There are two common reasons your house is hard to heat. Either unwanted air is coming in and you have to reheat it. Or heat is escaping from where it shouldn’t be.
If your goal is to make your home more efficient and comfortable, you first have to start with air intrusion. The three largest air intrusion places you find in an average home are also the three most common. And they are places that most people don’t want to fix: dog doors, wood or gas fireplaces, and dryer dampers.
Pet doors. Your pet door is a soccer ball-sized hole in your wall leaking warm air into the great outdoors.
Free fix: Tape up the pet door. Get up and let your dog in and out as necessary.
Good investment: Remove the pet door completely and seal up the hole properly.
Fireplaces. Heated air is lighter than air. Heated air is drawn up through the chimney flue 24 hours a day. This happens especially during heavy weather events – the time when you truly do not want to lose heat. (Image: Air leaking up and out through the chimney sucked balloons to fireplace. This is happening 24/7 in an unsealed chimney.)
If you have a wood burning fireplace
Free fix: Close the damper. Most dampers are left open all year round.
Good investment: Seal off the chimney more effectively with a chimney balloon. They cost around $40. You inflate them in the flue to seal off air leakage. When you want to use the fireplace, you can deflate the balloon and use it again when you’ve finished with the fireplace.
If you have a gas fireplace the air is intruding from your crawlspace through the hole cut in the floor to bring the gas pipe in. This hole also allows rodents and insects easy access to your home. Open the inspection port under the fireplace. You’ll see a hole where the gas pipe is intruding.
Free fix: Take a plastic bag, stuff it with rags and wedge that in around the gas pipe. This is a non-combustible area so it’s all right to do use rags and plastic. (NOTE: Do not try to seal the hole with insulation. Insulation does not stop airflow.)
Good investment: A roll of aluminum foil tape costs around $10. Carefully cut the aluminum tape and use it to seal the hole around the pipe.
Dryer dampers. Most dryer dampers, if they haven’t fallen off and/or disappeared, are so stuffed with lint that they cannot close properly. Go outside and check your dryer damper. Do you have one? You’d be surprised how many homes are missing the dryer damper.
If your dryer damper is in place, check to make sure it’s securely attached.
Free fix: clean the lint out of the damper so it closes. Make a reminder to check the damper regularly.
Good investment: If your dryer damper is missing or damaged, a new one is between $20-$35. They are generally easy to install.
The largest mistake people make is trying to buy their way to energy efficiency, rather than working their way to energy efficiency. Each one of these three solutions works every single time. They take little time, little-to-no money, little effort and provide a 100% return on your investment.
Brent Foster is a residential heat loss expert and building analyst based in Olympia, WA. He works extensively with WSU’s Energy Extension Program, PSE’s Re-Energize program, Olympia Master Builders and thousands of home owners and builders. Brent welcomes invitations from local organizations and non-profit groups to speak on improving residential energy efficiency. He can be contacted through his site www.northwestinfrared.com or at 360-786-6850