Every winter you put up with cold drafts and hard to heat rooms. Then you look at your skyrocketing utility bills and decide this is the year to do something about it. Following are some tips on finding and stopping areas where heat is getting out and cold is getting in.
If you can see daylight under your doors then heat is using them to escape. First check your door sweep. This is a flexible material installed on the bottom of the door. Over time, they can crack or break, leaving gaps for cold air to enter. They are cheap to replace, but you will have to take the door down to get at them. Next, see if your threshold needs some adjustment. Turn the screws in the threshold counterclockwise until the gap disappears. You may also need to caulk around or under the threshold.
This is another big source of heat loss. The best bet is to have them replaced with newer energy efficient materials, but if you can't afford that, at least stop the air leaks for now. The easiest way is to cover the windows, inside and out with plastic film. You can make your own supplies with heavy plastic cut to fit and painters tape, but there are kits available with everything you need and instructions. If you don't like the look of that, you can caulk all of the cracks around the windows. Check with someone at your home store and make sure you get removable caulk. You want to be able to get rid of it when you need to paint, or it's time to sell.
Electric Boxes and Switches
This is one you probably haven't thought of, but pass your hand in front of an electrical box on an exterior wall on a cold winter's night and you will feel the problem. Fortunately, this is an easy one. Remove the covers from all outlets and switches in exterior walls and fill the gaps around them with spray foam sealant, available at the hardware store. Remember, you are filling the gap between the box and the drywall, not inside the box itself. If the gap is too small to fit the sealant nozzle inside, just use regular latex caulk. You can also buy inexpensive foam gaskets that are ready made and fit inside the covers.
You most likely have a dryer that is vented to the outside. In addition, you may have other things, such as stove-tops vented through an exterior wall. These can become big pipes full of cold air if the flaps aren't working properly. Check the vents and make sure the flaps aren't stuck open, bent or broken. You may be able to spray it with some lubricant and make it work better, or worse case you will need to replace it. Also, check where the vent goes through the exterior wall and caulk around it if needed.
Pipes that run through exterior walls and your attic are other sources of heat loss. As with the electrical outlets, pull back the escutcheons on all of the drain and supply-line pipes under sinks that go through exterior walls and fill them with foam or caulk. Also, go into your attic and do the same thing with pipes coming through the ceiling. If you can safely gain access, do the same where the pipes go through the roof.
With a little bit of time and some inexpensive materials, you can but way down on the heat loss and cold drafts in your home before the next cold season comes around.