Green Living Money Savers

Sealing These 10 Home Air Leaks Can Save You Lots of Money

woman applied weatherstripping to a window.

If you live in an older house that has not been fully weatherized, somewhere between 20% and 50% of your heating bills can be attributed to air leakage alone!

In fact, energy inefficient homes are such a problem, that properly insulating and sealing your home is one of the very best things you can do to protect the planet. 

Sealing air leaks around your house is the first step in a program to improve the energy efficiency of your home. The energy, time, and money you spend will pay for itself quickly—often in one winter!

Air infiltrates into and out of your home through every hole and crack. About one-third of this air infiltrates through openings in your ceilings, walls, and floors.

One of the quickest ways you can save on your heating and cooling bill is to caulk, seal, and weatherstrip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside. This is best done in the late summer and early fall, before the weather gets too cold.

Many weatherstripping and caulking materials will not adhere well if the weather is lower than 60 degrees F.

More Ways to Improve Your Home Energy Efficiency

Testing for Home Air Leaks

First, test your home for air-tightness. On a breezy day, carefully hold a lit incense stick or a smoke pencil next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets and switches, ceiling fixtures, baseboards, attic hatches, and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside.

If the smoke stream drifts horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weatherstripping.

Common Home Air Leaks

These are the most common areas that need to be sealed up:

  1. Caulk and weatherstrip baseboards, doors and windows that leak air.
  2. Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring penetrates through walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
  3. Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls.
  4. Look for dirty spots in your insulation, which often indicate holes where air leaks into and out of your house. You can seal the holes with low-expansion spray foam made for this purpose.
  5. Look for dirty spots on your ceiling paint and carpet, which may indicate air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists. These joints can be caulked.
  6. Install storm windows over single-pane windows or replace them with more efficient windows, such as double-pane.
  7. Use an eco-friendly foam sealant around larger gaps around windows, baseboards, and other places where warm air may be leaking out.
  8. Kitchen exhaust fan covers can keep air from leaking in when the exhaust fan is not in use. The covers typically attach via magnets for ease of replacement.
  9. Replacing existing door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets is a great way to eliminate conditioned air leaking out from underneath the doors.
  10. When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed. A chimney is designed specifically for smoke to escape, so until you close it, air escapes—24 hours a day! Fireplace flues are made from metal, and over time repeated heating and cooling can cause the metal to warp or break, creating a channel for hot or cold air loss. Inflatable chimney balloons are designed to fit beneath your fireplace flue during periods of non-use. They are made from several layers of durable plastic and can be removed easily and reused hundreds of times. Should you forget to remove the balloon before making a fire, the balloon will automatically deflate within seconds of coming into contact with heat.

A thorough job of leak sealing can cut your home’s total air leakage by 33-46%—reducing your heating bills up to 20%. This winter alone, that could mean up to $300 or more in savings!

Here’s a great instructional video to get you started:

This article was excerpted from my book Sustainability Starts at Home – How to Save Money While Saving the Planet, where you can find even more money-saving, planet-friendly tips.
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About the author


Dawn Gifford

Dawn is the creator of Small Footprint Family, and the author of the critically acclaimed Sustainability Starts at Home - How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. After a 20-year career in green building and environmental sustainability, chronic illness forced her to shift her expertise and passion from the public sphere to home and hearth. Get the whole story behind SFF here.

1 Comment

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  • That is a great list of tips on air sealing. Thank you. One more tool that may be of use when doing home air sealing and weather stripping is a smoke pencil. Energy raters use them all the time to identify drafts in a home and check for air leaks. There are all kinds of different smoke pencils, but the water/glycol ones are about $25 and they help to see if your air sealing project was a success.

    You could use a cigarette or incense stick as well to do the same thing, but if you drop hot ash or an ember on the carpet or furniture and burn a spot…a smoke pencil may be a safer and less expensive route.

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