Sealing Air Leaks in Your Tampa Home Will Maximize Your HVAC System
Weatherstripping and caulking may bring to mind cold New England winters, because most people think of them as inexpensive ways to keep cold air out. These two methods of sealing air leaks, however, are just as useful in the sunny southeast as they are in colder climates. While you may not be worried about keeping cold air out in Tampa, you do want to keep your A/C air in and balancing humidity so you’re comfortable. Weatherstripping and caulking are ideal for that.
Weatherstripping—a flexible, resilient material of vinyl, metal, foam or felt—fills in spaces around your home’s openings. Windows and doors need to open and close, but they also need to seal so that air doesn’t leak in or out when they’re closed. Caulk is a flexible application that fills in cracks between non-moving surfaces around your home. In both cases, a little time planning, purchasing and applying can pay off with improved performance in your HVAC system.
Take a quick tour around the outside of your home. You may have to look hard to see weatherstripping already in place. Most likely, if you haven’t been maintaining and repairing it, it has broken down over time. Pieces can tear loose or adhesive can fail. Look for a thin, flexible layer around each window so that when the window closes, it seals tightly. Look for possibly v-shaped metal strips around your door. Inspect every length of every opening. Anything that appears worn needs replacing. The time and money spent sealing air leaks comes back to you in maximum HVAC system efficiency, as well as increased energy savings.
You may be more concerned about keeping your cooled, conditioned household air in, not keeping cold air out—weatherstripping will do that, too. So after doing your exterior walk-around, go indoors and look again from the inside. Search for places where air leaks out. Even a narrow crack running around your front door’s entire perimeter is equal in area to a tangerine-sized hole in your wall. That’s wasted energy!
Take a little time in the weatherstripping aisle of your hardware store. If you don’t understand something, ask for help. Here are some things to consider:
- Measure all your openings and plan to buy about 10 percent extra weatherstripping for goofs and waste.
- Jot down some notes—the number and sizes of windows and the number of doors, including garage doors.
- Evaluate all your choices in replacement materials.
- You can easily mix and match materials, even around the same opening.
Once you buy your materials, open the packages and allow everything to sit for three days so the house and weatherstripping have expanded and contracted equally. Make sure your surfaces are clean and clear of old material, nails, staples and dirt. Ensure that each side of each opening has a single piece of weatherstripping (not a bunch of short strips) and it’s firmly attached.
If you’re new to weatherstripping, start at the back of your house. As you learn to apply it, you’ll be getting better window by window. Your nicest work sealing air leaks will be on the front of your house.
Caulking compound is a flexible material sold in tubes and applied with a caulking gun. Caulking comes in a multitude of materials, mixtures, colors and tints, so you can get busy sealing air leaks without detracting from your home’s beauty. Be sure you’re buying exterior grade caulk for outdoor use, and interior grade for indoor jobs. Apply caulking wherever one material meets another and there’s not a completely sealed, tight fit. Areas that might need caulking include:
- Around the outside of window frames
- Between masonry and wood
- Around the outer perimeter of your door jambs
- Where skylights and chimneys pierce your roof
If you aren’t handy at caulking, practice before getting goo all over your siding. Use scrap lumber or cardboard to experiment with bead size and how quickly to move your arms. Don’t rush your application—move both arms steadily, squeezing the caulking gun slowly to apply a uniform, thick bead of caulking compound. If you want a perfect job, put down painter’s tape on either side of the area to be caulked. After caulking, allow the material to set up a short time. You can pull the tape away at a right angle to the caulk and it’ll leave a crisp, clean line.
For more information on sealing air leaks around your Tampa area home, contact us at Senica Air Conditioning, Inc., Inc. today.