Whether the weather you’re trying to keep out of your home is the chill of winter winds or the sweltering rays of a summer sun, adequate weatherization of your house is key. Where you live, in terms of location, type of house and ownership, will affect both what you should address as well as what you’re able to and allowed to do to the building. Whatever your circumstances and budget, though, at least one of the following weatherization projects should work to help protect your residence and its residents from the elements, especially from sunlight, rain and wind.
Seal the Building Envelope
Over time, as buildings settle and are exposed to weather, joints and other connections begin to separate a little, allowing air to leak through. Air sealing your apartment or house is essential.
If you can afford a professional assessment, hire an energy auditor to assess your home. A qualified technician can conduct a blower door test, which depressurizes your home to more easily and accurately identify the air infiltration rate at which outside air enters through unsealed cracks.
You can identify air leaks and drafts on your own using a stick of incense or a candle. Slowly travel along all walls, noting where the smoke or flame bends or shifts direction, indicating a leak. Likely locations of air leaks include wall outlets, window frames and ceiling light fixtures. Once leaks are found, use the appropriate method for sealing:
- Large holes and gaps around 1/4″ or larger can be filled with expanding foam spray.
- Weatherstripping belongs around doors and movable window parts.
- Silicone caulking or clay rope strips should be used to fill any remaining gaps.
- Make draft stoppers to place at the bottom of doors to keep the air from seeping in. Fill a pants leg, shirt sleeve, or pantyhose leg with fabric scraps, pebbles, sand, or rice.
Ideally, replace windows with energy efficient double panes with glazing or Low-E (low emissivity) coating. Practically, window replacement is one of the priciest home upgrades, and generally this is not an option for renters. Instead, seal any gaps around the frame, and consider one of the following improvements:
- Hang heavy drapes in winter, hang reflective curtains, or consider these bay window treatments in the summer.
- Use awnings, which can reduce solar heat gain significantly.
- Add shutters. Easily construct cardboard shutters that can be removed during the day to allow in light and heat from the sun during the winter and can be used during the summer to block sun rays. Simply cut several pieces of corrugated cardboard to fit snugly in your window frame. Secure with duct tape. Attach foam weatherstripping around the entire edge and then put your shutters in place at least an inch away from the glass. For added insulation, glue aluminum foil or a section of an emergency space blanket to the side facing inwards. The material will reflect some infrared heat back into the room.
- Create an insulating air barrier with bubble wrap. Use whatever size of bubble wrap you have handy, though opt for the larger, quarter-sized bubbles if you have the choice. Cut pieces of the wrap to fit your window panes. Spray a mist of water on the window and then press the wrap in place. Note that this method obscures the visibility and isn’t recommended for use on a window you wish to see clearly through.
Weatherstrip Exterior Doors
Apply weatherstripping around all exterior doors, including your garage door. Weatherstripping fills any gaps and prevents outside air and moisture from seeping inside. While you’re weatherstripping, adjust any hinges to make sure they fit tightly against the frames. A significant amount of heat/energy can be lost if your weatherstripping is outdated.
Pay Attention to Attic Spaces
An attic that is not insulated will allow heat to escape during the cold months and will absorb heat during warm months. If the attic space has inadequate insulation, then add some. Also, consider installing radiant barriers to help keep the house cool in the summer. Radiant barriers are made of a highly reflective material that reflects radiant heat instead of absorbing it.
Don’t Forget About the Spaces Beneath Your Feet
Uninsulated crawl spaces beneath the house cause cold floors and cold feet. If possible, add an insulating layer beneath the floor to combat this energy leakage. Make sure that all soil around the home is slanted away as water can get into your basement during the rainy season very easily. Also, ensure that rain gutters are leading away from the house as well.
Weatherizing your home will create a more comfortable space year-round. As an added bonus, improvements in weatherization usually lead to improvements in utility bills through reduced reliance on mechanical heating and cooling systems. Walk around your home and find at least a few ways you can win against the elements.