We last discussed the importance of an energy audit and how to find hidden air leaks. In this issue, we will look at how to go about sealing them.

There is a lot that you can do yourself. Self-adhering weather strips around doors, attic hatches and windows can help a lot. They have a limited life span but they pay for themselves quickly. You can also purchase a few cans of spray insulation foam and plug up the holes between the stones in the foundation where slivers of daylight shine in and around where pipes or wires pass through.

If your home has a lot of air penetration points that could be sealed this way, then I would encourage you to buy a foam gun that uses screw on cartridges. The gun will give you a lot more control. You can lay up a bead of foam 1/8” wide or you can open the valve and fill a 1” wide opening very quickly. These guns are not as messy to use as the cans of spray foam so you waste less. The cartridges can be left on if only partially used. They hold about 25 oz. of foam and come in a variety of types. There is a low expansion formula for around windows and doors so that the jambs will not bulge inward restricting window or door operation. There are fire resistant grades for plugging wire and pipe chases that form a code approved fire-stop. There are high expansion, exterior types and soy based eco types as well.

Whatever the formula, they will outperform the common 20 oz foam can with the flimsy plastic applicator tube. Cost of guns range from $15 to over $160 for professional grades. Best deal is to purchase a case of 12 cans with a gun good enough to last the supply. The internet can be a good source for a package deal. Once you get the hang of it, it will be fun to use and you will find yourself looking for more places to exercise your new skill!

Beef up the Insulation

Folks have come to realize that blowing in extra attic insulation has a quick payback in comfort and on the heating bill. Most home owners could accomplish this themselves. Lay down batts of fiberglass or rent a cellulose blower.

Insulate foundation walls

As much as 20% of your heat could be leaving your home through your floor and foundation!  Having a contractor come in to spray a minimum of 2” of closed cell foam on the stone, block or poured concrete wall could make an amazing improvement to the home’s envelope. With the federal tax incentives, this service has seen a vast increase since it is a fairly expensive form of air sealing and insulation improvement. It’s a great way to seal up those old crawl space walls which can be a challenge to access. It can have a dramatic improvement on the heating bill and take care of air sealing better than anything else on the market. Fire resistant varieties are available where insulation is exposed.

Residential Tax Credit

H.R.1 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The 2009 stimulus package has been extended through 2010. Owners of a pre-existing home can receive a tax credit up to $1500 on purchased insulation materials. Go to the Energy Star website for more info: www.energystar.gov.

(originally published in Common Threads, a community newsletter for Harrisville, NH)