This will prevent the air conditioner from leaking to the outside

Whether you’re trying to save money on your electric bills or controlling the temperature of your home, these three tips can help you insulate and airtight your home. You need to make the “shell” of the house airtight, seal the drains, and add attic insulation.

These are the most common air leakage problems in American homes that can make a world of difference with a small investment. And with high energy prices and Reports of probable power outages expected in the US this summer, keeping the air conditioning inside (and the warm weather outside) is all the more important. Here’s how to do all three.

air sealing of the “envelope”

First of all, you should start with the airtightness of the house. In this way, you achieve the greatest possible improvement with the lowest investment. And it is important that you make the house airtight before doing any insulation. Otherwise you’re wasting your time. Fiber insulation requires an air barrier to function as intended, which is why it is recommended last.

When it comes to making the “shell” of a home airtight, it’s important to consider the natural behavior of the air in a building. The pattern of the air coming in and out of your home is called the “chimney effect”. It essentially means that warm air rises and cold air descends. For example, warm air leaves your home through the attic and cold air comes in through a crawl space, unfinished basement, or other unair-conditioned lower part of your home.

For this reason, airtightness of the upper and lower levels of your home, combined with insulation, is one of the best ways to combat air leakage.

When a window is drafty, it’s immediately obvious to a homeowner, but leaks in the attic or crawl space are usually worse, but not usually visible. And these areas will be most beneficial to counteract the “stacking” effect. You should create an airtight seal around window trim, doors, vents, chimney and furnace flues, and other fixtures such as pipes and wires that penetrate the “shell” of the home.

Windows often have gaps around the trim and under the sill. You can use a caulking gun to seal them. Cut the top of the sealing tube at a 45 degree angle. Use the pin under the gun to break the seal and place the tube in the caulking gun. Position the caulk gun and pull the trigger while walking along the frame. The 45 degree angle allows the tip to form the bead of caulk into a clean line as you apply it, but it may need a touch up. This is very easy to do with your finger. And don’t worry, the sealant is easy to rinse off with water.

Cartridge gun in action

dlewis33/E+/Getty Images

You can also use the caulking gun for areas like a bathroom exhaust fan, floor service vents, and other crevices. But when it comes to airtightness of a chimney, you should make sure you use a fire seal instead for areas that are more flammable to ensure fire safety. And before you caulk a chimney, make sure the stove is off and no fire is burning / you let it cool down sufficiently.

To create an airtight seal around the front or back door frame, you can now add a weatherstrip. These doors can have a small gap between the door and the outside that not only allows light to shine through, but also allows air in. You can buy a gasket kit that has everything you need.

First you need to remove any old existing weatherstripping from your door frame. Then you can mount the new sealing strip. It’s easier to start with the left and right sides of the frame first, and then apply pressure to adjust the top. You will need to measure the side of your door frame and trim the weatherstrip to fit. And when you cut it, be sure to cut it from the metal side – you’ll get a cleaner cut.

Close the door and make sure it is latched before installing the weatherstrip. If it isn’t locked and you put the weatherstrip too close, you could put a lot of stress on the lock and it could break or come loose from the wood.

Align the weatherstrip snugly against the side of the frame, but don’t press too hard against the door. Using a drill, put the first screw in the middle, and then the top and bottom next. Now do the same steps for the other side – and again for the top.

Now for awkward areas where there is a major gap or wires getting in the way, you can air seal those areas with canned foam. It’s easier to just spray the foam into these openings and let it expand.

To use the canned foam, attach the nozzle to the top and handle it gently. This will not come out of your clothes or carpet.

Again, leaks in your attic or crawl space are the top areas to address. So you can spray the can foam on the openings around pipes and vents and the cracks in a crawl space and on the tops of interior walls in the attic. If you have an unfinished basement instead of a crawl space, you can use caulk or foam to make the edge joist and rocker panels airtight.

Sealing of sewers

Next up is the sewerage. If your ducts are leaking and you’re in a space without air conditioning (like a crawl space, unfinished basement, basement, attic, etc.), you’re literally heating or cooling the outside area. So if you seal it up, more of the heat/air conditioning that was meant for your home will get inside.

Not only that, sealing your ducts improves your indoor air quality. If the duct is leaking, it can suck in dirt, dust, mold and possibly radon from the outside. By sealing the duct system, the duct can only suck in air that is already in the house.

To seal the duct system in a lower room without air conditioning, you can use a mastic sealant. Mastic is good for sealing the joints of sewers, since it is liquid and can get into hard-to-reach areas. It is also flexible in that it resists expansion and contraction due to temperature changes.

This part is easy. Wearing a rubber glove, you can literally dip your hand in the bucket of mastic and spread it along the seams, joints and holes of the metal ducts. Be careful as metal pipes can have sharp edges.

Home renovations with insulating rolls

Miss Pearl/Moment/Getty Images

Add roof insulation

Last but not least, you want to insulate your attic. As previously mentioned, there is minimal benefit in insulating your attic before air sealing the attic.

When it comes to attic insulation, it’s important to note that the insulation and air barrier should be continuous and contiguous (meaning they touch). The continuous part is that having 6 inches of insulation all over is more effective than having 10 inches of insulation in one concentrated spot. The adjacent part is wherever there is drywall, the insulation should touch it. If it’s not touching (e.g. if the insulation is on top of the wires and not underneath), the insulation doesn’t do anything.

Another thing to note is that you want to make sure there is no air gap between the layers of “sheets” which are the insulating strips.

In other words, you want the insulation to be the same depth as the joists when using mats and not loose (or blown) insulation, otherwise there will be an air gap when you add the second layer of perpendicular insulation.

If the depth is less than the beam, there is an air gap from the second layer; If the depth is higher than the joist, there will still be an air gap from the joist to the second layer. Only the first layer needs to be the same depth, but the second perpendicular layer can be thicker.

And the first layer needs to be as thick as needed based on the Energy Star recommended R-value for your geographic location. The R-value is a measure of how effective a material is at preventing heat loss. The higher the R value, the better.

Remember that when insulating your attic, you want to make sure you wear protective gear and cover your skin to avoid inhaling dust and fiberglass or getting on your skin.

First you need to clean the joist bay so the insulation can sit completely flat. Then place a batting of insulation in the bay and cut the length to fit snugly. Try to cut the fleece as perfectly as possible, but it’s okay if you mess up—as long as you evenly fill the depth of the bay with insulation.

Then add the second layer of fleece perpendicularly across the joists so that the wood is also insulated and not just the bay.

Energy Audits and the Weatherization Assistance Program

These tips can help minimize air leaks and cold spots in your home. But if you want a more in-depth professional opinion before trying some of these methods, you can get one energy audit conducted to see which specific areas your home is lacking in terms of energy efficiency.

Also, the US Department of Energy has a state and local Weatherization Assistance Program if you are considered low-income, are over the age of 60, or are part of a family with disabilities. Contact your local utility company for more information. This will prevent the air conditioner from leaking to the outside

Chris Barrese

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