Reduce Your Heating Bills
This Winter - Overlooked Sources of Heat Loss in the Home
by Mark D. Tyrol, P.E., www.batticdoor.com - September 2004
Imagine leaving a window open all winter long – the heat loss,
cold drafts, and wasted energy! Well if your home has a folding attic
stair, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, that may be just what
is occurring in your home!
These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause
your heat pour out and the cold outside air pour in – costing
you higher heating bills, causing cold drafts, and wasting energy.
Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the
home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows,
pipes, etc. We apply caulk and weatherstripping to these areas to
minimize heat loss and cold drafts.
But what can you do about the three largest “holes” in
your home – the folding attic stair, the fireplace, and the
clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily,
quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.
Do you have a folding attic stairway in your house? When attic
stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet!)
is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were
there have to be removed. And what is installed to cover this opening?
A thin, unsealed, un-insulated sheet of plywood!
Did you know that your attic space is ventilated directly to the
outdoors? In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and
in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned
house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood!
Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the door.
Try this yourself: at night when it is dark, turn on the attic
light and shut the attic stairway door - do you see any light coming
through? These are gaps - which add up to a large opening where
your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,
52 weeks a year! This is like leaving a window open all year round!
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic
stair cover. An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing
the air leaks. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover
to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.
65% or approximately 100 million homes in North America are constructed
with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative
side effects that the fireplace brings to a home especially during
the winter home-heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers!
Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat
loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing! One remarkable
research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace
in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating energy consumption
A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills
may be more than $500 higher per winter just due to the air leakage
and wasted energy caused by fireplaces!
Why Does a Home With a Fireplace Have Higher Heating Bills? Hot
air rises! Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find, and
when your warm heated air is drawn out of your home, cold outside
air is drawn in to make up for it. The fireplace is like a giant
straw - sucking the heated air from your house. This is like leaving
a window open all year round!
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace
draftstopper. A fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow
that seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow
removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.
Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts:
Have you ever noticed that the room containing your clothes dryer
is the coldest room in your house? Ever wonder why? Your clothes
dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors.
In the winter, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your
dryer and into your house, while your heated air just pours right
Dryer vents use a sheet metal flapper to try to reduce this air
leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide
a positive seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem
is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay
open. This is like leaving a window open all year round!
An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent
seal! A dryer vent seal will reduce unwanted air infiltration,
and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain
closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a
floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint, and moisture to
If your home has a folding attic stair, a fireplace, and/or a clothes
dryer, you can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate
these holes. At Battic Door, we have developed solutions to these
and other energy-conservation related issues. For more information
please visit our website www.batticdoor.com or send a S.A.S.E.
to P.O. Box 15, Mansfield, MA 02048.
About The Author
Mark D. Tyrol, P.E.
Battic Door Attic Stair Covers
PO Box 15
Mansfield, MA 02048-0015