All throughout winter, you worked hard to keep the warm air in and cold air out. Unfortunately, it difficult to make outdoor repairs in the middle of a snow storm. However, with spring making its way in and the ice melting away, it’s time to start finding and sealing the leaks in your house. These leaks can be difficult to locate if you don’t know what to look for and consultants are expensive, so here are a few quick tricks to check your home’s integrity.
- Windows – During the winter, you may have noticed that cold areas or condensation collected around one or more of your windows. This means that the window is probably leaking. Fortunately, finding out how much is a simple process. On one side of the window (inside or outside), use a hair dryer to direct air around the edges. On the other side, hold a piece of tinsel or a burning candle in the area that the hair dryer is blowing. If the candle flickers or the tinsel moves, you’ve found a leak which may be repaired with a sealer or weather stripping, but will ultimately require replacement.
On the other hand, if you’ve performed the above leak test and found no weak spots, but the window was still cold in the chilly months, it may be time to replace the window with something more energy efficient. The rubber and sealers that manufacturers used in the past have a tendency to break down over time; allowing heat exchange between glass in double paned windows or miniscule leaks in single panes. Either way, it’s time for new ones.
- Doors – The hair dryer/candle test can be used for doorways as well. Just as with windows, look for air movement to indicate leaks. Unlike windows, however, weather stripping provides a shorter term fix due to the swinging nature of doors. Additionally, the foam insulation in aluminum doors will deteriorate in less than 10 years and the metal will transmit unwanted outdoor heat inside. This is harder to check except in extreme temperature conditions. The simplest fix is replacement with solid wooden doors.
- Siding – This can be the most difficult section to check since there are very few places that will show air leaks. The good news is that many companies sell FLIR attachments that will connect to your iPhone or Android and allow you to detect thermal changes in the sides of your house. Once you have found a leak, your local DIY store should have more than a few sealing options for you.
- Roofing – If you have access to your attic, then you have three excellent options for finding heat leaks. The first method uses nothing more than your eyes. Search for water stains or mildew patches where condensation or water leaks have developed. If you find none of these, go to your thermostat and turn the fan to “On”. With all of your outside windows and doors closed, this will create positive pressure and it’s time to break out the candle again. Search the edges of the attic: the floor, the apex, and seams between roofing boards. If none of these have revealed any problems, safely ascend to the rooftop and use your FLIR attachment to look for changes in temperature that might indicate a small, unnoticed leak. A tube of roofing tar is fine for one or two small spots, but large scale leaks will need a professional roofer.
Blocking out hot summer temperatures is just as important as sealing away cold winter air. By finding leaks, you will stay comfortable and happy during the extreme months. Most importantly, the energy savings will more than balance out the cost of repairs. Keep your house (and your checkbook) protected.
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