Sustainability Tip: Sealing your home for winter saves energy and dollars, but make sure to check air quality too | VailDaily.com

Sustainability Tip: Sealing your home for winter saves energy and dollars, but make sure to check air quality too

Stephen Beane
Sustainability Tip
While working to seal air leaks in your house, make sure you’re not compromising air quality inside the home.
Special to the Daily

Did you know that sealing your home can reduce heating and cooling costs, increase comfort and create a healthier indoor environment? Winter is coming, and it is time to prepare your home for the cold, snowy months to come. Sealing places where air is escaping is vital to reducing energy consumption and saving money on energy bills during the cold months. There are inexpensive do-it-yourself techniques that can help you get your home ready for winter.

For example, weather stripping and caulking are two simple, effective and relatively inexpensive projects you can tackle yourself. However, just like any other DIY home improvement, there are factors to be aware of in advance.

Proper ventilation is crucial to an energy-efficient and healthy home, which makes ventilation a major factor to consider when sealing your home. When you seal air leaks without proper ventilation, you may also be trapping unwanted air and moisture.

The Department of Energy says there are three different ventilation techniques: natural ventilation, spot ventilation and whole-house ventilation. Natural ventilation allows air to flow in and out through the cracks that should be sealed. Spot ventilation improves indoor air quality through exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms. A whole-house ventilation system uses fans and duct systems to exhaust stale air and bring in fresh air. This is used when natural or spot ventilation is not enough to maintain healthy indoor air quality, and usually needs to be installed by a professional.

Here are three tips to help you seal your home for the winter.

• Detect air leaks by look and feel. Do a visual inspection of doors and windows. Look for space or cracks, and check and see if weather stripping or caulking has been applied correctly. Use your hand to feel cold air coming into the home in suspected locations. Visit The Department of Energy’s website at energy.gov for more tips.

• Seal the leaks. Caulk is a flexible material that can be bought at hardware stores and can be used to seal cracks that are less than a quarter-inch between stationary building components in your home. Weatherstripping can also be purchased at a local hardware store and should be used to seal cracks between movable building components such as windows and doors.

• Be aware of ventilation. Natural ventilation is unpredictable and hard to control. So if you’re sealing up your home, make sure you’re not sabotaging indoor air quality. Do you have kitchen and bathroom fans vented to the outside? That is a start. Do you have an energy recovery ventilation or heat recovery ventilation? Consult a professional for more information.

To get a measurement of how leaky your home is and if it is necessary to seal up the cracks, contact an energy coach at Walking Mountains Science Center. Consider an Energy Smart Colorado home assessment, which will include a blower door test and photos from an infrared camera so you can better identify your leaks. If professional air sealing is needed, the team at Walking Mountains can provide rebates and help you through the process of getting bids and having the work completed. Call your local energy coaches at 970-328-8777 or email energy@walkingmountains.org.

Stephen Beane is the Actively Green intern at Walking Mountains Science Center. Contact him at stephenb@walkingmountains.org.