weatherstripping

Weatherstripping windows and other areas where gaps exist can help keep out cold air and save homeowners money on heating bills.

A home is a big investment — for most, the biggest of our lives.

You want your digs to be comfortable, and you don’t want to spend more money than necessary on heating and cooling.

The top tip on a Homewise blog about keeping your house warm includes a warning that air leaks can reduce home energy efficiency by up to 30 percent per year. “One of the quickest and least expensive fixes that can have an impact on your energy bill,” the housing nonprofit says, “is to caulk, seal, and weather strip all seams, cracks and openings to the outside, including those around doors, windows, chimneys, places where pipes or wires exit the walls.”

But when you go to the hardware store, the array of weatherizing products can be confusing.

Dave Seymour, general manager at Big Jo True Value Hardware, said during a tour of his store that a product called Great Stuff, an insulating foam sealant, can help.

“It’s used to fill gaps around windows, but you have to be careful with the full-expansion stuff,” he said. “If you use it around window or doorjambs, it can distort the wood.

Above those spray cans is a big selection of stick-on foam weatherstripping. These are simple to use but can be difficult to apply in a straight line, and they leave a sticky residue.

Door sweeps, which attach along the bottom of the door on the inside and cut leaks, are a big deal and many can be found for under $20. Seymour added the type with a nylon brush sweep that bothers mice — they can chew through just about everything else.

What if you have a screen/storm door that doesn’t fit perfectly and there’s a slight gap on the top half of the closed door? Seymour recommends the kind of weatherstrip that has a rubber bead along a metal strip. “You snug the rubber against the door and then fasten the metal in place. It’s much better than the foam stick-on strips,” he said.

They run about $15.

Those also are advocated by Fritz Denny, repair program coordinator for Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity.

“I’m a carpenter by trade and the easiest weatherstripping to do is what we call jamb-ups, which are aluminum strips with a rubber bead,” he said.

Another possibility is a device with a brass V-strip — “a durable plastic or metal strip folded into a ‘V’ shape that springs open to bridge gaps,” according to a weatherstripping guide at the This Old House website. They are often used along the sides of windows and at the top and sides of doors.

Central New Mexico Housing, based in Albuquerque, runs a home weatherization assistance program for people living throughout the central part of the state and north to the Colorado border.

“When we receive the application, there are certain categories that earn you higher priority points, such as if there are smaller children in the house or there are elderly or disabled people,” said Debbie Pino, the organization’s intake manager. “You also get priority points for energy burden: your income versus how much you’re paying for heating and cooling.

“That’s how we rank the applications, and when your name comes up on the list, we go out and do an energy audit on the house.”

Lead assessor Joe Wright said weatherstripping is almost never the only thing they do.

“Even if it’s a newer house and it just needs weatherstripping, we also take care of health and safety measures. We replace smoke detectors and install a carbon-dioxide detector and a ventilation fan,” he said. “That’s the minimum job we would do.”

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