Windows, doors may be letting money escape your house

As Americans, we have all heard these terms many times over the last few years: “global warming,” “lessening our dependence on foreign oil,” “going green,” “environmentally friendly,” etc.

We all know by now that buying fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicles can help with foreign oil dependency and that turning off lights and appliances when not in use will help the environment by lessening carbon emissions from electric power plants. What most of us may be missing though, are the benefits that we can create for ourselves just by looking under our own feet right at home.

In this series we’ll look at every area of your home that could potentially be sneaking dollar bills out of your wallet every month.

Windows and doors
Did you ever wonder what that crack under the front door is really costing you? A one-eighth-inch crack under the front door is equivalent to a 2-square-inch hole. If you were to find a hole like that in an exterior wall, you would certainly plug it, wouldn’t you?

Many homes when tested with an Infiltrometer Blower-Door are found to have holes equivalent to a full square foot or more. By sealing air leaks from windows and doors, you could reduce your heating and cooling costs by as much as 15 percent.

While it’s not the best way, here’s a simple test you can do yourself to find these air leaks. Start by closing every door and window and then turning on all exhaust fans and your clothes dryer (air only). This will force the house into a negative pressure. Then use a candle or incense stick to go around to every door and window to look for air leaks.

Watch for flame or smoke movement. If there’s leakage, you’ll find it easily. To seal these leaks, the best material is rubber weather stripping. Foam and felt, while less expensive, are not quite as effective. If your windows are old and in need of replacement, make sure to install at least double-pane windows with a low E coating.

Although windows and doors can be energy wasters, they are usually not the worst offenders when it comes to air infiltration. Building cavities, plumbing chases, recessed lights, and especially attics and crawl spaces are far worse offenders.

To find out exactly where the worst areas are in your home have a negative pressure test performed on your home. Finding a contractor that performs Infiltrometer Blower Door testing with an infrared camera scan can save you hundreds the first year alone.

Look for the second part of this column next week, when I’ll discuss insulation, including what to get and just how much you’ll need.

Joel Wensley is a licensed mechanical contractor in the state of Michigan and president of Mechanical Heating & Cooling in Dearborn Heights.