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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

Keeping the Cold Out for a Happy New Year
Start the year off with an easy energy-saving fix

What do you mean I need to date my check with the year 2009? Surely, 2008 isn’t gone already. I haven’t even begun to teach you everything that I want you to know about energy efficiency. Goodness, the years do go by fast so we better get with it.

Did you make improvements to your house during 2008 that lowered your utility bills and made your house more comfortable?

I know for a fact that a lot of you did because you have called me at the office and told me so. I don’t think that I have ever received a call from anyone who said it didn’t work. Well, all I know to do is just keep on teaching.

The last two articles were about cold floors. Well, let’s just move up a little higher and talk about walls.

If you have your house thermostat set at a warm temperature, the walls should be warm. If they are not, it simply means that the insulation in the wall is inadequate or that the wall has air infiltration problems. In most houses we’ve tested, it’s both.

If you want to know about your walls, wait for a cold windy day, which shouldn’t be a problem finding this time of year, dampen your hand with a wet washcloth, which makes your hand more sensitive to cold air, and place it about an inch in front of the electrical outlets and switches.

You will probably be amazed at the cold air that you feel. In fact, when you add up all of the points of air infiltration in an average home, it would be like having a large hole in your wall or leaving a window open.

If you do not feel cold air at these locations it probably means that your walls have cellulose or foam insulation or that your house was well caulked and the fiberglass insulation was properly installed.

I can tell you for a fact most of you will feel the air.

So what can you do about it? If there is no insulation in your walls, it may or may not be feasible to add insulation. Check with a local insulation company or call me at my home office and I will try to help you.

If your walls do have insulation but you still feel the air, there is a simple solution.

Go to your local hardware store and buy foam gaskets and install them at all electrical outlets and switches. Also, install childproof plugs in the unused outlets. Of course, to be safe, turn the electricity off before removing the outlet covers. Once you’ve finished this job, you will be amazed at the amount of exterior cold air that you can stop.

When you have finished installing the gaskets, dampen your hand again and go through the rooms of your house and check areas where there are often small cracks, such as along the baseboards, window trimming and fireplaces. In those areas where you find air infiltration, use clear caulk to seal those places. In most cases you are only talking of a few hours of work and very little expense. Trust me, you will be glad you did it. It will make a big difference.

You can also find and fix air infiltration problems around doors fairly easily. Sometimes the leaky door problem is obvious with light streaming through the cracks. But you can find the less obvious leaks using the wet hand method described above.

While it may not provide the best long-term sealing of doors, you can very easily buy and install self-adhesive foam weatherstripping around your doorjamb.

Now run on down to Wal-mart or your nearest hardware store, spend a few dollars on sealing material, and start sealing up your home. You can do it all on a Saturday morning and be done with your good deed for the weekend. That way you can ignore all the other honey-do chores guilt free, and spend the rest of the weekend watching football and feeling warm and toasty.

Well, that’s all for now. I still can’t believe it’s 2009. Happy New Year, y’all!

More Information:

Doug Rye, the “Doctor of Energy Efficiency-the King of Caulk and Talk” can be heard on several different Illinois radio stations. Or you can go to his Web site at, e-mail him at, or call 888-Doug-Rye or 501-653-7931. You can also sign up for a free newsletter and order his “how to” videotapes.


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Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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