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Seal air leaks in your home

January 03, 2009|By BOB KESSLER

December's blast of cold weather provided a test for the tightness of your house.

If you had trouble keeping your house warm when the wind was blowing 20 to 30 miles per hour, then now is the time to find ways that you can seal up those cracks that let in air.

Keep in mind that little cracks make a big difference. If you have a gap around a storm window that is only one-sixteenth of an inch wide and is 16 inches long, you have a hole that is one inch wide and high. That will let in a lot of cold air.

I was raised in an old farmhouse. In the fall, my mother would fold up newspaper and put it in around loose windows and outside doors that we couldn't use in the winter.


This folded newspaper was an inexpensive weather stripping. We have a lot more options today at hardware stores, but if you want an inexpensive way to seal up air leaks, don't forget that folded newspaper can still do a good job.

If you have a draft at the bottom of a door, you need to replace the weather stripping on the bottom of the door. If this isn't possible, you can use a simple draft stopper - a cloth tube filled with cat litter, sand or similar small-sized particles.

You can make a draft stopper at home and place it at heat cracks along the bottom of a door or window. If you don't know how to make one, call the Penn State extension office or check the Internet for directions.

A way to check for air leaks at the sides of doors and windows is to use a piece of paper and open a door and then close it with the paper in the edge of the door jam.

If you can't pull it out then you have a tight seal. If it comes out easily then you need to add weather stripping to block the air leaking in around your window and doors.

Weather stripping can range from inexpensive felt strips to foam tape or metal strips. What you choose will depend on what you want to spend, but also where you are using it.

The inexpensive felt material is not very durable and does a poor job at stopping air flow. You could use foam tape, which is more effective, but not very durable for window and doors that open and close a lot. There is also foam attached to wood strips, which is more durable but harder to install.

The metal strips are very durable and very effective, but are more difficult to install and more expensive. They can make opening and closing windows more difficult. However, because they are durable they could be a good choice for some locations.

There are door sweeps that are made for the bottom of doors that will help cut down on drafts. These are harder to install, especially those that are automatic.

This is just a partial list of the kinds of materials you can find at a home improvement center that can help you cut down on drafts in your home. You don't have to do all of the doors and windows at the same time. Tackle the biggest drafts first. You will get a higher return on your time and money and quickly start to make your home more comfortable.

Facts on CFLs

Most of us probably have purchased one of the compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) for our home. But do CFLs save you any money? When you do the numbers for the long term, they certainly do save money.

Take a side-by-side comparison for a single, 100-watt light fixture over five years. A 100-watt incandescent bulb might cost 50 cents to purchase, but it will have to be replaced about every six months. Over five years, that's 10 bulbs at a cost of $5.

A 100-watt CFL might cost you $7 and will last for at least five years. If you buy packs of four or six CFLs, each bulb costs less.

The cost of energy to light a 100-watt incandescent bulb in a light fixture in your house might cost you more than $100 depending on your electric cost and the time you use the lamp.

A 100-watt CFL will use much less energy over the five years - incandescent bulbs use about four times the energy of a CFL. Since it uses about one-fourth the amount of electricity, our energy cost is about $25 for five years. This gives the total cost of use of a CFL for five years at $32 versus the $105 we spent on the incandescents. You save about $73, or $14.60 per year for one light fixture in your house.

The bottom line: The bulbs do cost more, but they save you money in lower energy costs.

Keep in mind that in some of our areas, energy costs will be going up in the next couple of years as electricity rates become deregulated. Starting to change over to more energy-efficient lighting can be a good investment to make.

Purchase a compact fluorescent light bulb that has the energy star label to be sure you are getting bulbs that will give you good energy savings.

Then when an incandescent bulb blows, you replace it with the CFL and then buy another one CFL. Gradually you will have made the switch over without making a big investment all at once.

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