3 Easy Ways to Seal Air Leaks

Good insulation is the secret for a comfy house. Remember that the winter is coming again (every year we have it), and if you suffered last year and forgot to revise your insulation remember to check these topics:

Insulate around recess lights

The majority of the recess lights have vents that open into the attic. This represents a direct route for heated or cooled air to escape. Some houses can have more than 50 fixtures like that, and some researchers already pinpointed them as the leading cause of air leaks. Lights labeled ICAT (Insulation Contact and Air Tight) are already sealed – look for the label next to the bulb. If you don’t see it, assume yours leaks. An airtight baffle is a quick, 10-second fix (normally they cost around 10-25 dollars). Remove the bulb, push the baffle up into the housing, then replace the bulb.

Progress Lighting P88-ICAT
Picture of an ICAD recess light

 

Use the Foam in Medium-Size Gaps

Once the biggest attic gaps are fixed, move on to the medium-size ones. Low-expansion polyurethane foam in a can is great for plugging openings 1/4-inch to 3 inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents. A standard 12-ounce can ($5-6) is good for 250 feet of bead about 1/2-inch thick. The plastic straw applicator seals shut within two hours of the first use, so to get the most mileage out of a can, squirt a lubricant such as WD-40 onto a pipe cleaner and stuff that into the applicator tube between uses.

Related image
Great Stuff ® (is a well-known foam used for sealing

Caulk small gaps

Caulk is the best gap-filler for openings less than 1/4-inch wide. Silicone costs the most ($8-9 a tube depending on the brand) but works better next to nonporous materials, such as metal flashing, or where there are temperature extremes, as in attics. Acrylic latex caulk (around $2 a tube) is less messy to work with and cleans up with water.

If you have some time this weekend and would like to study a little bit more about air sealing we recommend the Department of Energy website (https://www.energy.gov/). They have great information about how to save energy and also you can learn a lot in their SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY section. Enjoy.

Common spots for air leaking in a house
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Insulation: controlling your house temperature and your money

Insulation is anything that blocks the movement of heat. Heat flows when molecules with more energy (more heat) bump into molecules with less energy (a colder place has a low movement of the molecules). We have a lot of ways to control this movement, and insulation is the building process that can do that. The simplest way to block heat conduction is the creation of an empty zone that has no matter. Unfortunately it is not possible to create vacuum in your walls. Because of that we have to install some material that will help our goals to block the heat exchange.

SprayFoam photo Wise Home Building
Spray foam application (Photo credit – http://www.techomebuilder.com)

The following are the most common types of materials used for insulation

  1. Batt insulation
    • Fiberglass batts and blankets
    • Rockwool Batts and Blankets
  2. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)
    • Polystyrene SIPs
    • Polyisocyanurate SIPs
  3. Loose-Fill Insulation
    • Loose-Fill Fiberglass
    • Loose-Fill Cellulose
  4. Spray foam
    1. Open-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam
    2. Closed-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam

Take a look at your electric, gas, or oil bills from past years. Thousands of dollars are wasted every single year because homes are not weatherized to today’s building standards.

Properly air sealing and insulating is the most cost-effective home improvement you can make today. Our state has has the Mass Save program, and you and your home energy specialist can determine the most economic solutions. If your house is an old one consider changing the HVAC system if you are planing a renovation. Heat Pumps are among the best in class to help you if your goal is to decrease your bills.

As you can see here, a good advice is the start. Then consider looking at the internet the educational materials available. If you have some doubts, contact us for more specific details. Have a nice weekend

 

 

Air-sealing starts at the basement

Air tightness is one of the most important area of focus in residential construction. Many builders think that achieving an air tightness number that is low enough to surpass the codes needs requires a significant increase in budget due to costly materials
and increased labor. But you can follow some simple steps that can work nicely.

This sealant is specifically designed to be applied in concrete

Air-sealing starts at the basement
The air barrier starts below ground level under the building – remember this very important concept. The code requires builders to use a 6-mil poly barrier, but you can move to a 10-mil poly, which will be applied directly over the under-slab insulation. The 10-mil thickness withstands traffic better than the code-required 6-mil and prevents
damage. During the installation all the seams are lapped and can be taped to ensure an airtight installation. When it’s available it is better to use a continuous piece of poly. If a passive radon vent needs to be installed be aware that this pipe has to go up to the roof, and this part of the job can be a leak area in the future.

Another option – but with additional costs for you – is to include some insulation in the basement floor. It can be a recycle option or common brand products that can be installed in 4″ x 8′ panels, mainly if you are planning a finish basement for some play room or office there.

Air-sealing the connection between the concrete and framing

An important area to be sealed is the connection between the concrete wall and the framing base. When it comes to sealing the sill plate to the slab you normally use the standard foam sill sealer required by code as a capillary break below the pressure-treated sill. You can also add two beads of sealant, but in our opinion is it important to add other sealants. The products are supposed to have a long service life and you have a lot of brands in the market.

Other concepts are very important also to complete your air sealing, and we will be discussing the concepts in other posts in the future

Air leaking can cost you a lot of money

“The devil is in the details”. Probably you listen this phrase before, don’t you? In in home construction it is not different: some details during the building can cost homeowners a lot of money in the future.

SprayFoam photo2 Wise Home Building
Spray foam insulation after installation

Insulation is one of the most important topics when you are planing your house building. We have clear rules dictated by the codes in place, but you also have to decide among a lot of options that contractors present you: fiberglass batts and blankets, cotton batts, rockwool batts and blankets, blown-in cellulose, open and closed cell spray foam, among others (you can find a list of different types of insulation clicking here).

Despite the importance of the R-values to pass the inspection, also you have to remember that air leaks are very important for your to have an energy efficient house. Air leaking into your attic, for example, could be costing you money—from 15 – 20% of a home’s heating and cooling energy is lost due to air leaks normally. A single 2″ hole can draft expensive heated air into your attic and suck cold air in around your windows and doors. And you don’t want to waste lots of money just because of that, do you?

Thinking of your ceiling as a solid surfaces is a big mistake: the truth is that ceiling leaks air into unfinished attic spaces through a lot of gaps and openings:

  • ceiling panels
  • pipes
  • chimneys
  • electrical wiring
  • heating and air conditioning ducts
  • access hatch

Air leaks have a chimney-like effect on the insulation of houses. When leaks exist in the attic, warm air from the living areas is funneled upward and out through the roof. As this upward suction occurs, cold air that enters the house – through leaks in the basement, for example – is funneled through the ground floor into the living quarters.

To avoid this air leak you need a caulk, tape or a spray foam (a lot of brands are there in the market). You have to seal all possible spaces that can leak air from your main living area to your attic. It is a time consuming process but not an impossible work for you. If you prefer, hire a specialized contractor to help you on that (at least to test if your house is leaking air to your attic).

The EnergyStar.gov website has a lot of good information that can help you decide if you need to improve your insulation to save money in electrical bills. It will also help our environment.

 

Insulation: the best ones to control your house temperature

Insulation is anything that blocks the movement of heat. Heat flows when molecules with more energy (more heat) bump into molecules with less energy (a colder place has a low movement of the molecules). We have a lot of ways to control this movement, and insulation is the building process that can do that. The simplest way to block heat conduction is the creation of an empty zone that has no matter. Unfortunately it is not possible to create vacuum in your walls. Because of that we have to install some material that will help our goals to block the heat exchange.

SprayFoam photo Wise Home Building
Spray foam application (Photo credit – http://www.techomebuilder.com)

The following are the most common types of materials used for insulation

  1. Batt insulation
    • Fiberglass batts and blankets
    • Rockwool Batts and Blankets
  2. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)
    • Polystyrene SIPs
    • Polyisocyanurate SIPs
  3. Loose-Fill Insulation
    • Loose-Fill Fiberglass
    • Loose-Fill Cellulose
  4. Spray foam
    1. Open-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam
    2. Closed-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam

You can do some of the batt insulation by yourself, but ask for a pro if you are thinking about a spray foam system.

 

3 tips to avoid foundation problems

 

House foundations can cause huge problems if you build them wrong. Water is the enemy here, and a few recommendations can avoid a lot of problems in the future:

  • Implement a proper grading

You have to ensures water cannot directly reach the base of your house and foundation walls. Grade the terrain about 6 inches in 10 feet soil to slope away from your home.

  • Drain water AWAY from your house

Remember that soils can expand a lot, and here in New England we have soils with a lot of humidity in the winter times also. Install a drainage system with 4″ perforated pipes that are at least 12″ (1 foot) away from the foundation walls.

  • Use insulation in the floor of your living basement

If you plan to have a living basement area don’t forget to use an insulation system in your floor also. A 2″ polyurethane is a good choice, but is also a little bit more expensive. You can also use crushed stone with a vapor retarder in the top of it.

insulation below ground floor slab