How to Stop Cold Drafts in Your Home and Save On Energy Bills

December 14, 2009 · 11 comments

Imagine leaving a window open all winter long — the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a clothes dryer, attic access hatch, a whole house fan, or a fireplace, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

Drafts from these often overlooked holes waste energy and cost you big in the form of higher energy bills.

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 access hatch to your attic, the whole house fan, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer duct? 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. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home, especially during the winter heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers.

Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing. One research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent.

A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the drafts and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.

Why does a home with a fireplace have higher energy bills? 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. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking your expensive heated or air-conditioned air right out of your house!

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.

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.

Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the attic door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door — do you see any light coming through? If you do, heated and air-conditioned air is leaking out of these large gaps in your home 24-hours a day. This is like leaving a window or skylight open all year ‘round.

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.

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.

The preceding article was written by Mark Tyrol who is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. It was originally written as a comment to my article 36 Way’s to Reduce Your Home’s Energy Use.

Related Articles:
An Explanation of how Geothermal Heat Pump Systems Work
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF): Green Building Technology
Do It Yourself (DIY) Geothermal Cooling System
Should You Pre-Buy Your Home Heating Oil This Year?
Do It Yourself Home Energy Audits
36 Ways to Reduce Your Home’s Energy Use

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Craig November 6, 2008 at 9:22 pm

A more expensive fix would be to upgrade the insulation in the house. There are newer materials that can help really reduce wasted energy and save on costs. This is a new spray insulation. http://www.demilecusa.com/

Craig
http://www.budgetpulse.com

gCaptain.com November 8, 2008 at 5:03 am

Craig, I’d love to get something like that with sound dampening qualities… although it probably would have been better it I hadn’t mounted my speakers on a wall that’s shared with the kid’s room!

Ben November 8, 2008 at 5:32 am

I was actually talking to a represntive from DOW chemicals at the Maine Green Home and Engery Show.

Purely from a cost standpoint, he advised against removing old drywall and insulation only to apply the new spray foam.

You need to figure the energy savings and compare that with the expense of removing the old drywall, disposing of the old insulation, sraying the new insulation, redrywalling, trimming, and then painting the interior of the space.

Your payback could stretch into the 20 year time frame…

Spray insulation is definately a great product for new constructions however! Also check out my article on insulated concrete forms!

Mary@SimplyForties November 16, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Thanks for the tips! I may have to get a couple of those solutions.

Dan March 12, 2011 at 12:05 am

Hey, I was just wondering if you could SITE the research you reference…I would like to see some data, I am currently testing the draft effect of fireplaces. Thanks.

Dan March 12, 2011 at 12:05 am

Hey, I was just wondering if you could SITE the research you reference…I would like to see some data, I am currently testing the draft effect of fireplaces. Thanks.

Anthony Salgado July 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Take a look at this great new door draft blocking product that simply clips onto the bottom of the door, glides over all surfaces including carpets and door mats, looks good, and requires no adjustment when opening and closing doors. ezglidedraftblocker.com

Anthony Salgado September 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm

There is a fantastic new “clip-on” draft stopper that is on the market now, that not only protects against the under door drafts, but does so with out requiring adjustment, snagging, or interfering with the door threshold. It also looks great and has a rugged washable cover. Take a look at it on ezglidedraftblocker.com for details and demonstrations. Guarantee you will be wondering why we haven’t seen this before now!

gil lerch October 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Here’s an alternative–www.fireplacefashion.com.. the FIREPLACE FASHION COVER will attached to your fireplace doors or screens with industrial strength magnets that are hidden inside the cover, no modifications to or residue on your existing fireplace. Folds in thirds when you want to burn a fire. The fireplace fashion covers not only stop the cold drafts and heat loss, they look great.
We are a small start up business in Havre De Grace Maryland that manufactures and retails a great solution to fireplace drafts and your expensive heat going up your chimney. All of our covers are hand made in Maryland of all American components.
Check us out at http://www.fireplacefashion.com
Thanks
G.

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