Is it just a coincidence that “ceiling” and “sealing” sound so much alike? Well, yes—yes it is, but it’s still a handy way to remember the importance of air sealing your home from the top down.
“Think of it like closing the damper on a fireplace, which leaves the smoke with nowhere to go,” said Darrell Marks, an Energy Advisor for Kankakee Valley REMC. “Sealing the ceiling keeps the warm air from leaving the house through the holes around pipes, wires, light fixtures, and the like, so it doesn’t pull in the cold air from around the gaps and cracks at the foundation.”
Think of sealing your home at the top like putting a nice, warm woolen hat on your noggin. It’s an effective way to keep the heat right where you want it.
Leaving the ceiling unsealed, though, is like leaving your front door open in the middle of winter.
“You have a situation called stack effect where warm, conditioned air rises and can escape into unconditioned areas. This can happen at any type of opening or connection in the ceiling,” said Marks. “You want to keep the air you’re working to condition inside the house. Otherwise it’s like Mom always said, you end up trying to heat the whole outdoors.”
While it’s not likely you’ll succeed at warming up the whole outdoors, odds are good you’ll sure make yourself a whole lot less comfortable this winter—especially with your bill. Fortunately, sealing safeguards your home against that. And if you’re a little handy, you can probably tackle the job yourself.
“It can be easily done, especially if you’ve got a home improvement store in the area,” said Marks. “Larger cracks or gaps can be sealed with expandable foam, like Great Stuff™, which is a common brand. It comes in an aerosol can, and you attach a straw to put in the gap. Smaller seams or cracks can be filled with regular silicone caulk or weather stripping tape. Just be careful about what’s being used where to avoid fire hazards.”
Taken as a whole, your ceiling covers a lot of square footage. So where should you begin?
“Start with the biggest areas first,” said Marks. “Attic hatches especially, which a lot of times are in the closet or hallway. It’s not such a big deal if they’re in an attached garage, because those usually aren’t conditioned.”
If you decide not to do it yourself, though, don’t feel too bad—some cases require a trained eye, especially if the issue lies with seams between conditioned and unconditioned areas that don’t have weather stripping. Those can be tough to spot.
Marks offered pointers on catching a few other telltale signs of incomplete sealing.
“If you drive down the street after a snow, if you can see the roof trusses with snow melt in between then you know there’s a lack of insulation or major gaps,” said Marks. “That’s where you can get ice damming, too. The melted snow runs down the roof and freezes again at the edge. That ice builds up and keeps water from running off.”
Whether you decide to hire outside help or do it yourself, when it comes to sealing your home it’s best to start at the top. If you’d like to learn more, contact your Energy Advisor today.