With cold temperatures upon us, homeowners are hunkering down and trying to stay warm. If your windows are drafty, your home isn’t only chilly – you’re adding expense to your monthly utility bill as your furnace works harder to heat your home.
If you feel a chill in your home, there are some common areas that can let in a draft that you should check. Do a visual inspection of electrical outlets, switch plates, door and window frames, electrical and gas service entrances, baseboards, weather stripping around doors, fireplace dampers, attic hatches, vents and fans.
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends conducting a building pressurization test. The name sounds complicated, but it’s really very easy:
Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters on a cool, windy day.
Shut all windows, exterior doors and fireplace flues.
Turn on all exhaust fans that blow air outside, such as bathroom fans or stove vents, or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms.
Light an incense stick and pass it around the edges of common leak sites. Wherever the smoke wavers or is sucked out of or blown into the room, there’s a draft. You can also use a damp hand to locate leaks; any drafts will feel cool to your hand.
One of the most common areas to feel a draft is from your windows. If you can rattle your windows, this movement indicates probable air leaks. Obviously, seeing the light of day around a window frame is also an indication of leaks.
The best way to eliminate drafts from old windows is to replace them. While that may not be an option for every homeowner, there are a few things you can do in the meantime to cut down on the cold air entering your home.
Layered Curtains: Using heavy fabric and layered curtains over drafty windows can help keep the cold at bay. They can be somewhat expensive and often block out the sun’s natural warming rays.
Cellular shades: The honeycomb design of cellular shades acts as an insulation barrier to cold drafts. The benefit they have over layered curtains is that cellular shades still allow light in, but they don’t insulate as well.
Draft snakes: These are simple fabric tubes filled with insulating material. You place them along a windowsill (or at the bottom of a door) to prevent cold air from seeping in. They’re cheap and you can even make them yourself. But they only insulate the window sill, not the glass or frame.
Weather stripping: Just about every home improvement store sells kits for DIY weather stripping. They’re typically self-stick rubber strips that can be cut to fit your window dimensions. Though inexpensive, they often cheapen the look of your windows, and can damage the paint and leave a residue once you remove them.
Whether you provide a temporary fix or decide to replace your old windows, eliminating window drafts will go a long way towards keeping you warm and saving you money this coming winter.