One of my blog readers reminded me that I should write about using child safety caps on the electrical outlets on exterior walls of homes. They do help stop cold drafts and save energy in some houses.
By exterior walls, I mean the walls of your house that stand between you and the great outdoors. They are the walls that have windows in them.
The electrical outlets and switch boxes that are inside of the exterior walls do not leave much room for insulation in that part of the wall. Because of the lack of space inside the walls, there maybe no insulation stuffed between the electrical box and the outside skin of the house. That is why folks notice a cold draft at these locations.
If you can feel cold air coming in during the winter, you know that heat is also escaping and costing you money.
Three things you can do to stop the cold draft
1. Put child safety caps in any outlets that are not being used. They safely fill the holes in the outlet where the cold air is getting in. As an alternate, you can replace the outlet covers with the kind that have a sliding cover over the outlet holes. They are also made for child safety.
2. Remove the outlet cover plate that is held on by a screw or two. Insert a foam outlet cover gasket under the cover plate and put the cover back on. These help seal the outlet cover and add a small amount of insulation. These insulating foam gaskets are also available for wall mounted light switches too.
3. Get a can of foam insulation sealant and squirt some in the wall behind the outlet. To get the foam where you need it, remove the outlet cover and poke the tube of the foam spray can in past the outlet. It is a good idea to shut the power off at the circuit breaker before starting this job. The same method is good for wall switches too.
You can expect to hear some bad words from who ever is stuck with job of replacing a worn out outlet or light switch after it has been foamed in place. The foam can be dug out easily enough it just adds some clean up work to the job.
What about interior walls?
Interior walls are not as much of a problem because they just act as partitions between rooms inside the house. Interior walls are not usually insulated because there is not much of a temperature difference from one room to the next in most homes.
If interior walls do have insulation inside them, it was intended to help muffle the movement of sound from one room to the next. However, since interior walls are mostly hollow, they can act as skinny chimneys. These skinny chimneys make a pathway for warm air to sneak in around electrical outlets and rise up into the attic.
This flow of warm air up and out of your home will make your heating bill higher than it should be. You should stop this escaping of warm air up and out of your living space.
There are two ways to stop this flow of air. You can cut off the flow of air at a choke point at either the top or the bottom of these skinny chimneys.
The best way is to use a can of spray foam insulating sealant to seal the tops of the walls where they connect to the attic. It may be the best way, but some folks do not like the idea of crawling around in their attic searching for wall top openings to seal. This job usually involves the mess of digging through the attic insulation. There is also a risk of putting you foot through the ceiling if you make a miss step off the rafters.
The other way to attack the problem is from the bottom by sealing wall switches and outlets and along the baseboards. For outlets and wall switches, you can use the same methods listed above.
The wallboard or the plaster part of the wall does not actually go all the way down to the floor. A baseboard, trim wood or a plastic cove base covers the gap between the floor and the wallboard. If you have any visible openings between the floor and wallboard, they need to be sealed. You can use caulking or spray foam for this job.
Yes, I do love playing with a can of spray foam.