5 Parts Of Your Home That May Be Leaking Heat

You can rely on your home to keep you cozy and warm in cold weather -- but how much of that heat does the home actually retain, and how much goes sliding unnoticed into thin air? If your home has several heat leaks in it, you may be paying unreasonably high utility bills in your quest for comfort. Here are five common thermal leakage points to check out.

1. Garage

Garages pose a special problem for homeowners concerned about heat retention. Cheap metal garage doors not only fail to insulate that bare wall of your home exposed to the outside world, but they actually act as giant conductors that suck the heat right out of the garage.

  • Replace your old, inefficient garage doors with models specially designed to provide insulation. These garage doors usually feature polyurethane or other materials sandwiched between steel layers. Make sure the garage door's seals are as tight as possible.
  • If you can't improve the insulation of your garage doors, focus on thickening the insulation along the wall facing those doors, especially if the interior side of the wall feels cooler to the touch than other walls in your home. You may also need to add insulation in the ceiling above the wall.

2. Windows

Windows can leak heat either through the panes or from inadequate seals around the frame and sill. If you have single-pane windows, replace them with double-pane or even triple-pane windows. Inert gases between the layers of glass add to the insulating effect of these windows. On an older window, caulk any gaps around the frame and check to see if the sill is warped and needs replacing.

3. Doors

Door are infamous for leaking both cool air and warm air, but the leakage tends to grow worse in the winter months as the wood in the door contracts, creating a wider gap between the door and the door frame. Compression seals made of strips of rubber or foam can be fitted around your door to close the gaps. You can also install a sweeper seal along the bottom of the door to prevent heat loss without interfering with the door's motion.

4. Plumbing System

Heat can find its way out of your plumbing pipes and components, forcing you to spend more energy (and money) maintaining a supply of hot water for your household. Lack of insulation around these items is a primary culprit.

  • Pipes that run along the exterior walls of the house are prone to heat loss, because these areas are typically less insulated than interior walls and spaces. Have your plumber inspect your home's plumbing layout to identify such pipes and wrap them if necessary. If you're planning a new house, ask the builder to position the pipes close to the in-wall insulation.
  • Up to 15 percent of a typical household's energy expenditures go toward the water heater -- which in turn may be throwing off a considerable amount of waste heat. Ask your plumber whether you might benefit from extra layers of insulation around the tank. You might even want to replace the tank with a tankless water heating system that heats water on demand, since less heat produced means less heat to be lost.

5. Attic

It is a fact of nature that heat rises -- and in your home, that means your ceiling will be warmer than your floor, and your attic warmer than your ceiling. In fact, your attic may be trapping much of the heat meant for the living spaces below. This means you have to crank up the thermostat to unreasonable levels just to keep from freezing while your unoccupied attic roasts pointlessly. You can waste 30 to 50 percent of your home's heat in this manner.

  • Inspect your attic floor carefully for any tiny gaps or holes that may be leaking heat, especially around electrical conduits or wiring, ducts, pipes, and other items that penetrate the floor. Latex caulk can seal these gaps tightly and safely.
  • If your attic floor still leaks heat after you've plugged the gaps, then you need to lay more (or better) insulation. In many cases you can simply place batts or loose-fill insulation over your existing insulation. 

From investing new garage doors and windows to sealing and insulating the attic, you can turn your home into the efficient source of warmth you always intended it to be. Enjoy your higher level of comfort -- and your lower energy bills!