Find the Leaks to Improve Home Heating Efficiency

Our house was built in 1964. Before we moved here in 2004 we looked at quite a few houses, mostly newer homes, and we even looked at several that were under construction. One of the things that impressed us about the older house is that it seemed so much more “solid” than most of the newer ones. The beams underneath and in the attic are huge. But we’ve found that many of the gaps in the house are huge as well. The insulation is definitely lacking here. We’ve added attic and crawlspace insulation, but there’s not much we can do about the weak insulation in the exterior walls. While our exterior doors are heavy, solid wood, the shrinking and swelling over the years have left the doorways drafty. We’re slowly replacing the original single-pane windows, but so far we’ve only gotten to 5 out of 20.

In some places, the drafts are obvious, but we’ve often wondered where all the leaks are. We’ve considered a home energy audit, but they’re not offered by our energy company and an independent contractor charges at least $350. It’s probably money well spent, but other household repairs and projects always seem more pressing.

Enter the Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector. My husband received one of these as a gift for Christmas and so far it’s been quite revealing. You aim it at any area of your house and move it around to see the change in temperature. It shines a colored light where it’s aimed and you can set it to change color at specified temperatures. We’ve found a significant variation in temperatures between the kitchen wall and kitchen door. My husband has been talking about “cold spots” on the kitchen floor and sure enough, as he ran the light across it, the color kept changing — warm/cold/warm/colder.

I’m sure there are more sophisticated leak detector’s out there, and more expensive ones as well. But this one is helping us better identify some of our problem areas and probably more importantly, is providing the incentive to go ahead and do something about it. When faced with the numbers, it’s hard to ignore.

Pretty soon, I imagine, he’ll make a thorough sweep of the house with the leak detector and take note of our greatest problem areas. Once we have those pinpointed, we can begin working on cost-effective solutions to improve our home’s efficiency.

As with many things, saving money in this case is also good for the planet. Wasted energy not only drains our wallets, but our resources as well. Have you had any success with finding and sealing off leaks this year? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.

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