Zip up your home, for comfort and conservation
›› Ruben Anderson
If your door is a little drafty it may not seem like a big deal. But a gap just a ¼” wide—multiplied over the height of the door—ends up being a lot of square inches. That ¼” gap adds up to the equivalent of a hole big enough to throw a grapefruit through.
Now, imagine a cold and howling Victoria night. If you had a grapefruit-sized hole in your wall do you think you would do something to stop the wind?
How many doors there are in your home? And windows, and pipes and wires passing through the walls? You might have a hole big enough to throw a case of grapefruits through.
So the first step is to find the gaps. It is never a bad idea to hire a Home Energy Advisor (citygreen.ca). They will do a complete energy audit and a pressurized test of your home and produce a report informing you of all your energy retrofit grant opportunities—and then they will tell you to find the gaps and caulk and weatherstrip.
A great tool to find the gaps is an incense stick, as the thread of smoke shows which way the wind is blowing. It can also help to turn on your kitchen and bathroom fans to increase the air flow.
Then, walk around your home checking windows and doors for drafts.
Once the incense has helped you pinpoint problem areas, it is time to close them up. Weatherstrip gaps on the sides of doors with foam tape, and screw a door sweep on the bottom. Caulk gaps around door mouldings and where windows are installed to frames.
For opening windows, you can use removable caulk. You can squirt it on with a caulking gun as usual—and then peel it off in the spring when you want to open the windows again.
If you are still chilly because of the beautiful single-pane windows we have in so many heritage homes, installing storm windows or the inexpensive shrink film will increase your comfort. Closing blinds or drapes at night will also reduce the air circulating over cold windows.
A big, big gap found in many homes is the fireplace. Even with the damper closed a lot of warm air can go whistling up the chimney, so block that off with a tight-fitting panel or piece of foam, but don’t forget to remove it first if you want to light a fire!
And if you own your home you should go down into your basement and up into your attic. Use spray foam to fill big gaps at the foundation and caulking to close leaks at the wall plates.
All of the products you need and a lot of good advice can be found at our local hardware stores, and you will have a more comfortable and less wasteful winter.