Falling winter temperatures typically raise home heating costs—along with concerns over the impact of increased energy use on the environment. Plastics Make it Possible® offers some tips on low-cost, do-it-yourself projects to help cut down on wasted energy this winter—and all year round.
"There are several easy and inexpensive projects to help cut down on wasted energy that drains the wallet," said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, which sponsors the Plastics Make it Possible® initiative. "Many of these projects involve energy-saving products made with modern plastic materials—products specifically designed to prevent unwanted loss of warm air throughout the home."
Many homes have areas that are not sealed adequately, which leads to warm air flowing out and cold air sneaking in. Taking a few moments to help inhibit leaks in these places can provide a quick and easy return on time and money invested. Here are some examples:
Attic: In the attic, the first step is to check to see if there is any missing or damaged insulation that can be readily replaced. Placing sheets of foam polystyrene plastic on top of existing insulation can be an uncomplicated way to help block unwanted airflow. If the attic door or entry hatch is not well sealed, some plastic foam weather stripping can be installed around the perimeter to help keep cold air in the attic and warm air in the living space.
Fireplace: Although designed to heat a room, the fireplace often allows cold air to enter a house. Even when the chimney flue is closed, cold air can seep in and chill the room. An innovative product known as a "chimney pillow," "fireplace plug," or "chimney balloon" can help. A tough, durable plastic bag inflates to fit snugly inside the chimney, forming a plug that can dramatically reduce airflow while the fireplace isn't in operation. After installation, the pillow's inflation tube hangs down into the fireplace as a reminder to remove it before lighting a fire.
Windows and Doors: Adding plastic caulks (such as silicone) around window and door frames—both indoors and outdoors—can help close gaps where warm air escapes. There also is a wide variety of weather stripping—most are made with plastic foam that helps trap air to provide a barrier between indoors and out. For significant gaps, a polyurethane plastic foam sealant expands to fill cracks—it's usually sold in a can with a flexible tube applicator that makes it easy to use. And plastic window film can be applied directly to the glass windowpane, helping to insulate the window while still providing a clear view.
Switches, Outlets, and Ducts: Electrical switches and outlets are less obvious areas where energy can be wasted. Placing pre-cut, inexpensive plastic foam insulation sheets behind switch and outlet plate covers can help prevent air sneaking in and out. A home's unheated areas (basement, attic, garage, outdoors) also should be checked for leaks in heating ducts, which can be a hidden culprit for air loss. These leaks can be quickly sealed with plastic caulks or polyurethane foam sealants, which are designed to fill cracks and crevices while resisting moisture and mildew.
For more information, visit plasticsmakeitpossible.com.