The Five-Minute Energy Test To Do Before Winter

It's your own mini-energy audit.


Photo by Edward Fielding via Shutterstock

All it takes is one windy day for your home’s drafty spots to give themselves away. Usually found around windows and doors, the unwelcome chill from a non-air-tight seal is a sign of potential energy loss and costly bills to come.

Designers often talk about a home’s thermal envelope, or the separation between the indoors and outdoors that determines how resistant a home is to air and heat loss. Basically, your home should be air tight, and if drafts are getting in, energy is also getting out.

In addition to windows and doors, which can be drafty due to age or improper installation, roofs, recessed lights, outlets, basements, air ducts, and chimneys and flus, can also be energy-loss culprits if not properly insulated.

To gauge if an area needs attention before the cold days ahead, Stephanie Vanderbilt from Beverly’s Coastal Windows & Exteriors advises a quick test. On a windy day…

  1. Hold a lit candle or match in a straight vertical position near the area in question and watch to see if the flame flickers in any particular direction. If there’s movement in the flame, a draft is present.
  2. Extinguish the flame and watch the smoke, which should go straight up into the air, if there is no draft.

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If gaps are found, there are ways to patch them up before winter. For areas between siding and window or door frames, reapply exterior calk if the gaps are no bigger than the width of a nickel, Vanderbilt advised. If the gaps are much larger than a nickel, doors and windows may need to be replaced with more energy efficient products. Insulation can be added beneath the roof and inside exterior walls, if needed.