Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MIKE HOLMES: Spotting the cold

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You can usually feel drafts around windows, doors and fireplaces. Or, sometimes you can feel a cold spot along a wall. Feeling a draft or a cold spot is one thing; finding exactly where the cold is coming from is something else.

Sometimes when homeowners feel a draft they'll start to seal everything with caulking, not knowing the exact source of the problem. That's like throwing a handful of darts hoping one of them hits the target. It's not the best strategy, but I get it.

The truth is there are plenty of places in the home that could be causing the draft.

Top draft picks

There are a few known areas vulnerable to drafts. Some of them I already mentioned, such as windows and doors. Replacing the seal on doors and weatherstripping can help. But if the framing around doors and windows is rotted, you're going to have gaps that will let cold air come in.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen contractors install new windows -- top of the line -- over a rotting frame. That's unacceptable. It's wasted money. You can have the best windows on the market, but if the frame is rotted, you've got nothing.

Recessed lights or pot lights might also be a cold spot hot spot. When they're installed on the top floor of a home, holes have to be cut into the ceiling, which means penetrating into the attic space.

Your home's attic is a cold zone -- the temperature in the attic should be the same as the air outside. I hate pot lights in a cold zone. If there isn't enough insulation around the pot light, heat will escape into the attic.

So what can you do about pot light leaks? Make sure there is a vapour barrier in the attic, with the area around the pot light properly sealed to the original vapour barrier with Tuck Tape. And, of course, there must be insulation over the vapour barrier. Also, choose the right kind of pot light for an insulated space -- IC lights.

Also, there should be insulation around electrical boxes located on walls that are part of your home's building envelope. I've seen new homes where the builder doesn't bother insulating these spots at all. You end up with a wall that lets heat escape left, right and centre -- literally.

Who do you call?

Knowing where to target can be tricky. Before you start caulking up a storm, hire a professional to identify draft sources and cold spots.

For example, a qualified home inspector who is an accredited thermographer can use a thermal imaging camera to find cold spots and air leaks, identifying problems such as missing insulation in your walls or around electrical boxes and recessed lights.

A qualified home inspector will go into your attic to make sure there is enough insulation and that there aren't any walls that aren't properly sealed off. The attic hatch, duct registers and plumbing vents should all be tightly sealed. The professional should also check any other vents and openings that might not be properly sealed on your home's exterior, like the dryer vent.

You can also try contacting an energy adviser licensed by Natural Resources Canada to give you some recommendations on how to boost your home's energy efficiency. It might be as simple as insulating ducts that run through cold zones.

An energy audit is another option. This usually involves a blower door test, which can tell the auditor how airtight your home is.

The test is pretty straightforward. A fan is mounted to an exterior door and pulls all the air out of your house. If there are any cracks or unsealed openings in your home, outside air will seep in as the inside air is being sucked out. A smoke pencil can then show the auditor where the air leaks are that are causing drafts in your home.

Remember: When you get rid of drafts and cold spots you increase your home's energy efficiency. So it's worth your time and effort to solve the problem.

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2013 F6

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