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Green Living Made Easy

How to Save Home Energy

Small steps can stop big heating or cooling leaks all around your home.

More in Electrical

  • Time

    Under Half Day

  • Price Range

    $1 - $50

  • Difficulty

    Easy

Highlights:

Step 1: Insulate Around Switches and Outlets

At the main circuit panel, shut off the power to the switch or outlet.

Remove the switch or outlet cover plate.

With the cover removed, look for gaps around the outside of the electrical box where air leakage can occur. Use expanding foam insulation to fill these openings (Image 1). Do not get foam inside the electrical box.

After the foam dries, install an insulating gasket over the switch (Image 2).

Replace the cover plate and restore power to the circuit.

Electrical outlets can also be sealed using insulating gaskets (Image 3).

Step 2: Caulk Exterior Gaps

Even minor gaps around window frames or exterior vents allow heated or cooled air to escape. If the opening is narrow, fill it with caulk.

There are various types and colors of caulk available. Choose an exterior-grade product, in a matching color, for the type of surface you need to caulk.

Cut the caulk tube’s tip at a 45-degree angle, and pierce the seal at the bottom of the nozzle.

Load the caulk tube into the gun (Image 1).

Apply the caulk by pushing the bead ahead of the nozzle, or pulling the bead along the seam -- choose which procedure works best. Maintain constant pressure on the trigger to ensure a controlled flow of caulk (Image 2).

Other potential problem areas around a home’s exterior include places where different materials join, such as where vinyl siding butts against brick, PVC moldings meet metal patio doors and where wood framing rests on a concrete foundation.

Choose the proper type of insulating foam sealant to fill these openings. Use a minimal-expanding foam around windows and doors, where too much pressure could cause jambs to bow and impede operation. Use a “big gap” foam filler in large openings where pressure is not an issue and volume is needed (Image 3).

The foam will expand to fill the opening and dry to form a water-resistant seal (Image 4). After it dries, excess can be easily cut away.

Wear protective goggles and gloves when using spray foam insulation. Avoid skin and eye contact.

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