Home Inspection Service for Horry and Surrounding Counties

Filling the gaps to save a bundle:

Household air is always in transition. Conditioned inside air moves out and outside air moves in (requiring reconditioning.) The rate at which air does this is called the infiltration rate. A very tight house will see its total volume of air exchanged about once an hour while a very loose one will lose its heated air at three times that rate. The difference in utility bills for the two houses would be huge. Most houses have a handfull of places or areas which account for the bulk of these losses. Fill these gaps and you will substantially lower you energy costs.

Minor Miracles With Cheap Materials: You will need several rolls of fiberglass blanket insulation (3 1/2 inch thickness is fine), some rope caulk (a type of caulk that comes threaded on a cardboard backer like fat shoelaces), duct tape, weatherstripping and a pair of work gloves.

WARNING: It Can Be Overdone: An excessively tight house can develop condensation problems. ALL houses should have kitchen and bath power exhaust fans and should have vents through the attic spaces. About the only old houses that develop condensation problems through tighten up measures are solid masonry houses which have their old drafty windows upgraded to very tight fitting new ones and have no exhaust fans. Unusually tight houses may requre the aid of an "Air-to-Air Heat Exchanger," a device which efficiently transfers heat energy from outgoing inside air to incoming outside air while making the exchange.

Floors: If you ever refinish flooring, consider caulking between the baseboard and the floor prior to installing new shoe molding. Stuff pieces of fiberglass insulatin around ducts and pipes penetrating floors. Use gloves since the fiberglass can "pin prick" you.

Attics: Most attics are incompletely insulated so that heat can readily escape through uninsulated areas. Examine the attic floor around a fireplace chimney, above bathrooms and closets, over kitchens and stairs, and the top of whole house exhaust fans. Lay fiberglass blankets over uncovered spaces. Construct a shell cover for a whole house exhaust fan from cardboard boxes stapled together and then staple the insulation to the back of the box. Do the same for attic pull down stairs an staple insulation to the tops of attic access hatches.

Heating Equipment: If your gas or oil fired furnace or boiler is located within the heated living space of the house it uses the already heated air to combust its fuel. If it is in a small room with a vent through a door, consider taping over the vent, sealing around the door with weatherstripping and ducting outside air into the room. Many times you can run a duct up into the attic. Consult local building authorities for the property size duct. If the equipment is installed in a larger space, you might consider iinstalling a "flue damper" in the exhuast flue of the appliance. These devices restrict the flue opening when the device is not running. This can provide big savings since open flues are direct pathways for inside air to exit the house. Handy amateurs should limit themselves to installing thermally activated flue dmpers on gas appliances only. Leave electrically operated dampers and dampers on oil burning equipment to professionals.

Ductwork: Seal the joints of uninsulated return air ductwork through uninsulated attics and crawl spaces with duct tape. These returns pull a partial vacuum and cold air will be drawn into them from these spaces. Consider wrapping them with insulation.

Dampers: Look up inside the firebox with a flashlight to check your fireplace damper. It should seal tightly all around its edged. Clean out any debris or mortar that prevents a tight fit. If you don't have a glass fire screen, be sure to keep the damper closed when the fireplace isn't being used. Check bathroom exhaust fan flappers by feeling aroung the fan for drafts on cold windy days. Remove the ceiling register and drop the fan to unstick a drafty damper. Pivoting dampers in kitchen exhaust fan ducts emptying into attic spaces often stick open due to grease accumulations. Clean them with "Pine Sol." Clean lint from the flapper on the dryer exhaust duct to make sure it closes properly.

Basements and Crawl Spaces: Wood frame houses will have floor joists resting on a "sill plate" mounted to the foundation walls. Caulk the space between the bottom of the sill palte and the top of the foundation. Caulk around electical and gas pipe intrances through the foundation. Stuff fiberglass blanket insulation between joist ends against the outside walls. Make sure any gaps at the floor above are blocked off. Tape around steel framed (hopper type) basement windows. Stuff fiberglass into cantilevered floor cavities that overhang foundation walls; fill the entire cavity.

Doors: Weatherstrip around the top and sides of doors. Use a compressible weather stripping that tacks to the door jambs. Make sure the threshold is a tight fit at the bottom of all doors. Take the threshould up and caulk under it if necessary. A "sweep" attached to the inside botom face of a door will aid a poor sealing threshold. This operates like a thin brush connecting the bottom of the door to the floors.

Windows: Install felt to take up space on window parts that fit poorly. (Make certain that the locks work to pull the sashes together.) Use rope caulking pressed into cracks around window sashes that cannot be made to fit tightly. (Rope caulking is the most practical answer to tightening steel casemant windows.) Tack telt strips to the top of the upper sash and the bottom of the lower sash for loosely fitted double hung (the kind that move up and down) wood windows.

Switches and Plugs: Install foam gaskets behind switch and plug face plates on outside walls.

Ceiling Openings: Lighting fixtures, duct registers, and other openings through ceilings should be sealed around to prevent falling air drafts. (WARNING: Most lighting fixtures that project through a ceiling into insulated space require three inches of space to any insulation to prevent heat buildup and fire. This automatically sets up holes through your insuation blanket and accounts for cold drafts through the lighting fixture itself.) Fix this with a gasket under the rim of the lens cover or change the lighting fixture. Safe "Hi Hat" light fixtures that can be covered with insulation are label IC (Insulation Contact) and are available from lighting distributors. Older lights can be fitted with cool running fluorescent bulbs.

NOTE: Blowers doors can be used to chech for high infiltration rates and duct blasters can be used to check for leaky duct work. This type of work is often available from companies specializing in energy conservation.