Category Archives: Home Winterization

Which Caulk Works Best?

The prep for caulking and sealing small repairs like windows and doors is usually pretty minimal. The surface needs to be clean and dry and it is best if the temperature is at least 55.  Rain should not be in the immediate forecast as the caulk needs to cure properly.  Using the right material for Window-Caulkingthe job, however, is critical. Price is not really an issue, as most of the caulking materials are inexpensive, but there are some ease-of-use issues. The water-based spray foam is probably the easiest for a novice to use around windows and doors and the clean up is pretty easy.  Look for low or no-VOC products that carry the Greenguard label to maintain good indoor air quality.

Here is a chart from Consumers Reports that outlines several products and their best uses:

Type of Caulk Best Use(s) Pros Cons Price
Acrylic tub and tile To seal kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Flexible; mildew resistant; cleans up with water. Not paintable; not as durable as 100% silicone. $4 and up per tube
Butyl rubber To seal and fill around windows and skylights and around flashings and in gutters to seal dissimilar materials (glass, metal, plastic, wood, and concrete). More flexible (can stretch in multiple directions) than silicone. Good in areas that experience high temperature variations. Formulations with with asphalt are best for roofing repairs. More flexible (can stretch in multiple directions) than silicone; can be painted after curing one week. Good in areas that experience high temperature variations. Formulations with asphalt are best for roofing repairs. Does not adhere well to painted surfaces; shrinkage varies; might require two applications. Can be toxic; precautions must be taken and requires solvent cleanup. $3.50 and up per tube
Concrete and mortar repair To repair cracks in concrete and damaged masonry and mortar. Can be shaped to fit before drying; remains flexible, cleans up with water, dries to color of concrete mortar or can be painted. Not recommended for horizontal surfaces where water could accumulate. $4.50 and up per tube
Latex To seal gaps in exterior walls and plug holes and fill gaps in interior walls and woodwork before painting. Inexpensive; takes paint well;, can be sanded; easy to work with; cleans up with water. Will crack eventually where temperatures vary greatly (acrylic latex formulations are more durable); needs to be painted when used outdoors; won’t adhere to metal. $1.50 and up per tube
Oil or resin-based To seal gaps in exterior walls. Inexpensive; will bond to most surfaces. Cracks after a few years; much less durable than elastomeric (silicone, latex, or acrylic) caulks. $1 and up per tube
100% silicone To fill around pipes and vents and building structures made of nonporous materials and plumbing fixtures. Not as effective on wood or masonry. Very durable and flexible; doesn’t crack. Expensive; limited colors; can’t be painted or sanded, gives off strong odor when curing; solvent required for cleanup. $4.50 and up per tube
Siliconized latex Same uses as 100% silicone, except not on plumbing fixtures. Very durable and flexible; rarely cracks, many colors available; cleans up with water; less expensive than 100% silicone. Can’t be sanded. $3.50 and up per tube
Spray foam (polyurethane-based) To seal around window and door frames or to fill cracks and holes. Expands more than latex and fills a greater area than caulking alone. Expands after application, so it can warp door and window frames; can’t resist UV light; must be painted for exterior use; very difficult to clean up after use. $5.40 and up per can (but one can fills as much space as many tubes of caulking)
Spray foam (water-based) Around window and door frames or to fill cracks and holes. Does not expand as much as polyurethane foam; can be shaped while wet; easy cleanup with water; will not cause windows or doors to bind. Does not adhere as tightly to materials as urethane; takes longer to cure (up to 24 hours). $5 and up per can (but one can can fill as much space as many tubes of caulking)

Chart Courtesy of Consumer Reports.

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Caulking Tips

Caulking seems like a relatively easy thing to do, and in most cases it is. There are simple tips and tricks that can make a big difference between a easy, seamless, hassle-free caulking job and one that’s messy and full of frustration. Before you start your next caulking job, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Window-Caulking

  • Purchase a good-quality pro-style caulking gun ($10). Skip the cheap low-end guns that utilize a ratcheting plunger. Ratcheting guns don’t operate smoothly, making it hard to apply a clean, uniform bead.
  • Use blue painter’s tape to protect your windows and the other side of the joint you are trying to fill. Leave a gap between the tape about 3/8ths of an inch wide.
  • Find a utility knife as when you cut off the top of the caulk tube, you do not want an uneven or straight cut. Make the cut at a 45 degree angle.
  • When you apply the caulk you will hold the caulk gun at approximately 45 degree angle.
  • Bend a piece of cardboard and practice on the seam before you attack your first seam. You could start in a less visible area where any mistakes will be less noticeable.
  • After you apply the caulk, use a plastic spoon to smooth the seam so that it is more or less flush.
  • Keep the tip of your caulking tube clean and free of dried caulk.
  • Make sure you pull the tape off before the caulk dries to leave clean seam.

Proper caulking and sealing will lead to an increase in energy efficiency of a home’s heating and cooling systems. Caulking can also substantially extend the life of windows and doors.

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Test For Air Leaks and Drafts to Reduce Energy Loss

Properly sealing cracks and openings in you home can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs throughout the year. You may already know where some air leakage occurs in your home, such as an under-the-door draft, but you’ll need to find the less obvious gaps to properly seal your home. 

Here are several tests that can be used to check for air leaks:

  1. Window Seal Check – Shut the window on a piece of paper. If paper can be pulled without tearing paper, than window should be resealed.
  2. Visual Gap Check – After daylight hours, shine a light through closed window and door seam and have a partner confirm if light is visible on other side.
  3. Hot/Cold Air Check – Use your hands to feel around door and window seal checking for cold or hot air coming in through a leak.

Common areas to check for leaks are between brick and wood siding, between foundation and walls, and between the chimney and siding. In addition, you should inspect around these areas for leaks and drafts:

  • Door and window frames
  • Mail chutes
  • Electrical and gas service entrances
  • Cable TV and phone lines
  • Outdoor water faucets
  • Where dryer vents pass through walls
  • Bricks, siding, stucco, and foundation
  • Air conditioners
  • Vents and fans

 Home Pressurization Test

If you are having difficulty locating leaks and drafts, you may want to conduct a basic building pressurization test:

  1. First, close all exterior doors, windows and fireplace flues.
  2. Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters.
  3. Then turn on all exhaust fans (generally located in the kitchen and bathrooms) or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms.

This test increases infiltration through cracks and leaks, making them easier to detect. You can use incense sticks or your damp hand to locate these leaks. If you use incense sticks, moving air will cause the smoke to drift, and if you use your damp hand, any drafts will feel cool to your hand.

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Conservation Tip: Maintain Your Water Heater

Water heating currently represents up to 20 percent of US residential energy consumption, making it the third largest energy consumer in homes, behind heating and cooling and kitchen appliances.

Maintaining your water heater will not only save energy, but also will extend the life of the water heater. Here are a few tips to maintain your water heater and save up to 200 lbs. of CO2 per year:

  1. Drain water heater annually. Sediment collects at the bottom of the tank, which leads the hot water heater to perform inefficiently and lead to higher energy costs. By draining the water heater once per year, you will eliminate the build up inside the water heater and keep the water heater working efficiently.
  2. During the annual draining process, Inspect the water heater for damage and assess system performance. Check for leaks and any strange noises, may be a sign that it is time to replace your water heater.
  3. Set water heater temperature. Manufacturers typically preset new hot water heaters at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends homeowners set the heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) to save money and energy. For each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%-5% in energy costs.
  4. Insulate water heater. Heat loss from the tank and pipes causes decreased energy efficiency in a conventional hot water heater. You can save money by purchasing a water heater blanket from your local hardware store.

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Home Winterization Tips

How to Winterize Your Home and Save Money

1. Change Furnace Filters

2. Run Fans in Reverse - Most people think of fans only when they want to be cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes while switching to clockwise makes it seem warmer by making an updraft that sends the warmer air pooled near the ceiling back into the living space. This can cut your heating costs as much as 10 percent.

3. Winterize Your A/C and Water Lines - This one’s really easy, and it will save you wear and tear on your cooling system, so it can function at tip-top shape the next time you need it. Simply drain any hoses and air conditioner pipes, and make sure you don’t have excess water pooled in equipment. If your a/c has a water shutoff valve, go ahead and turn that off.

4. Turn Down Your Water Heater - While many conventional water heaters are set to 140 degrees F by installers, most households don’t need that level, and end up paying for hot water that just sits around, slowly cooling. Lowering the temperature to 120 would reduce your water heating costs by 6 to 10%.

5. Install Storm Doors and Windows - The simple act of installing a storm door can increase energy efficiency by 45 percent, by sealing drafts and reducing air flow. Storm doors also offer greater flexibility for letting light and ventilation enter your home. Look for Energy Star-certified models.

6. Use an Energy Monitor - Measure your way to savings with an energy monitor.  This device indicates household electrical usage by device in real time.  Now you´ll know if it is time for a new refrigerator or if that old air conditioner is still saving you money.

7. Use Caulking and Weather-stripping - Simple leaks can sap home energy efficiency by 5 to 30% a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means it pays to seal up gaps with caulking and weather-stripping.

8. Insulate Your Pipes - Pay less for hot water by insulating pipes. That can also help decrease the chance of pipes freezing, which can be disastrous. Check to see if your pipes are warm to the touch. If so, they are good candidates for insulation.

9. Insulate your attic. One of the easiest ways to save some money is to ensure that you have at least 12 inches of insulation in your attic. Hot air rises and through the attic is where it’ll go unless you sufficient insulate it. The rule of thumb is that if you can see your ceiling joists (the wooden beams), you don’t have enough because those are often shorter than 12 inches. You should also reduce the amount of transfer through your attic stairway by installing an attic stair cover.

10. Turn off exterior water lines. Chances are you won’t be using any of the water faucets outside of your home, so shut the valve that allows water to those exterior bibs. This prevents the water inside from freezing and cracking your pipes.

11. Wrap your water boiler. Since it’ll be cold, it’s more important than ever to invest in a water heater blanket and warp your water heater so it loses less heat into the ambient air.

12.  Open the blinds in sunny rooms. Be sure to keep the blinds open on any rooms that get a lot of sun, ever little bit of extra heat can help keep those bills down.

13.  Get a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can help you save a ton of money by only turning on when you most need it. All HVAC systems work the same way – they are either on or off (there’s no low, medium, or high intensity setting). If you can keep your system off when you’re not home or when you’re asleep, you can save yourself a lot of money. They are easy to install and often break-even (cost vs. savings) within the first year.

14.  Consider lowering the temperature setting on your thermostat. A lower temperature means the system is on less, so try lowering the temperature a degree at a time.

15.  Replace your HVAC air filter. During the winter, when the system will run more often, it’s good to replace it monthly so that you don’t have a dirty air filter ruining the efficiency of the system.

16.   Install window insulators. Window insulators are simply plastic sheets you tape up over windows to add an extra layer of protection from the cold. If you have especially drafty or old windows (especially if they’re single pane), consider replacing them.

17.  Block those leaks - One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out, experts say. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall. First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets. Then, buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to those drafty spots. Outlet gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home’s outer walls, where cold air often enters.

18.  Don’t forget the chimney - Ideally, spring is the time to think about your chimney, because “chimney sweeps are going crazy right now, as you might have guessed.” That said, don’t put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace.

One other reminder: To keep out cold air, fireplace owners should keep their chimney’s damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use. And for the same reason, woodstove owners should have glass doors on their stoves, and keep them closed when the stove isn’t in use. An installation of a chimney draft guard will also prevent the loss of heat via your fireplace.

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Garage Winterization Tips

Save money and energy this winter with these garage winterization tips:

  • Install a weather seal between the bottom of the garage door and the garage floor.
  • If time to replace your garage door, replace with an insulated door.
  • Check the door leading from your garage to the house for leaks and replace seals, if necessary.
  • Properly insulate rooms that share walls with the garage.
  • Insulate your hot water heater.
  • Install energy efficient lighting.
  • Insulate all exposed pipes.

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Benefits of Using Dryer Vent Seal

Reasons to Install Dryer Vent Cover

Have you ever noticed that the room containing your clothes dryer is usually the coldest room in your house? Most clothes dryers are connected to a 4″ diameter exhaust duct that runs directly to an opening on the exterior of the home. During the winter months, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house, allowing your heated air to Imageescape.  In addition to the energy loss issues, other problems include insects, mice and other pests to enter through the exterior vent.

One solution to the problem is to install a Dryer Vent Seal Cover. The installation of the dryer vent vent kits with a floating cap design can provide several benefits in the following areas:

Energy Efficient

Because dryer vent cap only opens when the dryer is in use, the movement of air, either air conditioned to the outside, or cold exterior air to the inside. This design also keeps rain, snow and dust or other debris from blowing into the dryer vent. Because cold air isn’t allowed in and heated or cooled air isn’t allowed out, this will improve the energy efficiency of maintaining air in the effected area.

Fire Safety

The louvered design of the dryer vent seal allows lint to pass freely to the outside, preventing the buildup of lint in the dryer vent. Collected lint is very flammable and the use of wire mesh or screens by many homeowners traps the lint and increases the collection of the flammable material.

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How to Maintain Hot Water Heater

Tips to Properly Maintain Your Hot Water Heater


There are several easy and inexpensive ways to increase a water heater’s operating efficiency and operating life. Hot_Water_Tank

By following several of these tips, you can make your hot water less expensive:
  • Add an insulation blanket.
  • Inspect the flue for breaks or gaps that could leak deadly exhaust gas.
  • Twice a year, drain and flush sediment, which reduces efficiency in the water heater. If the level of sediment is in your water supply is high, this may need to be done more often.  To drain the tank, turn off the water supply at the tank top, hook a hose to the water spigot at the base, open a hot-water tap in the house and open the water spigot. Once the tank is drained, turn on the water supply at the top of the tank and let it run until the water draining out is clear. Close the spigot and turn off the tap.
  • Once a year, check the pressure-relief valve to make sure this crucial safety device isn’t clogged. To relieve any overpressurization in the tank, place a bucket beneath the copper overflow pipe. Carefully push the relief valve at the top and a burst of hot water should spray out. If not, the valve should be replaced.
  • Make sure a viable anode rod hangs in the tank to prevent rust out.

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Energy-efficient Window Covering Tips

The use of exterior and interior window coverings can help keep your home comfortable year long. With a few changes you can reduce annual electricity usage.

Here are a few low cost window covering tips:

  • Close draperies  to block the sun’s heat during the warmer months and to keep out the cold air during the colder months.
  • Use drapery seals to seal drapery edges to the side of windows using magnetic or velctro tape to maintain the seal around draperies.
  • By completely closing and lowering blinds, you can reduce heat gain by 45% – 50%.
  • Affix curtain liners to draperies to help keep heat inside your home.
  • Mount storm windows inside or outside your home made from furring strips and plastic sheets to increase winter comfort and reduce heat loss during the winter.

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Conservation Tip: Limit HVAC Leaks

Your central heating, venting and air conditioning  (HVAC) unit may be sending conditioned air to unwanted areas, such as attic and crawl spaces. Check your ductwork for leaks or have it inspected by an HVAC professional. Sealing leaks will keep you from wasting home energy and save you money.

Projected SavingsEstimated Annual Savings = $75 – $140

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