One of the most common household areas susceptible to air leaks is the attic. These leaks cause energy waste due to the heated, or even cooled, air escaping your home from unwanted areas. These simple steps will help locate and eliminate leaks from your attic, as well as possible leaks in your ceiling. Thankfully, any leaks you might find in attic areas are generally straightforward and relatively easy to correct. Unfortunately, attics often carry their own hazards, depending on what is stored in them, their condition and their size.
1. If you have a fireplace, extinguish any fire completely and close all dampers as much as possible.
2. Shut down your heating or air conditioning. Be sure that you turn off your furnace and gas water heater, if you have one.
3. Close all of your doors, windows, skylights or other escapes air might have from your home.
4. Place a portable fan so that the air it pushes can move into the house through one open window. Your house is now pressurized and ready to test for air leaks.
5. Fill a bowl with water and head up to the attic, or any other area that you want to test. Dip your hand into the water and move your hand near areas with potential leaks. With your hand wet, it will be easier to feel any moving air and pin point the problems. Be sure to include the attic door or hatch, the area around chimneys and recessed lights in the lower rooms in your search.
6. Write down specific descriptions of found leaks so that you can come back and fix the problem with the appropriate solution.
7. Now, it is time to depressurize your home. So, turn off your fan, open any fireplace dampers or vents that are normally open, and make sure any necessary items and vents are back to their regular settings. Please double check your fireplaces, furnace, water heaters and other critical items that you might have adjusted to test for leaks, because finding a few air leaks is not worth fire or carbon monoxide poisoning because of simply forgetting to return something to normal.
8. Fix your newly discovered leaks with the appropriate solution. This includes weather stripping around doors and windows, caulking for areas with possible exposure to water, expandable foam sealant for insulation or other gaps, insulation and duct tape. Some quick tips and information on fixing those leaks yourself are available on the Energy Star website here.
If in doubt of which method is best where or how to use a specific item please ask a professional. It is better to ask an employee at a local hardware store or pay for a consultation than to make matters worse instead of better. When in doubt, always ask! Be careful and stay safe as you work toward a more energy efficient home.