An infrared laser thermometer shows the temperature of a window casing.

Steve Jasiecki

This recent winter storm has brought lots of snow and bone-chilling temperatures. As the snow piled up and the wind howled, furnaces worked overtime to keep buildings warm. With these frigid conditions, cold air can seep inside a house, causing cold drafts and heat loss.

To compensate for this, the thermostat calls for more heat to keep the building at a comfortable temperature. However, every time the heat comes on we know it’s costing money.

On average, heating and cooling a home accounts for about half of residential energy consumption. To mitigate this cost, we insulate our walls, ceilings and floors, and caulk our doors and windows, filling in cracks and crevices where air can get in.

Over time, insulation can settle and caulk can break down, letting air seep in through small cracks and creating cold drafts. This is especially true in older homes. Finding the source of these drafts can be difficult.

An inexpensive instrument you can use to help detect air leaks is an infrared laser thermometer. They are safe and easy to use. Simply point the laser at an object you suspect is leaking air, squeeze the trigger, and a digital readout will tell you what the surface temperature is. The device works by sensing the reflected infrared energy of the object you are targeting. It then converts that information to a numeric value and gives you a temperature reading. The laser is only used to help pinpoint the area you wish to measure.

This device will help you determine if your doors and windows need caulking or if extra insulation is needed.

The cumulative result of small leaks can be the equivalent of leaving a window open a couple of inches allowing heat to escape. Filling in these small gaps is like closing that window.

Infrared thermometers can be purchased at most home improvement and hardware stores. There are many other uses for an infrared thermometer. In the summer you can test to see if your air conditioner is working properly, you can read the temperature of your oven, grill, brake pads, electrical devices, just about anything. Just remember, the device measures surface temperatures, not core temperatures, so it cannot not tell you if the roast beef in the oven is done.

Eliminating drafts makes for a much more comfortable house and reduces energy cost. Identifying problem areas is the first step toward correcting them.

Sustainable Downbeach is working toward creating a healthier, friendlier community with an eye on protecting the environment. For information or to get involved see Sustainable Downbeach on Facebook.

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