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ENERGY EFFICIENCY AROUND THE HOUSE


with Craig Hendrickson Residential Energy Auditor


Backer Rod Fills the Gaps M


y mom moved into a new home a couple of years ago and she discovered a cold draft. The house was only eleven years old with energy effi cient vinyl-clad windows. Surprisingly, the windows were where I found the largest air leaks in the home. Air from outside was fl owing past the windows where the bottom sash and the top sash meet and along the channels where the bottom sash of the window slides on both sides. I could actually feel the movement of the cold air infi ltrating from these areas. (See the trick below I have included in this article on an easy way to detect air infi ltration in your home or offi ce.) My fi rst thought to fi x the prob- lem was to seal the gaps and chan- nels with my old friend “silicone.” No, better not do that. It would prove to be unsafe since no one could open the windows in case of an emergency, let alone open them for ventilation or cleaning. After some thought and a bit of research, I rediscovered a veteran product I could use for a new task. Backer rod has been around for decades; it is a great product with a strange name. It is basically a long round length of fl exible foam, originally used as a fi ller for large gaps in concrete. Could it work to seal window gaps?


After a visit to my local hardware store, I cut off a section of backer rod with scissors and tucked it into the gaps and channels using a small putty knife. It worked beautifully and I could still easily open the window if needed. Backer rod is available in several


diameters, so look for the appropriate size to fi ll the gaps you need to seal.


If your home was built before 1970, there is a good chance it leaks along the baseboards. Many houses built before then were constructed without a seal (or with an inadequate one) between the sole plate of the outer walls and the concrete pad or subfl oor. The best solution is to remove the baseboard trim and seal the gap with silicone, then replace the trim. This job might not seem so bad until you realize you have about a mile of baseboard in your home and, yes, you should seal the interior walls, too. The second best solution and the easiest is to leave the base- board trim in place, but seal the small gap at the top of the trim with silicone and use backer rod to fi ll the larger gap between the bottom of the trim and the fl oor.


Keep in mind when you seal an air leak you are really solving two prob- lems at the same time. If harsh outdoor air can infi ltrate your home, the inside air that you pay to heat or cool can


also escape to the great outdoors through the same gaps. This is especially true when your climate control unit is operating which pressurizes the interior of your home and forces the air to fl ee to the outside. And, now for the trick I mentioned earlier: On a


windy day, tear narrow (½” – ¾”) strips of tissue paper about eight inches in length and tape them where you suspect an air leak might be occurring. Make sure ceiling fans are off and the climate control system is not operating. If the paper strips are moving there is probably air infi ltration in that area. 


8 - Northeast Connection


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