Your Green Home: Draft proofing Your Doors, Windows and Walls

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MARKHAM – Here in the GTA, wind chill is a way of life. Our winters are colder, gustier, and generally harder on heating bills than those of our American neighbours to the south.

Luckily, our homes are built with various components – such as weather-stripping, caulking, and vent covers – designed to keep those cold gusts out and warm air in. However, did you know that these important features can deteriorate over time? Inspecting doors, windows, and walls for air leaks (also known as “drafts”) is commonly referred to as draft proofing, and it’s one of the best ways to add practical value to your home while saving on your utility bills this winter.

How to Find Drafts in your Home

Drafty air leaks can be found around doors, windows, or anywhere there may be a crack or gap in the building envelope. The Government of Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) recommends several methods for locating drafts:

  • A fan depressurization test, commonly known as a “blower door test,” is a highly effective draft detection method.  You will need to find a contractor to perform one in your home. An expert will calculate the airtightness of your house based on their findings, and provide you with detailed recommendations.
  • You can also do a more informal test yourself using a homemade “draft detector” such as an incense stick or a thin piece of tissue. The OEE suggests waiting for a cool and windy day to take your detector and run it along “near window and door frames, electrical outlets, baseboards and other possible leakage locations.” If the drafts are serious, they should make themselves obvious during this test.

Dealing with Drafts

The method used to deal with a draft depends on where the draft was found. Many of these fixes are quick and inexpensive, giving you a chance to add value and save money without breaking too much of a sweat.

Drafts around a door or window: The simplest solution for drafty doors or windows is to add caulking or weather-stripping to their edges. Caulking, a pliable sealant, will always require periodic replacement – so replacing your worn caulking with a fresh coat is a great way to maximize warm air in the winter. By contrast, weather strips come in a variety of forms – different types are ideal for different situations. This Old House’s Essential Guide to Weatherstripping provides a detailed breakdown.

When it comes to windows, much of the air leakage might be caused by the windows themselves – especially if your home is older. If that’s the case, consider checking out our guide on upgrading to energy-efficient windows.

Drafts in the Attic: Attics are often the draftiest part of any home, because they open to the outside at so many places. Electrical boxes, hatches/access panels, chimney chases, soffits, electrical/plumbing penetrations – all of these and more can be pesky draft points for any attic. The OEE recommends weatherstripping the main hatch and adding sealing to any other entry points you may find (with the exception of lighting penetrations, where sealing may cause a fire hazard).

Electrical Socket Drafts: You might not have suspected these, but they can be an air leakage nuisance. The best way to prevent outlet drafts is to install foam sealing gaskets at each one. Remember – it’s important to shut off your home’s power before beginning any work on electrical outlets!

What are the Benefits of Draft Proofing?

Draft proofing’s obvious benefits are ones you’ll be able to notice right away. In areas where drafts have been reduced, you’ll experience consistently warmer room temperatures than you had before – making things easier for your thermostat and furnace.

Another great benefit of draft-proofing is its impact on your energy consumption and your energy bills. According to Toronto Hydro, “comprehensive draft proofing can save you up to 20% on your heating bill or $489.26 per year.” That’s a lot of extra cash! If you want to go one step further, the folks at Toronto Hydro also recommend upgrading your insulation – which can shave up to 30 per cent off of your heating bills.

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