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Question DetailsAsked on 5/4/2011

How do I stop heat loss through switch plate covers?

I was talking to my neighbor and he said he heard that you lose just as much heat through the gaps around the switch plates, vent covers, etc. as you lose through open doors and windows. Yeah, sounds more than just a little bit out there in left field and I find it very hard to believe. He said he went through his house and put that foam tape strip stuff around every outlet and vent in his home to ensure a good seal between the plate and the wall. Am I the only person who 1) has never heard of this before and 2) thinks it's over kill? I'm all for good insulation, but I'm still wagering that good insulation in the attic and decent windows/doors will save you more in the long run than heat proofing every outlet in your house. Opinions?

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5 Answers

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You and your neighbor both have good points. I agree with you that you have to take care of the big holes in the walls (doors 'n windows) and good insulation. But, your neighbor is right too.

On a cool, windy day - light a stick of incense and walk through the house along each exterior wall. Move the incense stick around each window and door watching for air leaks to blow the rising smoke to be sure that the weather striping is keeping the draft out. And, feel around the moulding to be sure there isn't some coolness. Do the same around each outlet and switch cover - again watching for any draft to disrupt the lazy rise of smoke or feel for any coolness that would indicate that you are losing heat to the outside.

Most home centers have insulating foam pads that go behind the cover plate for switches and outlets. They're a pretty small investment.

Long as you're at it, go outside and walk the walls again. Notice which windows and doors need to have caulking fixed or replaced and look at the boxes for exterior outlets - - do they need to be caulked? Heck, how about the outdoor faucets? Are they caulked/sealed?

Anyplace you have a hole in the exterior wall is a potential leak for air flow or a heat exchange in or out of the house. If you are going to spend big bucks on quality doors and windows then you might as well spend a few extra dollars to plug the smaller leaks.

If plugging the small holes after you have the bigger ones taken care of doesn't seem worth while, then you aren't paying too much for heating and air conditioning. yet

Be warm!

Answered 7 years ago by Old Grouch

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Votes

Thanks for giving me something to think about! I just forked out $6500 for brand new windows last month, so caulking isn't an issue right now. Having spent that much money on windows, makes me realize that spending just a bit more money to take care of the switch plates and vent covers is just a drop in the bucket. And with the rate freeze expiring in IL at the end of the year, better do it now before I spend that money to heat my house. Thanks again!

Answered 7 years ago by Chastity1053

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Votes

I watched the sub-contractor hired by the company who added a room to our house insulate our new room and it was extraordinary. The first thing he did was spray expanding foam insulation behind each outlet. Then he added the insulation between the studs. I was impressed with the work and the new room stays warmer than the rest of the house. I've seen the foam covers for outlets and switch plates, but something more heavy duty may be required to really stop the leaks.

Answered 7 years ago by MichaelL

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Votes

You can also purchase "cutable" foam pieces that cover the electrical boxes, then you fit the plate right over them. Look in your electrical department of the hardware store. We have an older home with the same problem on our outside walls. Worked wonders for us!

Answered 7 years ago by persephone16

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Votes

Removing the switch and outlet plate covers and simply caulking to seal the gap between the electrical box and the drywall/plaster will cut down on most of the air leaks around those devices.

Answered 7 years ago by JGHamm




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