(NEWS CENTER) -- With winter fast approaching, and many people looking for ways to save on their heating costs, NEWS CENTER's Tim Goff met with the Maine State Housing Authority's weatherization guru, Tony Gill, to explore cheap and easy things you can do around your home to save money. Tonight, they tackle the home's exterior.
There are a couple ways to stop cold air from flowing into your home. One cheap fix is all around us at this time of year.
"Anything we can put up against the foundation will increase the R-value. In other words, it has a density to it will slow the transfer of heat through the building. Might as well use your leaves through the winter, save yourself a trip to the dump until spring."
Tony says use your bagged leaves for insulation.
"The plastic [bags] will hold up better. It will also prevent and stop air movement, whereas the paper will stop air movement as long as it is whole, but as soon as it gets water soaked and starts breaking apart, a) You will have to re-rake your leaves in the spring because you'll have to put them in another set of bags and b) You won't be getting the benefit of the air sealing the plastic bag will give you."
There is another fairly cheap solution, that may be a little more aesthetically pleasing and longer lasting -- insulating foam.
"What we've got here is foam in a can. This particular brand happens to be great stuff. There's a lot of brands out there and they are all similarily priced. I can't reccommend one over the other --as far as I know they are all pretty much equal."
"If you hook on to this stuff, you wear it forever. This just screws right on. Normally I would be wearing gloves while putting this on -- we don't happen to have any with these, so we're not gonna, we won't be."
The foam is not harmful to skin, but it does a number on anything it sticks to, so wear clothes you don't care about -- and don't forget the gloves.
Before applying the foam, stuff any insulation that is hanging down and clear out cob webs and dirt so the foam can stick to the surface.
"All you have to do is let it dry for about 24 hours and then you can trim it very nicely with a steak knife."
If the crack is too big to fill in one pass, let it dry for a few minutes.
"...and if it turns out you didn't get enough, all you do is go back and touch up where you missed."
It works well filling cracks in the foundation as well, but there is one thing you need to keep in mind.
"It is UV degradable, if you are going to put it somewhere where the sun is going to hit it you have to protect it with paint or some sort of thing."
Any droppings can be cleaned up in about 15 minutes, but you should wait about a day before triming drips with a knife.
"This becomes a significant air leak and very easy to fix, as shot of foam in the can, again the same stuff we are going to use on the foundation. Ten seconds of your time, significant savings."
Now, is it really worth doing at five bucks a can, with the average house requiring about three cans to do completely? Tony says yes.
"Think of air being a fluid. Turn the house over mentally in your mind, fill it with water. If the hole would leak, it is worth plugging. The strength of warm air rising is roughly equivalent to the strength of water sinking."
Another place to stop cold air from flowing in is the dryer vent.
"Take a few moments to walk outside to your dryer vent, stick your hand in there, make sure there are no wasps in it, stick your hand in there and see whether or not this flapper is operating. If it is not, generally you can just take a stick and clean the lint out of it and it will clean it right up and it will work fine. It should close tightly by gravity when you let go of it."
If you don't have a flapper, you can use a piece of leftover fiberglass insulation to plug the vent, just don't forget to remove it when you dry your clothes.
Another source for heat loss is the garage.
"It is far more important to cut the garage off from the house than it is to cut the garage off from the outdoors. The reason for that is we keep really bad stuff in our garages, including automobiles, which off gas all kinds of things that you really don't want to breathe. So it is a good idea to stop the air moving here. It is much more important to deal with the connection between the garage and the house."
This story was originally posted on November 10, 2008.