Not all home improvement projects are created equal. While remodeling the kitchen or putting down new carpet may pay off when you sell the house, the immediate benefits to you are usually just cosmetic. If you’re looking for a less flashy project that can actually save you cash immediately, consider first fixing your drafts.
Air leaks can account for as much as 20-30% of your energy bills—and not just in the winter. If you live in a part of the country that requires air-conditioning, than you may also be paying for something you’re not getting.
Step one? Evaluate your situation. If you live in a brand-new house (or if the last owner was particularly savvy), you may already be sealed up fairly well. To find out, you can hire a professional to perform an energy audit or get an infrared thermometer to check typical problem areas—windows, doors, etc.
A good rule of thumb is to check out any place where the wall has been penetrated, even the ones you might not automatically think of. That means plumbing and foundation cracks, among other things. Builders have to cut drywall to install electric boxes for plugs, leaving cracks that heat can escape from. Even some recessed lighting poses a problem. Older can lights are vented to keep from overheating, but with today’s light bulbs, all that venting mean is one more way for your heat to escape into the attic.
Once you’ve found your leaks, it’s time to get caulking. A good quality caulk will run you just $5 or less. Remember, however, to be careful where you caulk and how. It doesn’t often hold up well in areas of high heat, and remember your own safety when working around light sockets. When you get to the windows and doors, keep in mind that weatherstripping may actually be required.
Of course, if you’re willing to put a little more money into this project, consider installing new windows. The last few decades have seen drastic improvements in window production, making windows more effective at heat retention, or even solar head reduction, for those who live in warmer climates.
There’s one extra bonus for going the new route. In addition to cutting your energy costs, investing in new windows will also add value to your house later down the line—expect to recoup almost 90% of the costs at sale.