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When you help repair the house of a family member, friend, or neighbor in need of a helping hand, you’re truly giving in the spirit of Christmas. Simple fix-ups don’t have a lot of out-of-pocket expense, and the good will lasts forever.
Sealing up air leaks around the house will save on energy bills all year long. Image: Veer/HouseLogic
Staying warm this winter is more than just cranking up the heat; you’ll want to prevent air leaks — a leading cause of drafts, cold spots, and high energy bills.
You can help someone stay toasty — and save on their energy bills — by sealing up air leaks where they’re most likely to occur: around windows and doors.
Spot air leaks by temporarily turning off the HVAC (to prevent blowing air), then holding a burning stick of incense near door and window frames (make sure it’s a fragrance you like!) Watch the smoke for movement that shows air is penetrating the window or door seals. Note the problem spots.
Add new weatherstripping to block leaks. Remove the old weatherstripping and install the new stripping — you can cut it to length with a pair of scissors (use tin snips for bronze weatherstripping). Allow an hour per window for installation.
Bronze weatherstripping ($12 for 17 feet) is good for repairing leaking and rattling wood windows. It has a V-shaped cross section that acts like a spring to hold window sashes tight in their frames and fill up small gaps, yet the flexible shape lets the sash move freely.
Peel-and-stick vinyl weatherstripping is good for vinyl windows. It’s inexpensive ($5 for 10 lineal feet) and easy to install, but it doesn’t last very long. Adhesive-backed EPDM rubber ($8 for 10 feet) costs a bit more but will last 10 years.
Pulley seals ($9 a pair) prevent air leaks on older windows by blocking the place where sash weight cords disappear into the frames.
Door thresholds have rubber gaskets that seal against air leaks, but they get a lot of use and frequently wear out. You won’t have to replace the entire threshold — just remove the worn gasket and take it to your hardware store or local home improvement center for a matching replacement. A new threshold gasket costs $3 to $5.
Don’t forget — proper weatherstripping works in the summer, too, preventing cool, air-conditioned air from escaping. Your “Days of Christmas” gift will keep paying out in energy savings all year round!
Got an idea for helping out a neighbor or family member with home improvement and maintenance chores?
has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.