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Bust a Gust Featured on Jan 03, 2011


Identify and snuff-out drafts in your home or apartment. We'll show you how.

Individual Result

By keeping chilly air from seeping in, you'll eliminate 175 lbs of CO2 emissions this winter and knock $23 off your heating bill.

Rally Impact

797 people have reduced CO2 emissions by 63.8 tons by completing this challenge so far. That's equal to turning off the electricity of 68 homes for about 1 month!

Accept This Challenge »


Challenge Details

Rally Points

  • Home use of natural gas and petroleum accounts for 6% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
  • Air leaks in a typical home account for as much as to 10% of heating bills, fuel consumption and emissions during the heating season, according to the Department of Energy.
  • Plugging air leaks is one of the cheapest and easiest home fixes that can result in real energy savings.

Carbonrally teamed up with The Daily Green ( ) to find an easy, but surprisingly meaningful winter Challenge: Bust a Gust. The Daily Green’s readers suggested a number of winterization tips — including curling up with a cat in bed with you at night: Smart! — and we settled on this one because it’s actionable, tangible, fun… and it actually matters. We were also inspired by Rallyers Centerpoint and Violet who submitted winterization ideas in the Carbonrally Workshop.

Heating homes in the winter amounts to a sizeable chunk of the country’s carbon footprint, and a surprisingly big chunk of that energy is wasted as it drifts through old ill-fitting windows, cracked calking and the like. An individual can eliminate as much as 175 pounds of CO2 — and as much as 10% on heating bills — every winter by sealing air leaks. The great news here: Stopping drafts is about the easiest DIY home project you can find, requiring little more than caulk and some persistence.

The Carbon Connection
Most homes and businesses are heated with fossil fuel furnaces. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. homes and businesses rely on natural gas for heating while most of the rest rely on oil. Emissions from residential and commercial fossil fuel use have been growing since 1990 along with the growth of the population and the construction of new — often bigger and more energy-intensive — buildings. Spikes in energy use, not surprisingly, follow weather patterns: the colder the winter, the more fuel burned to keep warm. In all, residential energy use accounts for about 6% of fossil fuel usage (not counting fossil fuels burned at power plants to generate electricity for homes, including the fraction of homes with electrical heating systems).

Getting It Done
First, feel for drafts: If you can feel cold air, sleuth out the air leak and plug or caulk it. Take a close look both at any openings in the walls or ceilings — mail chutes, utility connections, dryer vents, outdoor, etc. — and at places where two different building materials meet — such as at door and window frames, at corners, around chimneys and along the foundation.

Then, depressurize your home in preparation for an “incense test”. On a cool, windy day turn off your furnace, shut all windows and doors and switch on all exhaust fans (such as those in the bathroom or over the stove). Then, light a stick of incense (be careful to avoid drapes and other flammables!) and walk along the inside of your home, hugging the exterior walls: Wherever smoke is sucked out or blown into the room, there’s a draft.

The nature of the draft will dictate the necessary fix. The Department of Energy estimates that inadequate insulation in the floors, walls or ceilings amounts to nearly one-third of air leakage, while ducts, fireplaces and plumbing add up to nearly 45%. Leakage from doors and windows amounts to 10% each. The solution, for leaky doors, windows and many exterior plumbing fixtures, is often as simple as caulking or weather stripping. Your hardware store also stocks a range of other products to help you snuff-out common drafts in your home.

While caulking and weatherstripping will tackle many air leaks, tax incentives will pay for 30% of the cost, up to $1,500, for many more expensive fixes like insulation, new doors or new windows. And low-income families should check with state agencies, all which offer weatherization assistance.

Rules of the Challenge
This Challenge asks that you sleuth-out and seal air leaks in your living space. By killing the drafts, you’ll reduce CO2 emissions by 35 lbs per month. If you accept this Challenge, you will accrue 35 lbs of CO2 reduction each month for the 5-month heating season. This Challenge can be repeated once per year.

Learn More
The Daily Green:

DIY Home Energy Audit

Home Winterization Tips, and How to Pay for Them

U.S. Department of Energy:

A Guide to Detecting Air Leaks

How to Fix Common Air Leaks
Tax Incentives for Energy Efficient Insulation, Windows, Doors and more

DSIRE: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

See the Math
Rather than start from scratch, we will be basing our numbers on the Setback Payback Challenge which encouraged Rallyers to install programmable thermostats. As in that Challenge, we’re using the Programmable Thermostat Savings Calculator provided by Energy Star.

Here are the numbers or assumptions we’ve plugged in or changed to get our Challenge payoff:

  • The amount of energy you need to keep your home warm and toasty depends a lot on where you live and how many days a year you need to turn on the furnace. For example, a home in Connecticut needs to use its furnace 6 times as many days per year as a home in Georgia. For the purposes of our calculations, we’ve chosen St. Louis, Missouri as our average American-heating-consumer city. Some of you live in regions where you need to use your furnace more; some of you live where you need to use your furnace less.
  • We are going to assume that you are already using a programmable thermostat to lower your home heating bills, or that you are already careful about turning down the heat when it’s not needed. We will adjust the calculator’s settings so that it has a 68 degree normal temperature setting and a 62 degree setback temperature. The calculator assumes that you will set back your furnace 8 hours each night and then 10 hours during the day, seven days a week. We took out the weekend daytime setbacks.
  • We also changed the fuel costs to match current national averages. We used $2.53 per gallon of fuel oil and $15 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas. (That’s equal to about $1.50 per therm.)
  • Setting the calculator with the above settings, we see that cost to heat the home in St. Louis equipped with a programmable thermostat is about $900 for the heating season. (Actual numbers range from $835 for a gas furnace to $1055 for an oil-burning boiler.) The heating season is assumed to be 5 months long. So heating costs work out to about $180 per month average for the season.
  • The amount of carbon dioxide released when you burn fuel oil is different than the amount released when your burn natural gas. The calculator uses the following EPA conversions: 116.97 lbs CO2 per million BTUs (MBTU) from burning natural gas and 161.27 lbs CO2 per MBTU from burning fuel oil.
  • Again with the above settings, the calculator shows that you would use 56 MBTU per heating season if you have a gas furnace and 58 MBTU per heating season if you have an oil-burning boiler.
  • Multiply the MBTU used per heating season by each conversion factor to find the amount of CO2 released per heating season by homes using the two different fuels. That gives us 6550 lbs CO2 for homes burning natural gas and 9354 lbs CO2 for homes burning fuel oil.
  • Remember that we are calling our average heating season 5 months long. Divide each number by 5 to get CO2 released per month: That gives us 1310 lbs CO2 released per month for natural gas homes and 1871 lbs CO2 per month for fuel oil homes.
  • There are 5 times as many homes using natural gas for their heating as there are homes using fuel oil. To get our final carbon savings, we did a weighted average of the CO2 released by homes using fuel oil and homes using natural gas. That gives us just about 1400 lbs CO2 released per month by homes heating with gas or oil, that already use a programmable thermostat, but which have not yet been sealed against drafts and air leaks. If you heat your home with electricity, your CO2 emissions may be higher.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that air leakage accounts for up to 10% of a homeowner’s annual energy bill. Energy cost, fuel use, and amount of CO2 released are all directly proportional, so we can apply this 10% number to our 1400 lbs CO2 released per month number to get 140 lbs CO2 released per month due to air leakage.
  • Finally, it is estimated that caulking and sealing air leaks results in a 25% reduction in air leaks. Multiply 140 lbs CO2 released per month due to air leakage by 25% to get 35 lbs CO2 per month saved by sealing the air leaks in your home.
  • Based on annual heating costs of $835 for a gas furnace and $1055 for oil, you should save about $21 or $26 each heating season by plugging your air leaks. If you use electric heat, the dollar savings may be higher.

Discussion 20 comments so far

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rallyer166388 about 1 year ago
very nice
wiedniu over 1 year ago
That challenge is cool
rallyer59845 over 4 years ago
fixed up a few windows and doors already!!
rozknows_10562 almost 6 years ago
As an apartment dweller with no thermostat whatsoever it is difficult to contribute to this challenge in a meaningful way. Sorry. Roz Knowlton
jburrr80 over 6 years ago
Spending a little money on ecofriendly insulation under my house has reduced not only the amount of time that i run the heat and air in half, it has also helps keep unnecessary moisture in the home away which has cut down on the amount of allergens AND colds!
delysiddaniels over 6 years ago
Weather stripped the doors and windows, Rock!
GoingGreene over 6 years ago
I eliminated the draft in my office too.
MaverickO over 6 years ago
Thank you for the information. Cash for Clunkers didn't start and stop with cars, the program also applies to appliances. You can get a rebate, until the program runs out of money, of $50 to $250 depending on the appliance you buy. You can check out the government website for <a href=" ">Energy Savers</a>, and definitely all Energy Star rated appliances are on the list. Some won't even send you running for payday loans or credit cards, believe or not – and the rebate helps, too. It stimulates some spending, and that is good for the economy – and you get to save money on your power bill. That's win-win-win.
phoenix24453 over 6 years ago
In Boston and its been cold, but we have sealed all of the windows, use a doorstop to block heat that escapes from under the door. And have a carpet on the wooden floor to keep heat from seaping into the garage. We will save a ton of money, our heat stays on 61 and it has been the cheapest winter so far.
Croe almost 7 years ago
Learning the drafts of a new-to-us house...we keep the thermo set on 65 and wear layers at home-and use microfiber blankets when sitting to read, watch TV,play games etc. Have tightened up windows. planning to add plastic discretely to some windows today-as I sit it is 8 degrees F outside!
rallyer30375 almost 7 years ago
Our drafts are near the windows so we covered with plastic and also lined all of the doors with extra foam found at Lowe's or Home Depot.
salsal99 almost 7 years ago
We found that the coldest draft in our basement comes through the electricity plug holes. due to this American Wood/Drywood/Gypsum/cardboard house contruction, the house is very drafty, and the wind can come right through any holes such as electric plugs. We have simply put sticky tape over all the plugs, and now there is no more draft.
MeSeLf almost 7 years ago
Check any recessed lights for draft. Especially in homes with forced air heating systems of any kind. The draw from your return air can pull air them quite fast. Ive seen metered flow of up to about 16 cfm come out of those things. Just make sure your using lighting that won't heat up if you decide to seal them up.
KendraPerkins almost 7 years ago
I will try this one. This challenge!
maineac almost 7 years ago
Been there, done that... Maine gets very cold if you don't!
Administrator almost 7 years ago
Check this out: "Cash for Caulkers":
tdrakewind_97068 almost 7 years ago
I recently redid all the trim in my house. Once the old trim was off I could see that there was nothing between the window units and the rough wood frame, just space. Cold air streamed in like a waterfall. I filled every space all the way around all the windows with expanding insulating foam and stopped the leaks instantly.
egahala almost 7 years ago
Great challenge!
Ice almost 7 years ago
Yay i was 17th to accept this challenge!!!
outsol almost 7 years ago
you've seen the twin draft door guards on the tv commercial? somewhere between $10 and $25 plus shipping depending on the package. when my landlord would not replace the stripping along the bottom of my entrance door to my apartment I improvised. get a length of the split pipe insulation. most come in 60" lengths. Cut it in half (my door is a 30" door) and slip it into an old bath towel or t-shirt or make a sleeve from inexpensive material if you are handy with thread. mine cost about $3 for each door and have already paid for itself in heat pump dollars.