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How to Detect a Draft In Your House and How to Stop It

Besides creating uncomfortable conditions in your home and being environmentally unfriendly, air leaks can be expensive. According to U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent on your utility bills each year by properly sealing and insulating your home. Over time, those savings can really add up. Here’s how you can start to make your home more comfortable, not to mention less expensive to maintain, by finding and fixing air leaks around the house.

Make a Visual Inspection

Start with what you know. If you’ve lived in your house a while, you probably already have a good idea where there's a draft — because you’ve felt it.

Inspect your doorframes and window wells, taking note of any gaps between those structures and the walls. However, while these openings may seem like the most likely leak suspects, the Department of Energy reminds us that most air leaks are located in a home's basement and attic. With that in mind, be sure to check the following areas as well.

  • Attic openings and hatches and knee walls (side walls that support attic rafters).
  • Any holes through which wiring (electrical, telecommunications, etc.) passes.
  • Plumbing and dryer vents.
  • Outdoor faucets.
  • Skylights.
  • Recessed lighting.
  • Furnace flues and ducts.
  • Any places in your basement where the foundation meets wood framing (rim joists).

Shine a Light

Besides conducting a visual inspection, you can also locate drafts in your home by walking from room to room holding a lit candle. If the flame flickers or goes out, or you see smoke being drawn out of the room or blown into it, you may have a leak that needs sealing.

Prioritize Projects

Once you’ve identified where and how your home is leaking air, prioritize projects based on the biggest opportunity for comfort and savings. Start with the attic. For the most energy savings, focus on sealing up the largest holes first. Common fixes include plugging open stud cavities and gaps with fiberglass insulation and covering soffits with reflective foil.

Move on to your basement and crawl spaces. Sealing air leaks in these areas can help prevent cold floors and reduce updrafts. Use caulk (on holes 1/2 inch or less in diameter) or spray foam (on larger holes 1/2 inch to 3 inches in diameter) to seal cracks and openings in the basement's walls, ceiling or floor.

Finally, address any problem areas around your doors, windows and walls. While fixing air leaks in these areas will have the smallest impact on your energy use, eliminating them is a simple, do-it-yourself job. Fixes here can be as simple as applying weatherstripping around your windows or installing a door sweep to help close any gaps between the bottom of your door and the threshold.

Hire a Professional

If your DIY measures aren't quite enough to take care of all the drafty areas in your home, consider hiring a professional to perform a home energy audit. Some energy companies and local and state governments even offer free energy assessments and recommendations to help make your home more energy-efficient. Just contact your local energy supplier or state public services office for more information.

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