The “Golden Key” to Fixing a Cold, Uncomfortable and Drafty Home May Not Be What You Think

januaryWe meet with many homeowners who have cold and drafty rooms in their house and do not know realize how to solve this issue. Many think the best solution starts with an expensive window and door replacement project. Unfortunately, many people end up spending a great deal of money on replacement windows and doors to alleviate this problem only to discover that they still have a cold and drafty house after the new windows and doors are installed. And while, it is true, that the new windows and doors on the market today are true marvels of thermal resistance, it does not mean that your home will cease to be cold and drafty after installing them. Which is just what one of our clients discovered after she had new windows installed by another contractor in her daughters bedroom. “Her room was so cold and drafty at night that we needed to find a way to keep her room comfortable,”  she related “we ended up buying top of the line replacement windows only to realize that her bedroom was still cold and drafty after the installation”.

What this homeowner did not realize is that the single biggest contributor to the cold and draftiness of her daughters bedroom was not the windows. The “Golden Key” to fixing her daughter’s cold and drafty bedroom was to be found in the attic. “No longer does an old house, or even a new house, have to be cold, drafty and difficult to heat,” says Fred Lugano in Fine Homebuilding Magazine. In “the attic are the keys to lower heating bills and a more comfortable house”

In order to better understand why all the leading experts agree that the attic is the “Golden Key” to eliminating a cold, uncomfortable and drafty house you must be aware of two basic concepts of building performance.

The first concept to know about is the stack effect, in which the warmer air inside your home is forced to rise to the uppermost portions of your house. Next, you greendream2need to understand that there exists a building envelope which is the physical separator between the interior and the exterior environments of any building. So, as the warm air in your home forcibly rises it will meet the upper envelope, or in this case, your upper ceiling area. If this envelope has been penetrated or left unsealed (can lights, bath fans, attic access panels are great examples of penetration) warm air will be forced to escape. This, in turn, produces a giant vacuum effect throughout your home which will forcibly suck the cold, outside air into your home through the weaker and more susceptible parts of your lower building envelope (like rim joists, doors and windows and anywhere else that is not properly sealed.) This giant vacuum effect — sucking cold, outside air into the home — is the cause of the drafts in your home and not your doors and windows or some other perceived phenomenon.

If you want to test this in your own home, wait for a next cold day when there is not a breath of wind outside. Next, put your hand near your doors and windows. That frigid rush of air you feel will not be a breeze from any wind outside but the force of cold, exterior air being sucked into your house by the giant vacuum effect. The best way to eliminate this and stop the drafts is to seal the penetrations in the upper building envelope of your home which will prevent the warm air from forcibly escaping and causing the giant vacuum effect in the first place.

The Golden Key to fixing a cold, uncomfortable and drafty home is to seal the unsealed penetrations in the upper building envelope and then insulate properly.

storageThe good news is that by doing these things it is estimated that you can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% on your total annual energy bill). If you would like to find out why your house is cold and drafty and how to solve it, contact us — we have the thermal cameras to identify the issues and expertise to make your home warm and cozy. For just $125 for existing clients or $175 for new clients, we will provide a Cold and Draft Assessment, which includes a detailed listing of all cold and draft issues, thermal imaging and a visual assessment of the attic.

Contact us today to schedule a Cold and Draft Assessment for your home.