Rising energy costs have motivated a lot of people to seek ways of reducing their use of gas, oil and electricity. For most of us, this is most difficult to do during the cold weather months. Unless we live in a temperate climate year round, it’s virtually impossible not to rely on the furnace throughout the winter. The best we can do, then, is take steps to insure that our heaters aren’t doing double duty trying to warm cold air that’s leaking into our homes from outside.
Our first step will be to locate areas with a noticeable draft. Though the seams of windows and doors are caulked when they’re first installed, the caulk can dry out over time and crack and flake off. Rooms in a house that are particularly drafty can indicate that the caulking has come loose from one or more of the fixtures there. If the touch up job is small, we can remedy it with caulking from a squeeze tube. Larger projects will require caulk and a caulking gun, which consists of a metal holder and a handle that squeezes the caulk out of its tube.
Use a putty knife to remove any old caulk that is broken, cracked, or that has dried up and pulled away from the area that it was meant to seal. Then cut the tip off of the caulk tube, make a few holes in its foil seal with a screwdriver, and put it into the gun. Begin by squeezing a bead of caulk into a gap and then working it in further with the putty knife. Caulk doesn’t stop flowing immediately after we stop squeezing the handle; so a little practice is necessary before we can consistently get out just the amount needed. To avoid clumping the caulk in some spots and leaving it too thin in others, we want to lightly squeeze and continue moving the tube along the crack in as even a motion as possible. The caulk can then be smoothed down with anything from an old toothbrush to a Popsicle stick.
Caulking will form a barrier between winter weather and the inside of a house, but is only adequate for gaps of less than half an inch. Expandable spray foam and caulking backer rope can be used for larger gaps. Neither of these will do for sealing the parts of our houses that need to be free to move, however. For the frames of windows and doors, we need to use weather stripping.
Old weather stripping should first be removed, and window and doorframes cleaned. Then we can apply self-adhesive foam strips (V-strips are the easiest to install) into the channels where window sashes move up and down and on the bottom of window sashes where they meet the window frames. Simply measure the V-strip to fit the sash and channels (allowing an extra couple of inches in the latter case) and cut. Within window channels, the open part of the “V” should face the outside; it should face down on a bottom sash. V-strips can also seal the lock rail of a top window where it meets a bottom window’s sash. Longer strips can be used in the same way to insulate doorframes; weather stripping is even available in sweeps that seal doors between bottom and threshold.
Weather stripping will help to put a cap on those winter energy bills. What’s more, it’s easy to remove if we prefer to only use it seasonally.