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Weatherstripping Can Lower Your Utility Bills This Summer

This simple process can keep you more comfortable and help you reduce AC costs.

Hands applying weather seal caulk to window frame
Sealing your windows and doors stops AC from leaking outside, and stops the outside air from leaking in.
BanksPhotos/Getty Images

With energy prices reaching record highs in some parts of the country and concerns about blackouts, now is an excellent opportunity to evaluate your home's energy efficiency and make some upgrades -- and potentially save on utilities in the process. If you've already tried the typical tricks like adjusting your thermostatreplacing your furnace filter, showering instead of bathing or taking shorter showers, it may be time to try weatherstripping.

If you aren't familiar with weatherstripping, you can find a detailed description below. But in short, weatherstripping is the act of sealing up the doors and windows in your home to prevent air leaks -- which improves energy efficiency and lowers heating and cooling costs.

In this guide, we'll explain why weatherstripping is an effective way to reduce utility bills and offer a few tips to help you start using this simple and cost-effective energy-saving strategy in your home.

Read also: How Much Can You Actually Save on Electricity by Unplugging Appliances?

What is weatherstripping?

The term "weatherstripping" can refer to two separate things: a verb and a noun. First, weatherstripping is the action of adding insulative material around doors and windows, with the goal of stopping airflow in and out of your home. But it's also another name for the materials used in the weatherstripping process. To use both terms together: You could weatherstrip a drafty window with metal weatherstripping.

Weatherstripping is popular with budget-conscious homeowners, largely because it's a cheap home improvement task that can be done without a professional. After a quick trip to your local hardware store, you can properly weatherstrip your home in a few hours or less.

Ways to use weatherstripping around your home

From doors to windows to attic hatches, there are plenty of ways to use weatherstripping at home. Each area that you weatherstrip will have a slightly different process, which we'll cover below. However, there are a few basic rules to follow before you get started.

First, you'll want to know where air is escaping or entering your home. To do this, choose an exterior door or window and put your hand up near the frame. If you feel air blowing, there's leakage occurring and you should weatherstrip that area. Not sure if you're feeling air? Light a candle, hold it near the door or window frame and see if it flickers. If it does, it's time to weatherstrip.

When you're ready to start weatherstripping a particular area, clean it with soap and water, and then let it dry completely. Weatherstripping doesn't stick well to dirty surfaces and is likely to come loose over time.

With that out of the way, let's look at three ways to use weatherstripping around your home to seal up drafts and potentially reduce your utility bills.

Exterior doors

If you're new to weatherstripping, a great place to start is with your home's exterior doors. Sealing up the space between the floor and the bottom of your door effectively keeps wind and rain out and ensures that your home stays comfortable.

Vinyl, rubber and metal are among the best types of weatherstripping for doors. Many retailers sell door sweeps or gaskets, which screw into the bottom of your door and create a barrier to keep the elements (and pests) outside. Try to avoid using flimsier materials (like felt) in this area, because they can wear down faster with repeated opening and closings.

You may also want to prevent air from leaking out the top and sides of your door frame. In that case, you can nail or screw metal weatherstripping along the edges of the frame.

Windows

Like exterior doors, windows are an ideal place to use weatherstripping in your home. There are several ways to weatherstrip your windows, depending on the materials and style.

For example, let's say that you want to weatherstrip a wooden window that slides open vertically (such as a double-hung window). In that case, you'll want to attach the weatherstripping in a few places, including on the lower sash and inside the window jambs.

For the sash, attach a piece of adhesive foam, tape or vinyl weatherstripping along the bottom of the lower sash (where it meets the sill). It should create a tight seal when you close the window. Then, peel and stick V-channel (also known as V-strip or tension-seal) weatherstripping along the tracks where the window slides before securing it with finishing nails.

The process is simpler if you have casement windows, which sit on a hinge and need to be opened with a hand crank. To seal them, all you need to do is apply tape weatherstripping to the top, bottom and sides of the window stops.

No matter which type of windows you have, make sure that you don't put weatherstripping anywhere that it could come loose when you open or close the window.

Interior doors leading to uninsulated areas

Another way that air can leak in and out of your home is through uninsulated attics, basements and garages. Fortunately, weatherstripping the doors that lead to these areas can reduce energy loss and keep your living space more comfortable.

For attics, the weatherstripping process will depend on the type of entrance (for example, an access panel or pull-down stairs). Either way, the Department of Energy recommends installing wooden stops around the door and then applying tape weatherstripping on top of the new stops, which will create a tight seal when you close the attic door.

Similarly, if you have an interior door that leads to your basement, you can seal it by placing peel-and-stick weatherstripping around the frame. You'll also want to add a door sweep to keep drafts from sneaking in between the bottom of the door and the floor.

Consider your needs

Although these three areas are the most popular places to apply weatherstripping, there are also other places where it can be useful -- like garage doors and skylights. Consider your home's needs and adjust accordingly to ensure a strong seal in the places that need extra insulation the most. Once you do, less of your home's heat and air conditioning will leak outside, and less air from outside will leak into your home.