I came across this article written by Dan Chiras of the Evergreen Institute discussing a way to help yourself decrease your heating and cooling bills and make your home more energy efficient.
He says: "the most important thing you should do is to seal up the building. Most existing homes are like Swiss cheese. If you could add up all the tiny leaks in the building envelope – the walls, foundation, and roof – they’d be equivalent to a 3-foot wide by 3-foot high window left open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
I think that is an amazing statement and yet, I am completely aware of how this can be true. One day an energy consultant came to my house and put small pieces of insulation material in all the plugs and light switches. This service was provided either by the state or the electric company, I don't remember which. I'm sure it helped in a small way because he missed one and I can still feel the breeze coming through that one. Got to get out there myself and seal it off because it goes right out to the outside wall of the house where cable was once connected.
But what Dan recommends makes a lot more lasting improvement in my mind. He says sealing the spaces in our homes that have leaks to the outdoors "could easily cut your annual heating and cooling costs by 10 to 30 percent, perhaps more. It all depends on how leaky your home is."
He recommends ways to discover the air leaks in your home, either by hiring a professional or doing it yourself. I am aware that one way to do it is by having an infrared photo taken of your home.
Usually the areas that need sealing are around the edges of windows and where the floors and walls. I just recently discovered where the air space came through the house completely along the baseboards in the kitchen, and I'm now guessing in the rest of the house. My kitchen floor tiles were just replaced and when the baseboard was removed I could literally see light coming in from outside. I often have an influx of ants that come through that way. Now I know why it's been so easy for them.
Dan recommends that clear or paintable silicone caulking to be used in those open places. And don't forget to check doors and put weather stripping on them.
He has written a book: Green Home Improvement.