Dec. 11, 2020
Oh, baby, it’s cold outside… and inside, too, if you’re standing close to a drafty window, door, or mysterious source of outside air. Persistent drafts are funny things. They can be massive pains when the wind blows just right, and almost unnoticeable when it’s still, making it both difficult to locate the problem, and hard to keep front of mind as you go about the rest of your week. But if you’ve got a persistent draft, transient or not, this can be the year you solve it. You’ll also save yourself a bundle in home heating and cooling costs throughout the year, so bonus.
Locating a Persistent Draft
Generally, people think to look at windows and doors when a draft is noticed, but what happens when the window doesn’t seem leaky and the door seals tight? Try:
- Running your hand along the trim where it meets the wall. Sometimes windows aren’t properly weatherproofed when they’re installed, leaving the trim around the window unit to leak and leak and leak. Check that you’ve got a solid caulk bead all along your trim, even on the bottom of the window. An alarming number of air leaks result from skipping this step.
- Examining outlets. Did you know cold air can come in through outlets on your exterior walls? It sure can. Sometimes it’s easier to find these by taking the cover off (turn your breaker off first, please).
- Checking your chimney. If your damper isn’t closing properly, you may have a big time draft coming down through the chimney like Santa on Christmas Eve. It’s not always obvious when a chimney is leaking cold air unless you’re right below it, so make sure to check inside the fireplace.
If you can’t find a leak with your bare hands, try using a candle. Turn your ceiling fans and furnace off and run the candle slowly along ceilings, windows, doors, trimwork, outlets, fireplaces, and other potential sources of air loss. If you notice a flicker, mark the spot with a sticky note or other easily removable method. Go room by room, checking carefully in every possible spot.
Fixing Air Leaks
Once you know where your leaks are, the real work begins. It’s not just enough to know where the leak is; you need to know what to do about it. There are temporary fixes that will help eliminate drafts while you wait for a professional energy audit and weatherproofing, or you can try your hand at sealing common sources of air leaks.
Temporary solutions would include items like:
- Gaskets for your windows. Some types of gaskets are meant to fill gaps at the bottom of the window frame. These are often only effective if you close the window on top of them and lock it for the winter.
- Layers of window treatments. Windows are often a huge source of energy loss, so it would make sense that installing better window treatments can help slow the flow. This goes for both summer and winter. Install blinds hung on the inside of the window frame and an insulating curtain on the outside of it to slow those leaks coming from windows that have seen better days.
- Door draft stoppers. Also known as “door snakes,” door draft stoppers can help keep the cold air outside if your door sweeps aren’t up to par. Choose a door draft stopper that’s slightly longer than the door in question, so the whole bottom is covered and the trim is overlapped.
More permanent solutions include removing trim and installing gap-filling foam, replacing door sweeps, installing gaskets in electrical outlets and junction boxes, taping the gaps in light fixtures, caulking trim work, and repairing fireplace doors and dampers.