The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that homeowners can typically save 10% to 20% of heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% of a home’s total energy costs) by sealing their homes. The benefits of sealing to prevent air leakage are not only about energy and money, they include quality of life—the comfort and livability of your home.
It’s more than just the cracks around your windows and doors that let drafts swirl through your home. Attic hatches, wiring holes, recessed lighting, and furnace flues allow your indoor and outdoor air to exchange more than it should. Additionally, patching gaps in insulation helps keep your energy and money, along with your climate-controlled air, from slipping through the cracks.
Imagine leaving one window wide open in your house all year long. What effect would this have on your comfort? Failing to properly seal (and insulate) can be the equivalent of doing just that, or worse.
For individuals with sensitivity to dust, pollen, or other allergens, air quality might also be a big selling point for air sealing, since this strategy can be a more effective and longer-term fix than using air purifiers to improve indoor air quality. It is important, however, to make sure a well-sealed home is also well-ventilated so that off-gassing of chemicals from furniture, wood products, and cleaning agents doesn’t pose a threat to indoor environmental quality.
Air sealing can also protect structural elements from damage—especially in high humidity areas, where outside moisture can cause rot by penetrating the home through openings like plumbing vents and wiring holes.
A certified professional home energy auditor (look for HERS or BPI certification) can help identify energy improvements, and is the best bet for getting a thorough home energy audit. These professionals will use a blower door test to measure the airtightness of the building. To test this on one’s own, the do-it-yourselfer can place a candle near a window and watch for a flicker, or walk the perimeter of the home with lit incense, paying attention to vents, doors, and windows, to see if the smoke gets siphoned through any cracks. If a leak is detected, air-sealing is the answer. Whether for energy savings, money savings, property value, indoor air quality, or comfort, air sealing is an important part of the home improvement and maintenance process.