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Old 11-20-2011, 09:55 PM   #1
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


Now that we're getting -15's and so on, I'm starting to think I have a draft in the living room, well, most of the lower area of the house (split level). I can smell the "winter air" smell, and it does seem to cool off quick in that area when I turn down the furnace. I have a few suspicions of where I may be losing my heat, but I'm just wondering what are some good ways to detect this, instead of guessing?

I have a fireplace (used to be a real wood fire place but is now just an electric) so there is the potential that it's not insulated at all. Cinder block does not have great R value. The windows are somewhat old, I'd give them maybe 10-20 years. Maybe I'm losing air through the frames. The windows themselves look fine, no broken seals.

A few ideas I have in mind:

- Thermal imaging: $$$$$$ I checked ebay and almost died. Damn. But maybe some companies rent them? Or can I somehow make one myself?

- Creating a high positive pressure in the house, light up some incense and see where it goes.

- Brute force: just go around caulking every seam I can find. Windows, etc... I rather just actually find the source though, it's probably one simple thing.

Any other tips I may have missed? Is there a DIY method of getting a thermal image? To me this seems like the best way, as it may detect areas that lack insulation, while an air based test would not catch this. Really, I almost need both right?

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Old 11-20-2011, 10:13 PM   #2
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


How about an eco-energy audit (seeing as you are in Canada). Heard the cost is down to less than $50 to have them come in and do a blower door test and tell you what you can do to increase your homes efficiency. (Just google it if you aren't aware of the eco-energy grant)If you are home while the audit is being done then you can go around and feel where the drafts are coming in. I did it a couple years back and found a lot of drafts around my electrical boxes which I just put in the foam gaskets from Canadian tire and that seemed to have helped.

When you put in your electric insert did you block off the top of the chimney with insulation ot anything? I would just cut some styrofoam SM and insert in the top to keep it from drafting. There is a bag system you can buy for fireplaces that is supposed to seal the flue off well, just don't know how easy that would be to do once the insert is in and all.

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Old 11-20-2011, 10:23 PM   #3
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


Never thought of getting an audit done, I guess they would do all these tests and give me the results?

Also I did not install the insert, it was already there when I bought the house. Guess I could take it out and check out how it looks behind there. The chimney is capped in the garage and does not go through the roof though. (the opposite wall is the garage)

Forgot about outlets, that's a good point, may be a source too.
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Old 11-20-2011, 10:30 PM   #4
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


Around doors, windows, outlets, switches, fireplaces, etc are the places to seal. Also making sure that storm windows are closed, and up in the attic, any gaps are filled. I went through and used DAP foam in the can to seal around the windows, after I pulled the trim and noticed that there were huge gaps when they were originally installed. Also sealed with the DAP around the outlets. Doing so has help a lot, and you do not notice any drafts now. Also placed window film over the two leakiest windows that we have, that are getting replaced next year, and that also helped.
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Old 11-20-2011, 10:35 PM   #5
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Squirrel View Post
Now that we're getting -15's and so on, I'm starting to think I have a draft in the living room, well, most of the lower area of the house (split level). I can smell the "winter air" smell, and it does seem to cool off quick in that area when I turn down the furnace. I have a few suspicions of where I may be losing my heat, but I'm just wondering what are some good ways to detect this, instead of guessing?

I have a fireplace (used to be a real wood fire place but is now just an electric) so there is the potential that it's not insulated at all. Cinder block does not have great R value. The windows are somewhat old, I'd give them maybe 10-20 years. Maybe I'm losing air through the frames. The windows themselves look fine, no broken seals.

A few ideas I have in mind:

- Thermal imaging: $$$$$$ I checked ebay and almost died. Damn. But maybe some companies rent them? Or can I somehow make one myself?

- Creating a high positive pressure in the house, light up some incense and see where it goes.

- Brute force: just go around caulking every seam I can find. Windows, etc... I rather just actually find the source though, it's probably one simple thing.

Any other tips I may have missed? Is there a DIY method of getting a thermal image? To me this seems like the best way, as it may detect areas that lack insulation, while an air based test would not catch this. Really, I almost need both right?
This a good place to start:
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?...vement_sealing

I would love to have a thermal imaging camera, but not in the budget! Have an IR thermometer, but it has limited usefulness. One of these might be slightly better:
http://www.amazon.com/Black-Decker-T.../dp/B001LMTW2S

I have just finished a few months of chasing air leaks. We first had an energy audit done and that set us on the right track.

One useful tool might be a smoke pencil - http://www.smokepencil.com/. I didn't buy one but should have. But really only works well when auditor has blower door running OR when there is a strong wind blowing. I used a candle and also some incense sticks (hard to see smoke)

This is what I did do:
- sealed window frame trim on inside of every window.
- removed every ceiling light fixture and caulked openings around and in hex junction boxes
- Removed baseboard heaters and sealed openings where cables exit
- Put seals on all electrical outlets and switches
- sealed around bathroom and kitchen ceiling fans
- Capped chimney at top and at damper (fireplace abandoned)
- New seals on several doors. Also checked windows.
- Sealed attic hatches (they suck warm air out of house and cold comes in elsewhere)
- Went in attic and sealed around plumbing vents and wherever I could find penetration for wiring.
- while in attic, found several walls which were wide open at top so cold air could enter interior walls. Blocked those off.
- closed and sealed crawl space vents for winter
- sealed and superinsulated all attic duct runs. Also around ceiling registers.

Auditor will soon be back and it will be interesting to see how much leakage has improved.

ADDED: Re EcoEnergy Audit - It costs quite a bit more than $50! Ours cost $350 but Ontario government rebated $150. There are many possible grants available. Read the EcoEnergy site. We added insulation to crawl space & attic and did a number of other things. Getting back about $2400, but that will just pay the tax on the money we have spent!

Last edited by lakeresident; 11-20-2011 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 11-20-2011, 10:37 PM   #6
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


The audit is a good way to go for not much money. If you have any additional interest in making upgrades to your home or HVAC system there is free money there for you as well. A rebate for upgrading to a 94%+ ECM furnace is worth $690, windows and doors are about $40 each, you can even change out appliances and low flush toilets and get money back. (if you know you are going to have to make the upgrades in the future anyway, why not take the money?)
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Old 11-21-2011, 03:15 PM   #7
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


If you have any can lights you will want to put a fire rated box above those and seal them, they are really bad for leakage. When we put the house at 50 pascals with the blower door test sometimes your hair will move standing under them.
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Old 11-21-2011, 04:31 PM   #8
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


might consider a laser thermometer and get a windy night and you'll see the temps drop like a rock when the read the drafts... especially walking the laser along the wall then when you cross over onto the glass windows and sliding doors to the outside.
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Old 11-21-2011, 04:57 PM   #9
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


You can rent thermal imagers for about $120/day, I would do that.

Doesn't make much sense to replace your windows for $10K-$20K just for the rebates, it won't help that much either. Never make a purchase decision based on rebates.
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Old 11-21-2011, 05:11 PM   #10
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


windows will not give you a return, start with sealing! If you have nee walls seal them first then all your top plates while you are in the attic and then in the house as mintioned above outlets, doors, windows, can lights ect. unless you have single pane windows you are waisting your money, your return will be around 30 years, not worth it. make sure you use nonexpandable spayfoam around window and doors if needed.
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Old 11-21-2011, 06:11 PM   #11
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


You have the dreaded "Convection currents" Bwahaha. Splits are bad for that as hot air rises and cold air settles. I would spend a few bucks and get a thermal imaging done. You have to look at this as a long term investment and develop a game plan. Once you know the worst areas you can target them as they have the greatest and shortest ROI (return on investment). I would start with the attic insulation and as mentioned seal around any plumbing stacks and do the proper code approved sealing around light fixtures and potlights. Those insulation gaskets that you put in electrical boxes around plugs and light switches on exterior walls are cheap and very effective and HDepot or CTire has them. I would check with Hydro One or Ontario Hydro or whatever they are now if they can recommend any energy advisors they may have on staff or who to get to do a thermalscan.

If you really want to know where your air currents are get some dry ice and let it smoke and you will see them in a hurry. Did this in a hospital with complaining office staff. Fortunately we had a lab with dry ice.
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Last edited by yuri; 11-21-2011 at 06:47 PM.
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:06 PM   #12
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


Actually yeah I should have mentioned that, the top floor is always nice and warm. So yeah I think it's indeed a convection effect. So I guess I can't rule out leaks on the upstairs. Bathroom fan, etc.

My rim joists are also badly insulated, I want to do those eventually. Could those also be a source of leakage? Though there should be a vapor barrier behind there, so they are only a source of cold, not so much air, at least that's my understanding. Guess I can start by doing the cheap/easy stuff to at least rule out obvious stuff, then get someone with a thermal imager and big door fan to do a heat/air leak test.

Never thought of renting a thermal imager either, I will have to look around and see if any of the rental places here have them. Most of them will rent by the hour, and it's not like the process is going to take that long, maybe 2 hours at most. Do all inside while I record it on another camera, then walk outside and do it from outside too. I'm guessing I'm best to do this on a very cold day, and blast the heat in the house, and I will see it very well.

I've never used one before, but do most of them enable to record a video or take photos? Video preferred, as I can just record the whole thing and analyse it more after. Also makes something cool to put on youtube. :P

As for dry ice, good idea. Or would a smoke machine work equally as well? Though dry ice could be fun, never played with that stuff before so now would be my chance.
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:14 PM   #13
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


A smoke machine uses an oil based product as far as I know. Dry ice is very sensitive to temp and air currents and would work better IMO.
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:15 PM   #14
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Tips for finding drafts/cold spots in home


Yes, if the Rim joists have gaps and not insulated, even if you use just R-13 or R-15 kraft faced batts, anything is better than nothing at all.

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