavity with blown-in insulation. If you do not have siding or won’t be replacing it anytime soon you can cut holes in the wall and blow the insulation in. But this is generally a tricky undertaking and can cause significant damage if not done properly.