Monique O’Grady is with the Alliance to Save Energy. One of the parts of her job that she clearly enjoys the most is helping people save energy—and therefore save money! One quick and easy way to avoid heat loss in winter and cooling loss in summer is to seal outlets in your home.
It’s surprising how many outlets haven’t been properly sealed. They were either placed in the home before modern green techniques were available, or the sealants that were put in place have failed. Either way, it’s time to seal up those outlets and save yourself some money. It’s good for the environment, too!
While outlets are necessary—they’re your conduit to a comfortable living area when spaced throughout rooms to allow access to electricity—they’re unattractive and so are often placed where furniture might cover them up. So with “out of sight, out of mind” firmly operating for most of us, it’s easy to forget that they’re there. Meanwhile, they’re busily sucking up whatever air is inside those rooms: you’re losing heat in winter through these outlets, and air-conditioning in summer. You’re wasting energy and you’re raising your utility bills needlessly.
So what you want to do is plug those outlets so that you can stop the rush of air and save money.
When you look at an outlet, what you’re really looking at is just the faceplate that your electrician has screwed in place over the outlet. This faceplate is more attractive than the outlet itself, and it keeps you and your family reasonably safe from electric shock, as long as you don’t touch it or place anything inside it.
The real problem, says O’Grady, comes from the holes in the wall that are located behind your outlet’s faceplates. There’s almost always a significant gap there, and more frequently than not, there’s not enough insulation there, or not enough insulation in place to properly seal it up.
The best and the easiest way to insulate your outlet, says O’Grady, is to choose the foam gasket that best fits into your outlet. This is an inexpensive and simple fix, because all you really need is a screwdriver and the foam gasket. You already have the former, no doubt; and the latter is only about a dollar for each gasket.
The only tricky part is the size. Gaskets come in different sizes, and so it’s naturally important to measure your outlet first and bring the measurements with you to the hardware store to get the right size gasket. There are other ways of insulating: you may choose to use caulk or foam insulation as well.
Whatever insulation solution you choose, there is one absolutely essential rule: always turn off the power breakers at the circuit box to prevent shocks before working on your outlets!
Once you’ve turned off the power, you can safely remove the faceplate and proceed to fill that empty space behind it with your foam gasket, with foam insulation, or with caulk.
One even easier tip that O’Grady shares: you know those safety plugs that they sell to keep children from hurting themselves by inserting something in the electrical outlet? They’re not just for childproofing! Put them into any unused outlet for extra insulation. Otherwise you’re seeing air escape into the holes that the faceplate and outlet are so easily providing.