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February 2011 Newsletter

 All-Star Home Inspector Newsletter
Issue #38       February 2011
How to stop COLD drafts

Most people wouldn't purposely leave open a window in the winter time, but did you know there are other holes in most homes that stay open all year long.  Drafts from these often overlooked holes keep your home colder in the winter, and warmer in the summer. 


Drafts are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Drafts occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits that caulk and weather-stripping provide to minimize energy loss and drafts. But what can you do about drafts from the four largest "holes" in your home -- the clothes dryer duct, the fireplace, the whole house fan, and the access hatch to your attic? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.


Clothes Dryer Exhaust Duct Drafts

In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold drafts in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house.  Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce these drafts. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the drafts. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay open. An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a Energy Saving Clothes Dryer Vent Seal . This will reduce unwanted drafts, and also keeps out pests, bees and rodents. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.

Fireplaces Chimney Drafts
Sixty-five percent, or over 100 million homes, in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces that waste energy.  Your chimney is an opening that leads directly outdoors -- just like an open window. Even if the damper is shut, it is not air-tight. Glass doors don't stop the drafts either.  An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a Fireplace Plug to your fireplace. A Fireplace Plug is an inflatable pillow that seals the fireplace damper, eliminating drafts, odors, and noise. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.


Whole House Fans and Air Conditioning Vent Drafts
Much like attic stairs/hatches above, when whole house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only the drafty ceiling shutter between you and the outdoors. An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a Whole House Attic Ceiling Fan Shutter Seal . Made from white textured flexible insulation, the shutter seal is installed over the ceiling shutter, secured with Velcro, and trimmed to fit. The shutter seal can also be used to seal and insulate air conditioning vents, and is easily removed when desired.


Attic Stairs/Access Hatch Drafts
When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood. Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood. An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an insulated Attic Stair Cover which are available in various sizes to fit your attic hatch's dimensions. An attic stair cover seals the stairs, stopping drafts and energy loss. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.

 Tip of the Month:

This patio cover gutter may need some service
If you have a tip you would like to share please let us know at:

Insulating your Home

We may not be able to recall just how cold it was this winter by the time the summer heat sets in, but our checkbooks will still bear the scars of a painful energy bill season. So how do you prevent the winter wind from shaking your money tree bare?


Proper insulation of your home is often overlooked in favor of "turn out the lights" or "turn off the water while brushing your teeth."  While every penny counts, the single most important aspect to saving energy is proper insulation of your home.


What is R-Value?

R-value is a measure of thermal resistance, which basically means how well a material holds back heat. Insulation products are measured in R-value; the higher the better. The R-value of a concrete block is one, while the R-value of the average insulated attic is 20.  The 2008 energy standards say new homes built today would have R 38 in the attic in the Central Valley.  If you're interested in calculating the recommended R-value of your home, the U.S. Department of Energy lists a ZIP code insulation calculator on its website.


Heating your home in the winter and air conditioning your home in the summer is generally grouped into one category "space conditioning" while discussing energy saving. Space conditioning costs rise in the winter due to inadequate insulation and the allowance of warm air to escape the home; and vice versa in the summer. It is significantly easier to determine if your home is in need of additional insulation in the winter than the summer. In the winter, the difference in temperature between the outside air and conditioned air inside is much greater, depending on where you live.

Space conditioning starts with insulating your attic as most air leaks occur throughout the attic space. Once your attic is properly insulated it is also important to ensure that wall and floor insulation is keeping your heat and air conditioning in as well. As cost is always a consideration, rest easy, the money you save on space conditioning costs will eventually pay for insulation fees.

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