<< Home Improvement Articles
Reduce Your Heating Bills This Winter
By Mark D. Tyrol
Imagine leaving a window open all winter long -- the heat loss, cold drafts
and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, fireplace or clothes
dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.
These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause heat
to pour out and the cold outside air to rush in -- costing you higher heating
Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home.
Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc.
Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping
provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts.
But what can you do about the three largest holes in your home
-- the folding attic stair, the fireplace and the clothes dryer? Here are
some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal
and insulate these holes.
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 door. Try this yourself:
at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door -- do
you see any light coming through? These are gaps add up to a large opening
where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day. This is like leaving
a window open all year round.
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover.
An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing the air leaks. Add the
desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed
from the ceiling.
Sixty-five percent, or approximately 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 home-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 air leakage and wasted energy
caused by fireplaces.
Why does a home with a fireplace have higher heating bills? Hot air rises.
Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find, and when warm heated air
is drawn out of your home, cold outside air is drawn in to make up for it.
The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking the heated air from your house.
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace draftstopper.
Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation
products, a fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that seals the
damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace
is used, then reinserted after.
Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts
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 air leaks in through the duct, through
your dryer and into your house.
Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce this air leakage.
This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to
stop the air leakage. 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 dryer vent seal. This
will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents
as well. 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
About The Author
Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin
of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation
products including an attic stair cover and a fireplace draftstopper. To
learn more visit