Home Winterization

How to save money by reducing heating and cooling costs. Written by Craig and Lew.

Hi! Craig here.
I have seen a ‘service’ advertisement on TV where a technician will walk through your home with a Infrared (IR) or thermal video camera to show all the energy ‘leaks’. The walk-through is recorded for future reference. Typically, these IR cameras are used by insulation service providers to demonstrate how badly the customer really needs their expensive insulation services. I did a little research into this and found out how easy it is to scam a homeowner. If the camera is set up properly and used honestly the information it provides is valuable. However, the camera threshold and sensitivity can be adjusted to show negligible temperature differences from one extreme to the other. If you choose to pay for the ‘energy audit’, we recommend using a reputable firm.

I have an inexpensive Infrared thermometer with a laser to aid in aiming. This will give me the same information as an IR camera but the presentation is not nearly as impressive. The way I put this thermometer to use works like this:

  • First I set up the thermometer for the surfaces I will be checking. Read the owner’s manual to learn how to do this – it is easy but different for every make or model IR thermometer.
  • With my home at ordinary temperature I start with the interior walls to establish a base reading and make notes. Then I move to exterior walls keeping well clear of windows. I scan in a grid pattern, up & down then left & right. As you’d expect it is warmer up top.
  • Next I move to the ceiling. I scan in a grid pattern keeping away from lights or other known holes. I take a lot of notes during all of this.
  • Now I scan the doors & windows. I stay away from the edges and focus on the field of each door or pane of glass. More notes taken.
  • Now it gets fun. I focus on the seems or edges of the doors and windows. This is usually very interesting! Do not forget the electric outlets. I take lots of notes.
  • Finally I get to check out all the lights and other protrusions in the ceiling. More notes.
  • The last thing I do is go outside to scan the walls, windows, doors, and edges of doors & windows. This is because if the house is leaking a lot of heat it may not show up INSIDE, however, OUTSIDE a heat leak may be much easier to find.

Presently my home is reasonably inexpensive to heat & cool. My home is also leaky. I am not in too big a hurry to fix the leaks. The reason why is I like a steady flow of fresh air coming into the house. My previous two homes were both extremely tight, as a direct result of the cost of utilities being just a little less than those of the International Space Station! With the old home I am presently in I do wish for better insulation in the attic, but the little air leaks here & there are not a concern to me yet.

The price of my cheap IR thermometer is probably about 1/4 of an energy audit fee from the ‘pro’ IR video camera service – and I trust myself much more…Craig

Greetings! Lew here.
As Craig has stated, I too use the infrared laser thermometer. My home is 124 years old this year, so I know it leaks energy. I really don’t need the thermometer to know this. However, I use the thermometer to find the worst offenders and this allows me to make the most of my efforts.

I too measure the walls and found my base line. Tonight, the outside temperature is 35° F. The average of my interior walls is 62.4° with the furnace set for 67° F.

Half of my windows are original. Incredibly old wavy glass that is beautiful, but terribly inefficient at keeping the heat in and the cold out. Measuring the window casing, you can see the temperature is 57.8° or nearly 5° colder than the walls. This shows the heat loss.

Looking for heat loss

We know to save energy we should replace the windows. That would be nice if we had the money to spend in upgrades but we do not. Instead, we purchased a couple of Frost King window sealing kits. Simply put, a large roll of double sided tape and heat shrink clear plastic. The directions are simple and the product really works well.

First, clean the window casing. The tape does not like to stick to dirt or dust.

Second, apply the tape around the window. Peal the backing off as you go. We found the tape is easier to start the backing if you cut the tape with scissors at a sharp angle. The small point the angle gives you is easier to peal the backing from.

Applying the double sided tape.

Third, apply the plastic to the tape. We start at the top and work as a team to keep the plastic as tight as possible, but don’t try too hard, the plastic is shrink fit after all.

Fourth, use a hair dryer to quickly shrink the plastic to a nice tight panel.

Using a hair dryer to shrink the plastic.

As the plastic tightens, it is very difficult to see. It becomes nearly un-noticeable. Also, by shrinking the plastic, it will keep it from flapping in high wind storms. Last winter, we skipped shrinking one window and it was noisy as it literally breathed in and out as the wind blew. This year we took a few more minutes to shrink all the panels and they are now nice and tight.

A few of our windows were oversize. There is a kit for oversize windows, yet, we had just enough left over from the regular window kits to piece together enough to cover the last windows. We used clear packing tape to join the pieces.

Using what we have, not what we wish we had.

You can see the seams clearly and the plastic doesn’t shrink where the plastic is taped with the packing tape. But that is ok with us. The rest of the panel still shrank enough to make the panel tight and keep it from flapping in the wind.

The windows are an obvious place to start with the weatherization. Lots of attention is given to the attic and windows but a major overlooked location is the basement. Check your basement out. Make sure the top of your foundation sill plate is insulated and then down at least 4 to 5 feet below the ground level. If you have a concrete basement wall, you can get an instant 10% energy savings by insulating the wall and sill. More plainly put, if you spend $200 per month heating your home, insulating the basement walls can save you around $20 dollars per month. By insulating the walls of the basement, the heat generated by the furnace (if it is in the basement as mine is) will be kept in the house and not sent into the dirt next to the house. This heat energy will warm the air of the basement and will rise up to the rest of the house. I did this my self mid-winter and felt the difference immediately. The kitchen linoleum floor was always really cold, but after insulating the basement, you could felt the difference.

Start saving your heating dollars and start insulating! Lew.

.

Leave a Reply