Overlooked Sources of Heat Loss in the Homeby: Mark D. Tyrol, P.E.
Imagine leaving a window open all winter long - the heat loss, cold drafts, and wasted energy! Well if your home has a folding attic stair, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home!
These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause your heat pour out and the cold outside air pour in - much like leaving a window open, costing you higher heating bills, causing cold drafts, and wasting energy.
Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. We apply caulk and weatherstripping to these areas to minimize heat loss and cold drafts.
But what can you do about the three largest "holes" in your home - the folding attic stair, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes that you may not have known you even had.
Attic Stairs lose heat:
Do you have a folding attic stairway in your house? When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet!) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed. And what is installed to cover this opening? A thin, unsealed, un-insulated sheet of plywood!
Did you know that your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors? In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood!
Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the door. Try this yourself: at night when it is dark, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door - do you see any light coming through? These are gaps - which add up to a large opening where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year! This is like leaving a window open all year round!
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover. An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing the air leaks. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.
Fireplaces add to your heating bill:
65% or approximately 100 million homes in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home especially during the winter home-heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers!
Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing! One remarkable research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating energy consumption by 30%!
A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter just due to the air leakage and wasted energy caused by fireplaces!
Why does a home with a fireplace have higher heating bills? Hot air rises! Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find, and when your warm heated air is drawn out of your home, cold outside air is drawn in to make up for it. The fireplace is like a giant straw - sucking the heated air from your house. This is like leaving a window open all year round!
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace draftstopper. A fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.
Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts cause heat loss:
Have you ever noticed that the room containing your clothes dryer is the coldest room in your house? Ever wonder why? Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house, while your heated air just pours right out!
Dryer vents use a sheet metal flapper to try to reduce this air leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint can clog the flapper causing it to stay open. This is like leaving a window open all year round!
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal! A dryer vent seal will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint, and moisture to escape.
If your home has a folding attic stair, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, you can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes. At Battic Door, we have developed solutions to these and other energy-conservation related issues. For more information please visit our website www.batticdoor.com or send a S.A.S.E. to P.O. Box 15, Mansfield, MA 02048.
About The Author
Mark D. Tyrol, P.E.
In 2002 started Battic Door, a manufacturer and distributor of the Fireplace Draftstopper™ and the Battic© Door Attic Stair Cover.
CONSULTING ENGINEER - Construction Defect Services, NATIONAL FORENSIC CONSULTANTS, Maple Shade, NJ.
TYROL ENGINEERING, LLC, Mansfield, MA
Position: Engineer/Owner. Home and Building Inspections and Investigations.
FM APPROVALS, Norwood, MA.
Position: Senior Engineer, Building Materials Group, Approvals Division.
B.S., MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, University of Lowell, Lowell, MA., 1987.
CERTIFICATE OF PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT - BUILDING AND CONStrUCTION TECHNOLOGY, Northeastern University, Boston, MA ., 1991.
Graduate Study in the area of Civil Engineering.
20 + Years Engineering Experience Evaluating and Testing Building Materials.
PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER (P.E.), MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
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