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June 18, 2018  |  Login
Caulking and Sealing to Save Energy
By Eric Corey Freed

If you added up all the cracks in a typical house, they would be equivalent in size to leaving an entire window wide open all winter. Much of the heat in your home is leaking out through the ducts, pipes, and outlets in your exterior walls. You can fill the cracks with caulk, sealants, and weather stripping — this is one of the easiest and quickest things you can do to improve your home’s energy efficiency.

In the following sections, I give you a rundown of the major sources of leaks in your home, and what you can do to stop them.


Water pipes, gas lines, and electrical conduits penetrate the walls of your home. Over time, cracks form around the penetrations, allowing a lot of heat to escape. When you’re caulking the cracks around these penetrations, be sure to select a water-based caulk. If you’re doing a remodel, this is your best chance to get access to some of these areas.

Outlets and Light Switches

Those little plastic covers over your light switches and electrical outlets don’t insulate at all. Insert foam gaskets below these covers to help keep warm air from leaking out of these spots.

Recessed Lights

Recessed lights in your ceiling are expressways for warm air to escape and for cold air to come in. Wrapping the fixtures in insulation is a possible fire hazard, so make sure these lights are IC-rated, which means they can have direct insulation contact. Also, be sure to caulk between the light housing and the drywall ceiling.

Wood Framing Plates

Seal the top and bottom plates of a wood wall with a foam gasket or weather stripping between the wood and the foundation or roof. This will seal a large, continuous crack that goes around your entire home.


The average home has a 30% leakage in its ducts. All the joints in your ductwork should sealed with low-toxic mastic (a water-based joint compound you can find in the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning [HVAC] aisle at most hardware stores).

Remember: Avoid using duct tape; ironically, duct tape is not good for ducts.


The thermostat is another large hole in your wall that allows air to leak out. Put a foam gasket behind your thermostat so it reads the actual room temperature instead of the colder temperature inside the wall.

A programmable thermostat is inexpensive and ensures that you run the heater or air conditioner only during specific times. Instead of running the heater all night, a programmable thermostat can turn on the heat a couple of hours before you get up. This can save you 30% off your heating bills. It can do the same in the summertime with your air conditioning, turning it off while you’re away at work and turning it back on before you come home at the end of the day.



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