How To Find Where Cold Air Is Coming From

Written by Angie's List Staff
Updated September 21, 2015
Worker and window
Windows are often a source of cold air intrusion or air loss. Caulking or double-paned windows can help. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Roselle S. of Newport News, Virginia)

Handymen offer tips to help you know where your home is most likely to be infiltrated by cold air.

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Winter weather can spike utility bills and creates chilling indoor conditions. For homeowners, it’s time to check if you’re ready for the drop in degrees. On the frontlines of this fight against the cold is weather stripping and window sealing. Indianapolis handyman Sean McGill and Denver handyman Gary Walker tell you how to tell if your home is prepared.

Go With Double-Pane

McGill says windows are a key contributor to allowing cold air, as they represent much of the surface to the outside. He says homeowners shouldn’t expect single-pane windows to do an adequate job of protecting a home. In fact, McGill says he believes double-pane windows are a necessity and cost-effective if homeowners want to reduce cold air and heating bills.

The Candle Test

There are ways to check any kind of window in the home for air leaks. “Feel around all cracks [in the windows] for wind,” McGill says. “Turn everything off in the house and listen for wind. A lot of time for windows, you can feel the air.”

Walker says he suggests watching the window shades during windy conditions. If the shades are shaking, Walker says, a homeowner can confirm concerns about incoming air.

McGill says another way to test is to take a candle, place it by a window and see if it flickers. Especially check around the trim of a window. The sealing around these areas erode more quickly.

Check Doors

Sight is the best way to determine if cold air is infiltrating your home, Walker says. “A lot of times, you can see light coming through the door,” he says. “Just looking over the door a homeowner can find where gaps exist between the door and the frame.”

McGill agrees with the visual test. “If it still looks good, it’s still good,” he says. “If it looks worn, it’s time to change.”

He says weather stripping in door frames will often break into pieces, which requires immediate replacement. In older homes, it is possible doors may not be equipped with weather stripping at all.

Walker says it’s easy to install weather stripping in newer doors, as the existing material can often be removed and replaced very quickly.

Consult a Professional

For any questions, McGill says it’s best to consult a handyman or to ask a professional at a local hardware store. When hiring a handyman to install new weather stripping, you may be charged by the foot of material installed or a flat fee per window or door.

Have you had trouble identifying where cold air was coming from in your home? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on Dec. 2, 2012. 

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