When planning for winter, look for projects that will reduce home heating costs. Insulation is usually the first thought, while air sealing is a close second. Two critical areas of the home to insulate are the attic and basement. Each area lends itself to a different type of insulation product.
Before adding any insulation, check the attic for air leakage. Warm air from inside the house can leak directly into the attic around recessed light fixtures, exhaust fans, the attic hatch, and penetrations like vent stacks. The warm air can condense on the cold underside of the roof, which can lead to wood deterioration.
Common culprits include electrical receptacles and around baseboards. Foam gaskets can be used to cover electrical receptacle plates. Acrylic latex sealants or urethane foam can be used to seal other leakage openings into the attic.
Use small cans of one-component spray foam for most insulating/sealing jobs around the house. For bigger projects, like sealing and insulating the spaces between the second floor joists in a storey-and-a-half house (a major source of air leakage), use large froth-paks of two-component foam.
Air circulation from the soffit is necessary in removing any humid air that might still escape into the attic. Install vents between the rafters so the required air space is maintained, and make sure the soffit itself is actually vented instead of installing vented aluminum soffit panels directly on solid, unventilated wood soffits.
Unless specifically designed for such use, don't directly insulate recessed potlight fixtures. Doing so can cause heat to build up, which can create a potential fire hazard. The construction of an airtight drywall box around the fixture is a good way of allowing heat from the potlight to dissipate.
A filtered drainage layer is especially useful in fine-grained soils where water can run through faster than normal. A filter cloth, during the service life of the building, can prevent fine soil particles from accumulating behind the drainage layer, which reduces the chances of water leaking into the basement.
Exterior insulation is the better approach, as interior insulation can cause condensation on the basement wall. To prevent studs and strapping from deteriorating, keep them away from direct contact with the basement walls by installing extruded polystyrene insulation to the back of studs, or even to the entire wall. You can also keep the bottom plate off the basement floor and keep the drywall about 50 millimetres off the floor.
When it comes to the interior of a block basement wall, don't insulate it in frost-susceptible soil, like silt. Interior insulation will cause the block's exterior to be cold, and adfreezing (soil frost adhering to the block's exterior) can occur. The combination of frost heave and adfreezing may cause the blocks to displace.
When it comes to insulating and air sealing projects, think of more than just cost savings to justify the expense. Having quality insulation and air sealing in place also means many years of comfort ahead of you.
A programmable thermostat lowers the furnace setpoint when additional heat isn't needed, such as when asleep or away at work. Different models allow for a seven-day per-week scheduling, weekday/weekend scheduling, and even multiple cycles within a day.
A clean furnace filter not only removes particulates from the air better than a clogged, dirty one, it also improves furnace performance by providing less resistance to airflow. While High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are the most effective, they also provide the most resistance to airflow and can compromise a furnace's performance not designed for HEPA use.
Cooler air tends to sink while warmer air rises, as cooler air is denser than warmer air. In the summer, ceiling fans should be set to push air downwards, creating a cooling draft. In the winter, set the ceiling fan to circulate air upwards to avoid the cooling draft (as well as gently mix the warm air with the cool air for a more uniform room temperature).
Techniques like adjusting or replacing hardware and adjusting sash back to square are simple improvements you can do to reduce air leakage.
It can be impossible to find exact replacements, so try to replace like with like (e.g. replace compression gaskets with compression gaskets, etc.) and don't worry if the new part doesn't install in the kerf like the original. You can simply secure weather stripping to the face of the kerf or side of the jambs instead.
Try to remove the interior trim and insulation in the gap between the studs before spraying a low-expanding one-component polyurethane window and door foam (make two passes). The first pass should be tight against the outside trim or trick mold and no more than 25 millimetres deep. Let the foam dry completely. The second pass should also be no more than 25 mm. deep, but inside of the gap so there's an air space between the layers.
If you can't remove the interior trim, apply an acrylic latex sealant around the casing's perimeter instead.