Guide to Residential Weatherization

Caulking weatherization

As the weather continues to cool down, many contractors across the country are likely to see a huge spike in projects involving residential weatherization. Home weatherization involves everything from adding insulation to air sealing to improving the home's ventilation. Weatherization not only helps  homeowners save energy that would otherwise escape, it also helps them save money on their energy bills.

Homeowners who discover a significant "draft" in the home and those who struggle to keep the home at a comfortable temperature in both the winter months as well as the summer months often benefit from residential weatherization.

For you as a contractor, a typical weatherization project will include any (or all) of the following:

  • Multi-purpose fireproof sealantChecking the level of insulation in the home and adjusting it when necessary,
  • Sealing any holes or cracks near the doors, windows and pipes,
  • Fixing and/or replacing windows throughout the home,
  • Assuring that the heating and the air conditioning units are functioning as they should, and
  • Placing an insulated blanket around dated or less efficient water heaters.

Checking & Adjusting Insulation Levels

One of the most common questions surrounding insulation levels is simply, 'How much is needed?' Here, in this graphic provided by the North American Insulation Manufacturer's Association, offers a complete overview of recommended insulation levels by both zones and geographic regions. It is based on both recommendations from the US Department of Energy and recent International Energy Conservation Codes.

Sealing Holes or Cracks Near Entryways

A good rule of thumb for checking insulation around windows and doors is to check for light (you can use a flashlight if necessary) or for air. If either is seeping in through the entryways, it's time to consider replacements.

Be sure to seal plumbing entrances also (for example, under the sink and in the tub or shower).

Replacement Windows

Often, when the home is at least 15 years old, the need for window replacement often surfaces. Following are quick steps you can take to determine whether replacement windows are needed.

  • Frozen window paneIf condensation, frost or ice forms on the windows, this is a clear sign of inadequate insulation.
  • When the home's windows are painted shut or if a prop is needed to keep the windows open, it's time for window replacement.
  • If on particularly warm or cool days, there are warm or cool spots inside the window frame, consider replacing them.
  • If you notice peeling on the home's exterior, this is often caused by improperly insulated windows or by the expansion and contraction during temperature shifts (common in older homes).
  • When the home has single pane glass, uncomfortable drafts around the windows or unwanted sounds coming in, consider window replacement.

There are a number of options available for replacement windows, including full-frame, sash-only, inserts and custom frames. The final decision will often lie with the homeowner's tastes and budget, though.

Water Heater Insulation Blankets

Most modern water heaters have insulation pre-installed; however, the factory installed insulation is found inside the tank, between the metal shell and the actual tank. On the manufacturer's label on the side of the tank, you'll find how much insulation the water heater contains. That number is expressed as an R-value, and a water heater with an R-value below 24 is likely losing a great deal of heat.

If you are not able to locate the R-value on your customer's water heater, a good way to determine whether or not it needs insulation is by simply touching it. If the tank is warm to the touch, it needs additional insulation.

For gas water heaters, wrap the insulation all the way around the water heater, and from the top to the bottom, just below the controller. Gas water heaters should NOT be wrapped at the top due to the heat exhaust which escapes from that area. Further, the insulation blanket should not cover the anode, the controller, the pressure relief valve or the temperature relief valve.

By contrast, electric water heaters do not have an exhaust at the top; therefore, you're free to insulate both the sides and the top of the electric water heater. Just be sure the heating element access panels remain uncovered.

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Photo credit: Chewonki Semester School / Foter / CC BY


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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.