If you turn up the thermostat and don't feel the heat, there's a problem. Old windows, worn doors, and poorly installed outlet covers are basically an open invitation for the frigid winter air to make its way indoors. To avoid feeling the draft — and cut down on your heating bill — follow these tips from the Good Housekeeping Institute.
Pay Attention to These Key Areas
Before you go around looking for leaks and drafts, it helps to know where to start. Keep an eye out for these common problem areas that often let cold air in.
- Electrical outlets
- Switch plates
- Door and window frames
- Fireplace dampers
- Attic hatches
- Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners
- Cable TV and phone lines
- Vents and fans
How to Detect Leaks
Switch on a flashlight.
At night, shine a flashlight, like the Maglite Mini PRO LED Flashlight, on door and window frames. If the person on the other side sees light, you may have a leak.
Grab a dollar bill.
If you think doors are to blame, slip a dollar bill (or standard piece of paper) under the door. If you can pull the dollar bill out without it dragging, then you have a significant air leak.
Light some incense.
Turn off the furnace and water heater and turn on exhaust fans. Hold a lit incense stick by windows, outlets, doors, and any other suspected areas. If smoke blows sideways, you likely have a leak.
Use a thermal leak detector.
Invest in a thermal leak detector, like the Black & Decker TLD100, to read surface temperatures of walls, doors, floorboards, and more. If the reading is a lot colder than the air, there's a leak.
How to Get Rid of Drafts
For cracks less than 1/4 inch, use caulk.
To fill cracks near windows and doors, use a long-lasting caulk that's made for outdoor use. GE Silicone 2+, a Good Housekeeping Institute favorite, is 100% weatherproof, sun-proof, and freeze-proof (a.k.a. it's basically indestructible). In general, look for caulks made with mold-free technology that adhere to common surfaces.
For cracks between 1/4 inch and 3 inches, use spray foam.
Avoid messy foam drips by finding a spray foam that comes with a straw, like GREAT STUFF Insulating Foam Sealant. This quick-action foam deflects water and is tacky to touch in just eight minutes. Unlike caulk, spray foam can be more difficult to use so we recommend dispensing it onto newspaper before tackling trouble areas. To quicken the curing process — the time it takes to settle — mist the area with water before and after spraying.
For doors, use a draft stopper.
Draft stoppers, like this best-seller on Amazon, Home Intuition Draft Stopper, prevent cold air from sneaking in under doors. It may not be as discreet as caulk or sealant, but it gets the job done. You can choose from weighted cloth versions that stay on the floor or plastic draft guards that fit around the door itself.
For bigger problems, fix your insulation.
If the insulation in your attic doesn't reach the top of the floor joists, there's not enough to trap heat. Visit a home improvement store for DIY attic insulation or hire someone to get the job done.
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