Posted by: lcowie | November 16, 2010

Seal the Easy Stuff First

When conducting a home energy audit, or working on the retrofit improvements, you should remember the saying, “Seal the easy stuff first.” Sometimes sealing the easy stuff first will make all the difference in other areas of the home.

The attic should be your first priority for sealing air leaks. The BPI standards recognize that the attic is likely to give way to the Stack Effect more than any part of the home. If you seal up the attic, there is less of a chance of air movement via the Stack Effect because there will be less of a pressure difference within the home.

The next priority is the basement, which also contributes to the Stack Effect. To really make sure that the air pressure remains balanced inside the home, and that unhealthy, unconditioned air isn’t making its way inside, you should seal up air leaks in the basement. Between the attic and the basement, you are likely to fix most of the air leak problems in the home. Easy enough!

An attached garage connected to conditioned space provides an opportunity for air leak. Generally garages are considered unconditioned space, meaning they are outside the home’s thermal boundary. If there is a gap in the insulation of the wall connecting the garage to the home, the heat (and fumes) from the garage are likely to spread into the home. Not only is this a problem regarding unconditioned air, but if the homeowner keeps gasoline, paint, or pesticides in his or her garage, these fumes can leak into the house, lowering indoor air quality for everyone.

The last areas you’ll want to secure are the pipe/wire penetrations, recessed lighting, and weather stripping. Seal the easy stuff first because that may be all the home needs. If you go straight for the interior, you may miss obvious problems with the homes thermal boundary. You want to give the homeowner the most bang for their buck.



  1. Excellent information. One thing I would add, fireplace chimney’s. If you could fly over a residential area on a chilly winter morning and use a thermal imaging camera, you would see all of the fireplace flues that were left open. Make sure the fire is out completely and then close before going to bed. A tremendous amount of heat is lost by keeping a flue open.

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