Surprising Sources of Heat Loss in the Home


During the winter here in Western Massachusetts, most people are extra careful about keeping windows and doors tightly shut, even adding weather stripping and insulating films to save as much heat as possible. What most homeowners may not realize is that up to a third of their annual heating and cooling budget is leaking out of their homes through gaps and cracks. That’s around $350 for the average family! In many homes, the loss happens due to a combination of cold air entering your home through the basement and warm air escaping into the attic.

Here are a few of the most common places we find air leaking in and out of your living space:

Plug Air Leaks in the Attic

Ceilings leak air into unfinished attic spaces through various gaps and openings, around things like pipes, chimneys, wood framing, wires and lighting fixtures. Air leaking into your attic could be costing you quite a lot. Fixing air leaks before you insulate an attic ensures that your insulation performs at its best.

Seal and Insulate Around Recessed Lights

Recessed lights extend into the attic, which can be a direct route for heated or cooled air to escape. Many homes have dozens of these lights--it’s clear why they cause significant heat loss. Some of these recessed lights are labeled IC or ICAT, for “insulation contact and air tight,” and are already sealed. Most fixtures, however, require air sealing to prevent conditioned air from moving from your living space to your unheated, unconditioned attic.

Close Gaps Around Flues and Chimneys

Air gaps around large spaces like flues and chimneys are common. Building codes require that wood framing be kept at least 1 inch from metal flues and 3 inches from brick chimneys. These areas need special treatment so having a professional properly air seal and insulate around these is key. Smaller gaps from the places your electrical wiring runs through the attic can also cause significant air leakage. These gaps can often be hidden underneath insulation, so having a diagnostic tool like thermal imaging can help pinpoint these unseen causes of heat loss.

Seal Holes and Cracks Around Pipes and Wires

Smaller gaps from the places your water and heating pipes and electrical wiring run through the basement and attic can also cause significant air leakage. These gaps can often be hidden underneath insulation, so utilizing diagnostic tools like blower door air leakage testing or infrared thermal imaging can help pinpoint these unseen causes of heat loss.

Locate Gaps in the Basements and Crawl Spaces

Older houses can let a lot of air in through the basement, especially where the house framing sits on the foundation. Sealing around vent pipes that get hot, like the pipes for furnaces and water heaters, is important. Spaces around wires, pipes, and ducts that pass through basement and crawl space ceilings and walls to the outside should also be sealed.

If you are looking for a way to save on energy bills and make your Pioneer Valley home more comfortable, consider having a professional from Energia help you identify the most effective ways to reduce heat loss in your attic and basement. We will assist you in scheduling a top-quality energy audit that will help you understand the full scope of your home’s needs.  

Our seasoned team offers comprehensive air sealing and insulation services, and is ready to take on your project, no matter how big or small.  Contact us to take action.

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