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The Easy Way to Check for Leaky Windows and Doors

By Gates Dearen
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When it comes to doing most anything, there is usually a hard way and an easy way to getting the job done.  This tenet holds true whether you’re trying to master a new skill, learn a new language or reduce your golf handicap.  So, it should come as no surprise that when it comes to determining whether it’s time to replace your existing windows and/or doors, there’s an easy way and a hard way to do that as well.  The hard way is to wait until your utility bills are costing way too much.  The easy way?  Read on…

The Eyes Have it

If your electric bills are suddenly sky high, don’t take it out on the utility company.  It could be your money is going up in smoke because your home is bleeding air.  Since most of us don’t live in bunkers, there are all kinds of ways for air to escape from our homes.  Every time you open and close a door when it’s warm outside, you let hot air in and cool air out.  The same goes every time you open a window.  That’s a given.  But what most homeowners aren’t aware of is that even with your windows and doors closed, your home still bleeds air.  That’s because no home is 100% airtight. 

This shouldn’t alarm you; it’s just a fact.  What you need to be concerned about is how much air your home bleeds.  The thing is, as your home ages, wind and weather slowly erode a home’s ability to keep out the elements.  Weather stripping cracks, window seals are compromised, and caulking crumbles.  The first sign of trouble usually comes as your homes HVAC system is forced to run longer to keep you comfortable.  This will be especially apparent during the long, hot Florida summer.  If your air conditioner seems to run nearly nonstop in the heat of the day, there are two likely suspects:  
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  1. Your air conditioner needs to be serviced
  2. Your windows and/or doors need to be inspected

Inspecting your windows and doors isn’t all that difficult to do.  Start by walking around the outside of your home.  Examine the windows for any cracks or gaps in the caulking.  If the caulking looks discolored or crumbles at the touch, this is a sure sign of degradation that is compromising your window’s ability to keep the elements out. 

Next, head back inside to examine the windows.  Do you see any condensation on the inside of the panes? This is a clear sign of air intrusion.  Slide the windows open and give them a little shake.  If you hear a rattle, this means the window seals have gone.  Finally, slide the sashes up and down, then close and lock your windows.  If any of your windows are tough to move or they refuse to lock, this means they are no longer seated properly, which can lead to air intrusion.

You can perform the same inspection on your doors.  With the door closed, can you see daylight peeping into your home?  If you see daylight, how hard do you think it would be for wind and weather to intrude?  Next, open the door.  Do your doors open and close smoothly, or do they stick or grab?  Is the weather stripping seamless, or are cracks and gaps evident?

Getting Your Money’s Worth

The second check to verify your windows and doors for integrity will take a dollar.  Simply take a dollar bill and slide it halfway into the jamb before closing the door.  Grasping the edge of the dollar and tug on it to see how easily it slides out.  If your doors are properly sealed, the bill should stay put.  If the seals are compromised, your money will slide out as though your door is an ATM.  Make sure to perform the same dollar test on all your windows to see which ones are sealing properly and securely.

Where There’s Smoke
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Even if your windows and doors pass a visual examination, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have passed the test.  Air leaks and other defects can be too small to see.  The acid test you can perform on your own to detect even the tiniest of leaks around your windows and doors requires a little smoke.

To get started, you need to invest in a couple of incense sticks.  These will supply a source of smoke that won’t have you coughing your lungs out or have your home go up in smoke.  Before you light the incense, make sure your windows and doors are all closed, your HVAC system is turned off, and all your bathroom and kitchen blowers are turned on.  This will create negative pressure in your home, which is vital to performing a smoke test.

Light the incense and carefully move it close to your windows and doors.  I’m talking to within an inch of sills and jambs.  If your windows and doors are properly sealed, the smoke should continue to drift straight up.  If the seal has been compromised, you will see the smoke waft inward.  This indicates a leak. 

Call in the Professionals

Just as most people take their vehicles to a mechanic when they have trouble, there is also a time to call in a window professional to let you know if your windows and/or doors should be replaced.  Just like auto repair professionals, window and door pros have tools and expertise most homeowners lack.

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One of them is an infrared thermometer.  These devices look like a cross between a Colt .45 and a meat thermometer.  Unlike a typical thermometer, the infrared variety doesn’t need to have to be placed into contact to work.  Just by pointing it at and around your windows and doors, they can not only show the temperature extremely accurately, they can also detect hot and cold spots that would otherwise go unnoticed.

If you’re ready to assess the condition of your windows and doors, contact us at HomeRite Windows and Doors by calling (904) 296-2515 or visit our showroom at 4801 Executive Park Court, Building 200, Suite 207, Jacksonville; FL 32216. 

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. He and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They strive to match homeowners with the right windows and doors for their homes and budgets. They make the home improvement process pleasant with first-rate, energy-efficient products, affordable pricing, and award-winning installers who employ the best practices and who always treat customers and their property with the utmost respect.

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