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By Sam McDonald

RISMEDIA, Dec. 2, 2008-(MCT)-Whether you’re looking from an economic or from an environmental angle, it makes good sense to tighten up this autumn.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that plugging holes around doors, windows, pipes and ducts could save you as much as 10% on your heating bill.

One of the primary ways to stop cold air from invading your warm house is to seal doorways with weather stripping and other forms of insulation.

We asked Cary Patrick of Patrick’s Hardware in Hampton, Va., to show us how to stop doorway leaks with the use of commonly available products. Patrick has plenty of experience to share. He’s been selling hardware in Hampton for more than 30 years.

The following tips and others on B2 came from our conversation:

– Use jamb-up weather stripping on wooden, exterior doors. The pieces-a rubber bead mounted on a metal strip–are to be installed on the two sides and top of the door frame where the door and frame meet. Install it with screws or nails, the top piece first, then the legs. Cut it to length using snips or a hacksaw. Pieces should be attached so the rubber side just meets the door, Patrick said. Too tight a seal will prevent the door from closing correctly.

– Install a sweep on the bottom of exterior doors. A door sweep–a metal plate fitted with a rubber or silicone lip–is intended to be mounted to the face of the door at the bottom. Used in conjunction with the aforementioned three pieces of weather stripping, a sweep completes the seal around the door. Again, Patrick recommends that the sweep be installed so the rubber meets the floor, but isn’t pushed up against it. It should stop drafts, but not impede the door from opening and closing.

– Tighten the seal with self-adhesive weather stripping. Foam strips with adhesive backing on one side can be used to fill dead air space between the door and the frame. Use it just inside the jamb, where the door and the jamb meet. Patrick said this type of weather stripping should only be applied in relatively warm temperatures. “In cold air, the adhesive doesn’t stick as well,” he warned.

– On metal doors, check rubber gaskets, replace if necessary. Many modern, manufactured doors come with weather stripping already attached. But rubber gaskets can fail over time. Replacements can be found at hardware or home improvement stores.

– Test your seal. One simple way to see if you’ve successfully tightened your doorway is to use your eyes. If daylight can been seen peeking around the edges of the door, you’ve missed a spot. You can also use incense to check for drafts.

– Move beyond the doorway. Once you’ve tightened exterior doors, attack leaks elsewhere. Seal older, double-hung windows with caulk or self-adhesive weather stripping. Shrink wrap troublesome windows with a commonly available kit. Heat from a hair dryer allows you to seal the inside of the window. Elsewhere, use caulk to fill cracks between baseboards and hardwood flooring.

Prevent Pipes from Freezing

But preventing frozen pipes is much less expensive than the cure. Roto-Rooter recommends that Southerners take preventive action before Dec. 1.

Here’s a cold-weather checklist the company compiled:

– Disconnect outside water hoses. If left connected during freezing temperatures, water in hoses will freeze and expand causing connecting faucets and pipes to freeze and break.
– Inspect outside faucets. If dripping or leaking, make the necessary repairs or call a plumber before a hard freeze.
– Note that when pipes freeze, water pressure builds causing cracks, no matter if the pipe is made of plastic, copper or steel. Even a tiny crack can unleash 250 gallons of floodwater in a single day.
– If your home is equipped with interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets, close them and drain water from lines.
– Cover outside faucets using a faucet insulation kit.
– Insulate pipes in unheated areas. It’s a lot easier to do this on a pleasant day than when cold winds are blowing. Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around exposed pipes.
– Your water heater works harder during winter months. Drain sediment from the tank, which causes corrosion and reduces efficiency.
– Set water heater thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum performance while reducing the risk of scalding.
– Clear leaves and debris from roof gutters and downspouts to ensure proper drainage throughout the winter season. You may have to do this again until the leaves are off of the surrounding trees.
– Inspect and clean basement sump pit. Remove any rocks and debris from the pit then dump a bucket of water into the pit to test the sump pump. If it turns on, empties the pit quickly then turns itself off, it is operating properly.
– Make sure the furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees during the winter to prevent pipes from freezing.

Roto-Rooter has additional seasonal tips available online at

© 2008, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.