Realty Times – by Phoebe Chongchua
Copyright © 2004 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved.
It’s the unthinkable, leaving the door wide open in the chilling winter season. Yet surprisingly many homeowners are doing something very similar to that when they overlook the largest holes in their homes.
The clothes dryer, attic stairway and fireplace may not typically come to mind as escape routes for air, but they can be exactly that, as well as a costly expense to your heating bill.
“The clothes dryer exhaust duct goes right outside through a four-inch diameter exhaust pipe,” say Mark Tyrol, Battic Door Attic, Stair Covers in Mansfield Massachusetts. Tyrol says the small metal trap door that opens and closes can get stuck open or blown open, “It’s just like having an open window. You’ve got a four-inch diameter hole that’s just letting all your heat out through the dryer and letting all the cold air in.” That’s why sometimes the coldest room in the house can be the laundry room.
Tyrol discovered a product that his company now sells that prevents air leakage. The Clothes Dryer Vent Seal costs under $20 and helps keep out more than just cold air.
“It will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape,” Tyrol says.
A second common culprit for heat loss is the attic stairway.
“When attic stairs are installed, a large hole approximately 10-square feet is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood,” explains Tyrol.
Because attics are often ventilated directly to the outdoors, in the summer they are extremely hot and in the winter they can be freezing and if only a thin sheet of plywood separates the attic from the house, there’s little protection from heat loss.
Tyrol said that gaps around the door are often visible.
“Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door — do you see any light coming through? These are gaps that add up to a large opening where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day. This is like leaving a window open all year round,” warns Tyrol.
An easy, do-it-yourself installation product that costs $29.50 provides a seal and keeps the cold air out. Insulation can be added over the Attic Stair Cover to restore the insulation that was removed from the ceiling.
The third significant area of heat loss is through the fireplace. A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the air leakage and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.
“A lot of fireplaces have dampers that you open and close and they’re not designed to be airtight, so the chimney acts like a giant straw and it pulls the heat right out of the house,” says Tyrol.
But the use of an inflatable, non-flammable pillow that can be placed up inside the chimney can block air from escaping.
“What it does is seal the fireplace airtight so that none of your heat can go out of the chimney and none of the cold air or toxins, such as the things that are inside the chimney, insects, sounds, any of that can come back in the house,” says Tyrol.
The fireplace draftstopper sells for $45 and is completely safe — even if you were to accidentally light your fireplace with the pillow still in place.
“First of all there’s a bright reflective orange, I’ll call it a warning label, it’s really a reminder to deflate it and remove it. But if somehow that’s overlooked, as soon as the fire heats it will just fall down on top of the fire and it’s non-flammable so it will just smother the fire,” explains Tyrol.