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Sealing Air Leaks Goes a Long Way Toward Maximizing Your HVAC System’s Hard Work

The cost of heating and cooling your home are likely more than half of your home's annual utility costs. That being the case, you can go a long way toward reducing those costs by finding measures you can take to save energy. One way is sealing air leaks, which will accomplish energy savings but also improve indoor air quality and make your HVAC system more efficient. Sealing air leaks should be done as a part of the normal maintenance and care of your home and is a project that can be tackled by most homeowners.

There are two main materials used for sealing air leaks, weatherstripping and caulking (or its close relation spray foam). Understanding the difference between the two materials and when they should each be used can help you make informed decisions about maintaining your home.

Weatherstripping

Weatherstripping should be used in applications where the area being sealed is adjacent to an object with moving parts. This means that you should use weatherstripping to close gaps around doors and window sashes. There are many types of weatherstripping available, so it's important to select the right type of weatherstripping for your application.

The first step in applying weatherstripping is to understand how much material you need. This can be accomplished by measuring the areas where you plan to apply the material. Once you have this number, add 10 percent to address any issues you may have with waste. Next, consult the package of your weatherstripping to understand what types of tools you will need during the installation. While installation instructions can vary between products, there are some general guidelines to following while installing weatherstripping:

  • The area where you install the weatherstripping should be clean and dry and warmer than 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Before cutting your weatherstripping material, measure the area twice to avoid costly mistakes.
  • Be sure that the weatherstripping fits snugly on both sides. When the air sealed door or window is shut, the weatherstripping should be compressed.

When applying weatherstripping doors be sure to:

  • Select door sweeps and thresholds that fit your application for the bottoms of doors as needed.
  • Take care to apply weatherstripping to the entire door jam.
  • Use a single continuous strip of weatherstripping on each side for best results.
  • Take care to ensure the strips of weatherstripping meet snuggly in the corners
  • The thickness of the installed weatherstripping should allow a snug fit when the door is closed while not making the door difficult to close.

When applying weatherstripping to windows, be sure to:

  • Place the weatherstripping in the space between the window’s sash and frame.
  • Check to ensure the weatherstripping is not keeping the window from closing easily.

Caulk

Caulk should be used to seal air leaks in spaces around stationary air leaks such as openings for pipes and plumbing fixtures, cracks between building materials (where your walls and foundation meet), and other places where leaks are apparent. There are multiple types of caulk available. Take time to read the package to ensure the caulk you select is correct for your application.

The first step in using caulk to air seal your home is to correctly assess how much caulk you need to complete the job. One quick way to estimate this is to purchase a half cartridge for windows and doors and four cartridges for air sealing your foundation.

While the instructions for applying caulk can vary between products, there are some general things to keep in mind:

  • Prior to applying the caulk, take care to clean all of the surfaces where you will be using caulk. If there is existing caulk that you're replacing, be sure to remove all of the old caulk. The area should be clean and dry before you begin installation.
  • Holding the caulk gun at a 45-degree angle consistently will provide the best results.
  • Place the caulk on the window, door or other location in one strip. One continuous row of caulk is significantly better than several smaller beads.
  • Use a putty knife if the caulk begins to ooze out
  • Do not rush the process, if your initial application does not go well, remove the caulk and try again.

Ideally, you should only apply caulking when the temperature is more than 45 degrees Fahrenheit on a day with low humidity. If your gaps and cracks are relatively large, use expanding spray foam to plug the leak.

Learn more about how sealing air leaks can improve your home’s efficiency by speaking with a qualified HVAC contractor in West Texas today.

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