In the early fall you can go over your home with a fine-tooth comb - and plug every hole and crack that is visible and even fill those voids that you feel might let in cold air in the winter - but how well you do can only be tested by a forty kilometre-an-hour wind when the temperature is hovering around –19 degrees Celsius. Yes, when the cold, Canadian winter changes from sitting outside your door to trying to push its way inside then you will get your exam results back. You will know with brutal certainty how well you did when you spent those countless hours weather-stripping and insulating the home.
For those who feel a draft or two, or shudder at the frost on a leaky window pain, all is not lost. In fact, rather than being a failure at conserving energy consider this: Now is the time to fine-tune your previous efforts. Because you will never know if a boat leaks until you have put it in the water but your house won’t sink because of a few missed spots. And the bright side is that the home would be a lot colder if you had neglected doing the primary work a few months ago.
Now comes the tweaking. This is the part when you test out the various areas of the home and make adjustments. This is also the time to check if there are any gaps in the attic insulation and you might have to go into places where a Ninja would hide!
Many homes in this country still have bare concrete walls in their basements. And just because they happen to be below the ground there is an attitude that the ground is a great insulator. The earth below the frost line is usually around +10 degrees Celsius and, although not freezing, is not warm. What happens is that the concrete acts as a collector for the heat generated in the basement. Now, because heat wants to travel to cold the concrete then dissipates the warmth from the home outside into the ground. On really cold days any concrete that is above the frost level might show a layer of frost even on the inside wall.
The best method for fixing this is to install fiberglass insulation and vapour-seal on the offending surfaces. Basement insulation can be a do-it-yourself project or you can hire someone to do it for you. What is surprising is that the outlay of money to do the job might be equal one winter’s worth of heat savings.
If the walls are already insulated get a step ladder and go up and check the plates, where the floor joists sit on the basement wall. This is a common spot for leaks because old caulking dries and shrinks. Either feel with your hand or leave a thermometer up there for a few hours. If the temperature is lower than the basement temperature then there is a problem. These areas can be stuffed with fiberglass insulation quite cheaply.
Many people spent countless of thousands of dollars changing out old windows only to find that their heating bill, although better, is not great. In fact, despite what window manufacturers say replacing old windows with expensive, triple-pane, low emissive window filled with argon gas will not get an R-value even close to that of the walls. In Canada, almost everyone should go through the ritual of covering their windows with plastic no matter what kind of system they have purchased. In most cases the plastic is almost invisible and, by its very nature, will not transfer cold like glass. If you have older windows seal them with removal sealer first before putting up the plastic. This will increase the r-values and this means a warmer home.
In older homes shrinkage of the wood siding and exterior sealers may allow cold air to pass into the walls. Since the walls are thinner than those in the newer homes, cold air can find its way into any portal that leads to the interior. This includes electrical outlets, light switches and cable junctions. Hardware stores sell foam insulators that attach behind the wall plates, and this will seal off these areas, however the slots in the outlets will funnel cold air inside. The solution for this is the child-proof plugs that fit into the receptacles. They are cheap and can be removed in and stored in the spring.
The garage is not a part of the interior but the space can draw heat from the home. The cold usually comes in from spaces between the garage door and the frame. So even if you have insulated doors these are not going to do much if you have drafts around the doors. The hardware store will have a special weather stripping that will go around the doors and seal this off.
These are major points to consider when the outside temperature makes the heat source in the home work harder. You can also find out where the cold is coming in by hanging a few thermometers in different areas of the home. Another way to equalize the heat in the home is with ceiling fans. The amount of energy used is minimal and the fans can bring the warm air from the ceiling to where it is needed and this will prevent the thermostat from switching on the furnace as often.
For more information on insulating consult our Contractors Directory. For more direct service just post you insulating project. A qualified contractor will not only help with making your home warmer but can direct you to government programs that help homeowners save energy.