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Old 02-09-2017, 09:39 AM   #1
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electrical outlet and switch insulation


Hello
I have some questions about electrical outlet insulation.

1. Is it OK to fill the gap between electrical box and drywall (outside of the box) tightly with leftover pieces from insulation foam sheet, which is UL listed, fire-retardant?

2. Is it OK if I cover unused outlet holes with a piece made from caulking cord?
Please see the attached photo.

I bought child safety plastic plugs but I need so many of them to cover unused outlets and it started hurting my wallet...then, I kneaded the caulking cord and shaped a piece thick and large enough to cover the holes.
I am happy with the fact the clay piece seals off the draft completely and stick and seal so easily.
I'm not sure if this caulking cord is conductive or not, but the piece contacts only the surface of the outlet plate, not the inside of the holes.
Is this against the code or hazardous? Please advise.
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Old 02-09-2017, 11:44 AM   #2
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


I'm pretty sure code doesn't mention anything about caulk over your outlets.

But why make your house look like heck for the amount of draft that could possibly come thru the slot holes in a outlet? That caulk is going to get discolored in short order.

Frugal is OK but........

Hard board insulation is impossible to close all gaps. Fiberglass is easier to stuff.

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Old 02-09-2017, 03:02 PM   #3
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


Replace the receptacles with tamper resistant receptacles.
Theybhave been code since NEC 2008.

They are more child proof than safety caps or that caulk. They also look better.
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Old 02-09-2017, 04:21 PM   #4
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


+1 on the child/tamper-proof receptacles, but if the cost of the plastic caps concerned you . . .

If you're willing to press caulking onto the outlets, I assume that they are not in regular use. You could simply disconnect them.

Re insulating, you can buy the foam draft liners designed to go under the trim covers.
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Old 03-09-2017, 10:54 AM   #5
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


Thank you for great tips, 123pugsy, Oso954 and lenaitch!
Apologies for the late response.

The builder left a pretty big gaps between drywalls and electrical boxes everywhere, so I filled the gaps with caulking, put the foam draft liners ($6+tax for 10 insulators at Homedepot Canada) and put the plates back and put safety plug covers ($6+tax for 36 pieces at Toysrus). I need to buy more.

Even after these procedure, it got better, but I still feel cold air draft from the electric outlets! I guess it is impossible to stop the draft completely??

Personally, I found the small flat sheet of rope caulk (the photo shown in the first of thread) would perform best to seal the electrical plug holes, but if they discolour eventually, it's not good.

I cut out the leftover piece of foam insulators into the size big enough to cover the electrical holes and placed them on the electrical plates and insert safety plug covers.
They seem OK for now.
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Old 03-09-2017, 01:26 PM   #6
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


Those outlets are doing little to contribute to leakage. House I am currently working on needs to pass blower door test....which is where the put a big fan with lots of instruments on it in a doorway to de pressurize the house....and detect air infiltration. In the last few houses I've worked on like this, the end result was that the tech guys provided the settings for a computer controlled bathroom fan on each floor to cycle off and on to achieve a healthy air change number. And in none of those cases did we have to plug up the outlets. Ron
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Old 03-09-2017, 01:29 PM   #7
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


And yes it can be annoying to put your hand in front of the outlet and feel cold coming in....but consider if you have two bye four walls which are 3 1/2" thick, the area of the box, standard maybe 2" wide by 3" high by 2 1-2" deep had less insulation behind that the surrounding wall area, ron
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Old 03-09-2017, 01:57 PM   #8
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


As Ron said, all homes will leak air and if you get them too tight you have to create additional air exchange. For reference, a home that is just right, not leaky or tto tight will leak enough air (on average) to replace ALL inside air every 3 hours. That may sound leaky but getting tighter fails to vent out all of the normal house related pollutants.

If a draft from a particular switch or outlet is bothering you, seal it, otherwise they are just part of the required natural air exchange.

As for closing the gap between the box and the drywall all you need to do is air seal that gap. Stuffing in insulation or cut and cobbling pieces of rigid foam adds nothing. Stop the air and the insulation in the wall will take care of the heat exchange.

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Old 03-20-2017, 10:47 AM   #9
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


Thanks for your message, Ron and Bud.
We experienced the energy audit, which is similar to the blower test Ron mentioned.
The energy advisor told me some DIY air sealing projects such as sealing gaps on window frames, insulating outlets, weatherstripping, etc.
By the second audit, we have to improve air sealing 15% or more to pass the test and receive government rebates, but I have no idea how much I improved so far by caulking on window frames, and insulating outlets and switches.

Some people say we lose lots of energy from outlets, but others say leakage from outlets are nothing compared to from recessed lights or attic...
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Old 03-20-2017, 01:22 PM   #10
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


If you want to kill some time, turn on all your exhaust fans (kitchen/bathroom) and walk around the house with an incense/punk stick. Hold it up to various cracks/seams that you suspect may be leaking. If there's a leak, the smoke trail will tell you. )

The biggest leaks are typically in the attic. If you have access there, you should air seal the attic access/door, all the wall top plates, the chimney chase, and the plumbing chases/double-wall openings.
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Last edited by Alketi; 03-20-2017 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 03-20-2017, 02:05 PM   #11
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Re: electrical outlet and switch insulation


Alketi is on the right track. Doubtful you will achieve a measurable change in air leakage with outlets and around windows. I do recommend outlets be sealed but primarily because they are so easy and they are sneaky and can have a bit more air flow than many suspect. That said they don't account for much.

To get to your 15% you will need to find some of the larger leaks. The exhaust fans as suggested can produce sufficient depressurization to help find leaks, but if you have some local rental places check to see if they offer infrared cameras. I do that for people and what we can find in one day is extremely impressive.

I'll add a link that reviews a long list of air sealing options.
https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partne...ide_062507.pdf

Bud

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