CAULKING COMBATS AIR LEAKS AND SAVES MONEY
The average West Virginia homeowner spends $2,168 annually on home energy needs. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that heating and cooling accounts for up to 74 percent of this total. Addressing insulation and air leaks in your home will directly and significantly reduce these costs by 20 percent to 50 percent, depending on the amount and condition of your home's insulation.
THE NEED FOR CAULKING
The need for caulking
Locating air leaks
Types of caulking
Small, air-leaking cracks at first may not seem to be a substantial problem. But left untreated these tiny gaps can cost homeowners significantly in utility expenses. For example, a quarter-inch opening between a 6-foot 8-inch high pair of doors or two average-sized, double-hung windows equates to a 20-square-inch opening. These cracks allow for 40 CFM (cubic feet per minute) of air in and heat out of the building. Sealing them can provide savings up to 30 percent for most homeowners.
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LOCATING AIR LEAKS
The first step is locating the air leaks in your home. Several may be quite visible; others may not be as obvious. Some good places to inspect include electrical outlets; door and window frames; switch plates; mail chutes; electrical and gas service entrances; baseboards; cable TV and phone lines; weather stripping around doors; outdoor water faucets; fireplace dampers; where dryer vents pass through walls; attic hatches; bricks, siding, stucco and foundation; air conditioners, and vents and fans.
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WHICH CAULKING TYPE IS BEST TO USE?
The next step is selecting the proper compound to use. Look for materials that can expand and contract. Additionally, the material you choose should be resistant to weather, cracking, shrinkage, water and mildew.
Caulking varies in strength, properties and prices.
Silicone is flexible, allowing for joints to stretch or compress after application, and adheres well to painted surfaces. Its cost is high.
Polyurethane, which applied as a spray-foam quickly expands to fit larger areas, is priced moderately high and is the best choice for outdoor areas. Over time, this compound can become dry and powdery.
Water-based foam sealants are best utilized around window and door frames. They must be exposed to air to properly dry (which takes approximately 24 hours). Their expansion rate is only about 25 percent, making this a good choice for new home constructions.
Butyl rubber can seal dissimilar materials (such as glass, metal, plastic, wood and concrete) and is durable for a 10-year period. It has a tendency to shrink, and often requires two applications. This compound also does not adhere well to painted surfaces.
Latex is the choice when sealing joints around tubs and showers. It can also be utilized to fill cracks in tiles, plaster, glass and plastic, and is excellent to fill nail holes. Moderately priced with easy cleanup, its durability varies from around two to 10 years. It will not adhere to metal and must be painted when used on exterior surfaces.
Oil or resin-based compound forms an excellent seal for exterior seams and joints on building materials. Of all the types, this is the least expensive. Because oils dry out and cause material to harden and fall out, its durability rate is only one to four years. Also, it will not adhere to porous surfaces such as masonry and has a limited temperature range.
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HOW DO I APPLY THE CAULKING?
Once you’ve chosen the appropriate compound, you’re now ready to apply the caulking. Some tips to keep in mind for a good application:
- Before you apply new caulking, remove any existing sealing material. The area should be cleaned with the appropriate solvent to remove grease or debris that would prevent the compound from adhering to the surface.
- Consider using a caulk gun with an automatic release. The release stops the flow of caulk instantly, making the application easier and less messy.
- The tip of the cartridge should be cut at an angle. Only about a quarter-inch of the tip should be removed which will leave an opening of one-eighth to one-quarter inch in diameter. This amount will create the correct amount of bead large enough to fill most cracks.
- Apply the caulk at the bottom of the seam so it fills completely and prevents bubbling.
- DO NOT SKIMP! Be sure to use enough caulk to completely fill the seam.
- Should the caulking shrink after the first application, reapply additional compound.
- Push the tip of the cartridge over the caulk when applying to form a smooth bead across the area.
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ENERGY STAR®, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, helps save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
For more information about air sealing and caulking, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s home consumer site.
For more information about saving money and energy, contact the West Virginia Division of Energy at (304) 558-2234 or (800) 982-3386.
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