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How Do You Check for a Leaky House?

Cold Air Leak Under Door
Cold Air Leak Under Door (Photo credit: CBC || Thermal)
By Gates Dearen

Leaky faucets or roofs are easy to spot; it’s hard not to miss the water accumulating around the leaks. But how do you know if your house is leaking, letting hot air in and cold air out? You may not have thought much about this problem, but if air is leaking into or out of your house, it is literally money out the window! Windows  and doors  are probably the biggest culprits, as old and ill-fitting windows can lead to drafts throughout your house. While it’s best to have a window-and-door professional come out and take a look, there are simple ways you can check for yourself. Here are some places to look for air leaks.

Are the seals around your windows and doors in good repair? Make sure they are tight and intact. Seals can dry out and crack, making them ineffective, especially in the Florida heat and sun. A quick inspection will let you know if it’s time to replace them. Similarly, if you have caulk around your windows, or window air 
Caulk -Sealers-Fillers 
conditioning units, make sure it forms a good bond with no cracks or gaps. Also check the frames. If light comes through your window or door frames, air is getting through, too.

Try to gently rattle your windows. Movement can indicate leakage. If your windows are old, or of poor quality, they are not keeping the inside air in and the outside air out. The only real remedy for this problem is replacing the windows with newer, more energy-efficient ones. It may seem like a big investment up front, but you will begin to see savings in your cooling and heating bills immediately, and you’ll be much more comfortable.

What are your doors made of? If you don’t know, find out. A good quality door is usually made of steel or fiberglass, although there are some other materials that will work well to act as a weather barrier, important for keeping wind and rain, as well as heat, outdoors. Try the “rattle test” as suggested above in the window section. If it moves, the door probably leaks. Make sure the threshold is secure and properly placed so as not to let any air get in or out at the bottom of the door. If you do have a gap, try placing a draft-stopper along the bottom of the door until you are able to fix it. Also check your doorknob and lockset to be sure it is fitted properly to the door.
English: upvc patio doors

Patio doors can present a special problem, mainly because they are usually larger than your other doors and windows. Is the glass on your patio door energy efficient? Does it have a low-e coating and an Energy Star rating? Does it close securely with no gaps? If not, it may be time to replace it. If you do choose to purchase a new door, look for one with pile weather-stripping on the panels, which increases efficiency and reduces air infiltration.

Unexpected places
Electrical Outlet
The above-mentioned sources of air leaks are the most prevalent, but have you thought about how much air could be getting in or out around your switch plates and outlets? Chimneys? Outdoor faucets? These less-obvious sources can be big air-suckers! You may want to call in a professional to check your entire house, including roof and foundation/house juncture, for leaks, but in the meantime, you can do a relatively simple check.

If you are having difficulty locating leaks, you may want to conduct a basic building pressurization test to increase infiltration through cracks and leaks, making them easier to detect:
1)      Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters on a cool, very windy day.
2)      Shut all windows, exterior doors, and fireplace flues.
3)      Turn on all exhaust fans that blow air outside, such as your clothes dryer, bathroom fans, or stove vents, or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms.
4)      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.

Look for this logo when considering your new r...If you don't want to turn off your furnace, you can just turn on all your exhaust fans to depressurize your home.
Other air-leak detection methods include the following:
·         Shining a flashlight at night over all potential gaps while a partner observes the house from   outside. Large cracks will show up as rays of light. Not a good way to detect small cracks.
·         Shut a door or window on a dollar bill. If you can pull the dollar bill out without it dragging, you're losing energy.  (*
As I said at the beginning of this article, if your house is leaking, it’s costing you money. Well-fitting, well-constructed windows and doors and frames will make the biggest difference in stopping air leakage, but taking care of smaller leaks in less-obvious places can add up to additional energy savings and greater comfort.

In this article, I pointedout some ways your home may be letting air in and out. We looked at the role windows and doors have in preventing air leakage, along with discussing some other places you can look and methods you can use to check for leakage.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Gates Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. We know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home.  Our approach is a little different.  We strive to match the homeowner with the right windows for their home and budget. Home improvements can be a hassle.  We’re here to make life easier with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; strong warranties and expert, award-winning installers that provide excellent service while respecting your home as if it were their own. 

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  1. I'm glad I read this before my wife. She'll add it to her honey-do list. Maybe I'll just surprise her and get it done this weekend. Great informational tips!

  2. Yikes! The house has sprung a leak. Man the pumps.

  3. Never thought about leaks coming from switch plates. Time to switch plates or fill the cracks.

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