Weatherstripping a home to reduce heat loss is an inexpensive and effective way to improve comfort and cut fuel bills.
Most older homes and many newer ones will benefit from some new weatherstripping. Old stripping sometimes deteriorate, losing effectiveness.
Windows and exterior doors are the main areas that can benefit from weatherstripping, but don't overlook big heat losers and sources of draft such as electrical outlets and switches on outside walls, loose attic hatches and baseboards with gaps under them.
Weatherstripping should not be confused with caulking, which is generally done from outside the home with a putty-like material that is forced into cracks and gaps.
Weatherstripping is often done from inside the home, using a variety of special materials made from foam, rubber, wood, plastic or metal. The materials are sold at many home centers and hardware stores.
Several materials are sometimes combined to make special fittings, such as door sweeps to seal gaps at the bottoms of doors. These often have a body piece of wood, metal or plastic, plus a sealing strip of rubber or foam. Other weatherstripping materials, such as rolls of felt tape, are for general stripping, such as stuffing gaps under the baseboards.
A good first step is to check the home thoroughly for points that need attention. Make notes or sketches so the correct materials can be bought to solve each problem.
Several methods can be used for checking for air-infiltration points. One of the simplest, best used on a cold, breezy day, is to wet the back of a hand and hold it close to suspected leaks, such as the perimeters of doors and windows. Incoming air is easily detected by the wet skin.
Or hold a strip of tissue near suspected leaks on a breezy day -- if it flutters, there's a leak.
Another good test, done at night with most inside lights turned off, is to have someone go outside and shine a flashlight at points of suspected air leaks. Where the flashlight's light is visible, weatherstripping is needed.
A good, easy-to-install choice for small gaps around windows and doors is a plastic tape sold under such brand names as V Seal and Draft Barrier.
A more-durable V-shaped window weatherstripping material, also self-adhesive, uses rigid strips of aluminum. This Window Fixer stripping is made by Quaker City Manufacturing Co., 201 Elmwood Ave., Sharon Hill, Pa., 19709; (215) 586-4770.
Gaps at door jambs or edges also can be sealed with special jamb weatherstripping, usually strips of metal or wood with a rubber or plastic sealing strip along one edge.
Doors leading to unheated or poorly heated areas, such as garages, attics and basements, should be given the same weatherstripping tests as exterior doors.