5 Reasons Your Home Is Drafty

Posted by Ben Thompson on 12.9.09

Most of us hate being cold in our homes.  There are many many reasons why this happens during the heating season, but there are 5 that I think would be immediately helpful.

Reasons in Brief:

1. Your Spouse

2. Windows (sort of)

3. Holes You Walk By Everyday

4. Stuff that's Broken & Hiding

5. The Band Joist

Okay, let's expand these a bit:

1. It's Your Spouse's Fault - In an effort to save money your spouse has the thermostat turned way down.  I can't help you with this, other than to insert my opinion into the marital fray.  A properly insulated home will allow you to maintain a constant [controlled environment] AND save money.  In fact, HVAC equipment is most efficient when it makes minor corrections most of the time vs. full-burner 10 degree temperature swings.  However, if your heating equipment always has to be on full blast to maintain temperature because your home is so poorly managing resources, then turning it way down is ok too.  In this case only, does the spouse who wants to set the thermostat back ten degrees make the winning argument.  How this relates to draftiness is because added heat masks the draftiness so if you keep your house at 65 degrees you are experiencing the draftiness more than most.  Your awareness is heightened, and I hope you and your spouse take the next step towards corrective action.  Keep reading.

2. Your Windows - It is your windows, but not really.  Windows do create little micro environments of convective currents - cold air falling, warm air rising.  The couch I'm sitting on right now is below an 8' bank of windows and the windows create a waterfall of cold air sneaking down onto my shoulders and are making me cold right now.  But guess what, I rarely recommend replacing your windows!  If you live in a pre-1950s home, and/or have single pane windows, then you may need to replace your windows.  If your windows do not properly operate, then you need to replace your windows.  Other than those two situations, I probably won't recommend replacing your windows for energy efficiency.  Can you hear the gasps of people right now?  A multi-billion dollar industry basing their value proposition on saving energy, and I just put a stake in its chest.

Windows are beautiful!  Even though the most efficient top of the line windows may be 2-3x more effient than the worst windows on the market, the best windows are still 1/4 as efficient than the wall surrounding it.  I love windows, but replacing them is not the first tool I reach for to reduce draftiness.  Here's what I do recommend.  Often air sneaks in around your windows.  This can be reduced by caulking around all of your molding.  If you want to take a more effective step,  remove the trim, fill the gaps between the framing and the window unit with low expanding foam, reinstall the molding, caulk, and repaint.

3. Holes You Walk By Everyday - Air is sneaking in around your entry doors, inside your wall cavities, around penetrations in the ceiling, like recessed "can" lights.  Have you ever seen what looks to be dirt around the perimeter of a carpeted room down by the baseboard?  Assuming it's not neglecting to vacuum, many times it is air coming into the house from underneath the drywall & baseboard, and the carpet acts as a filter trapping dirt from your attic & wall cavity.  Electrical outlets also let in some air.  Around the chimney and inside the chimney through the damper are trouble spots.   Have you ever smelled fireplace soot on a windy day?  Then you've experienced the air coming in the house.  Take a close look at the diagram above for other leaks.

4. Stuff That's Broken & Hiding - My favorite example of these are in the bathroom & kitchen.  Have you ever stood in the shower and felt cold air cascading down on you from the bathroom vent fan?  The same situation is true in the kitchen regarding the range hood vent.  Inside these appliances are little plastic baffles that rarely work properly.   Eventually they just break or blow out to the outside damper.  From the same vein of consciousness, making sure that your dryer vent damper is clean & operating properly is useful.

5. The Band Joist - Since you're sitting down right now and no one is looking over your shoulder try this with me.  Place your hand on your waist [belt buckle] and take two breaths.  Okay, now you've felt the same pressures your home's band joist is under each year.  It is the area where your floor comes in contact with the concrete foundation.  Most homes I see have fiberglass batts crammed into the space.  There are a lot of penetrations through the band joist (e.g. - outdoor faucets/hose bibs & vents).  And it's constantly moving.  I find it to be the most under-performing area of our homes and it creates many great opportunities for drafts to come into our homes.

Action Steps:

1) Decide whether or not you feel like you should do something about the draftiness of your home.

2) Take action based on the suggestions in the 5 reasons above.

3) If it sounds too boring for you, then know that I'll integrate these steps into the next flashy, fun design/build remodeling project we complete for you.

4) Do not call a window company to make your home less drafty, let's save your money for something that will bring you more enjoyment, and make your home more comfortable and resource efficient.

5) If there is a non-functioning window or door in your house right now, then let's take advantage of the tax credits in 2010, beauty, and function a new window or door can provide us.

Topics: Thompson Times, Care & Maintenance, air leakage, drafty, enews