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KATHY’S HOME & GARDEN TIPS – SAVE HEAT AND ENERGY

1. Insulate around recessed lights-Most recessed lights have vents that open into the attic, a direct route for heated or cooled air to escape. When you consider that many homes have 30 or 40 of these fixtures, it's easy to see why you lose heat. Lights labeled ICAT, for "insulation contact and air tight," are already sealed; look for the label next to the bulb. If you don't see it, assume yours leak. An airtight baffle ($8-$30 at the home center) is a quick fix. Remove the bulb, push the baffle up into the housing, then replace the bulb.

2. Plug open stud cavities-Up in the attic, you may need to push insulation away to see if the stud cavities are open. If they are, seal them with unfaced fiberglass insulation stuffed into plastic garbage bags; the bag is key to blocking air flow. Close large gaps with scraps of drywall or pieces of reflective foil insulation ($2 a square foot). Once you've covered the openings, smooth the insulation back into place.

 3. Close gaps around flues and chimneys-Building codes require that wood framing be kept at least one inch from metal flues and two inches from brick chimneys. But that creates gaps where air can flow through. Cover the gaps with aluminum flashing  cut to fit and sealed into place with high-temperature silicone caulk. To keep insulation away from the hot flue pipe, form a barrier by wrapping a cylinder of flashing around the flue, leaving a one-inch space in between. To maintain the spacing, cut and bend a series of inch-deep tabs in the cylinder's top and bottom edges.

4. Squirt foam in the medium-size gaps-Once the biggest attic gaps are plugged, move on to the medium-size ones. Low-expansion polyurethane foam in a can is great for plugging openings 1/4-inch to three inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents. A standard 12-ounce can ($5) is good for 250 feet of bead about half an inch thick.

5. Caulk the skinny gaps-Caulk makes the best gap-filler for openings less than 1/4-inch wide, such as those cut around electrical boxes. Silicone costs the most ($8 a tube) but works better next to nonporous materials, such as metal flashing, or where there are temperature extremes, as in attics. Acrylic latex caulk ($2 a tube) is less messy to work with and cleans up with water.

6. Plug gaps in the basement-The gaps above the outside soil level let air in. Seal those with the same materials you'd use in an attic: caulk for gaps up to 1/4-inch wide and spray foam for wider ones. Use high-temperature caulk around vent pipes that get hot, such as those for the furnace or water heater. Shoot foam around wider holes for wires, pipes, and ducts that pass through basement walls to the outside.

7. Tighten up around windows and doors-In the main living areas of your home, the most significant drafts tend to occur around windows and doors. If you have old windows, caulking and adding new weather stripping goes a long way toward tightening them up. Adhesive-backed EPDM rubber is a good compromise, rated to last at least 10 years. If a draft comes in at the bottom, install a new door sweep.

Try to do attic work on a cool day. Wear protective gear: disposable clothes, gloves, and a double-elastic mask or half-face respirator. Bring along a droplight with a fluorescent bulb, plus at least two pieces of plywood big enough to span two or three joists to support you as you work. To save trips up and down a ladder, try to move up all of the materials you need at once.

KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 11:37 AM by Dean's Team

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