April 2006
Protect Your Basement, Wallet from Leaks

In one word, how would you describe your basement? How about stuffy, cold, wet or smelly? Any of these words could be a warning sign for multiple problems in your basement.

Basements with mold growth, increased humidity, colder temperatures and water leaks are less efficient. Whether your basement is finished or not, a considerable amount of your money could account for wasted energy.

Check for Leaks

Leaks in your ductwork cause your heating system to work harder. Heated air that escapes into your unfinished basement wastes energy, adding to your gas bill.

  • Inspect the ductwork. The joints should be sealed using a paste, like mastic, and the ducts wrapped with R-6 duct insulation.
  • Wrap your water heater. Using a water heater insulation wrap reduces standby losses from the tank. Avoid covering the top.

In a finished basement:

  • Check the windows, if any. Use a silicon caulk to seal the cracks between the wall and the window frame.
  • Look for spider webs, a sign for drafts, in corners and ceilings. Adding insulation to basement walls and ceilings can help. R-5 to R-9 insulation is recommended for basement interior insulation according to the International Energy Conservation Code's requirements.

Control Moisture

A properly sealed, insulated and moisture-protected basement adds to your home's efficiency. Getting rid of moisture problems also protects your family against poor air quality. To control moisture in your basement, it's best to fix any problems at the source.

  • Fix outside drainage problems. Check around your home's foundation. The soil next to the foundation should slope away from the house. Also check the gutters. Add extensions if needed to keep water from draining next to your home's foundation.
  • Condensation draws to cool, concrete walls and floors, especially during the humid months. Waterproof your walls and floors by adding a coat of vapor barrier paint.
  • If your basement has moisture buildup, consider a dehumidifier to help reduce condensation. Dehumidifiers can be expensive to run. When choosing a dehumidifier, match its moisture-removing capacity to the size and dampness of the space. Also, run the unit on its lower settings first to avoid continuous operation.
  • If your dryer is in the basement, check it's venting. Venting should be to the outside of your home.
  • Exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens help prevent moisture buildup. Make sure the fans are vented to the outside.

For more information on adding value to your home's basement, log on to the U.S. Department of Energy's website. Or read last month's issue of The Walton EMC Gasette for tips on Getting Rid of Household Mold.

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