How to Close Gaps and Insulate Outlets and Light Switches: Energy Saving On a Budget

check out more home winterizing ideals from Curbly

This time a year in MN is all about getting ready for winter. .  In this post we will learn how to seal your electric switches and outlets in the most effect way.  Years ago we had an energy audit from some local gov program.  We paid $30 for it and it was a joke.  They didn't even have thermal cameras and basically just told use we need to get insulation in the attic and new windows.  We have an old house so that was no surprise, nor was it helpful.  They gave us foam electrical outlet switch sealers, child proof electrical outlet plugs (yes they help keep cold air out too) to all of our outlets, and florescent bulbs (which we already had too many off and I'm not fond of the mercury in them.

I had no ideal that outlets were a source of heat loss so that was helpful.  I've felt like we had done all the little things every home owner should do, outside of big expensive projects.  Especially for our outlets and switches on exterior walls.  Turns out there was even more I could have done with our outlets.  We still could spray foam sealant around the outlet  box and sheet rock and even caulk around the outlet covers.  Guess what I'm doing tomorrow?

Much of the heat that is lost from a home during the winter comes from electrical outlets on an exterior wall. These outlets are often overlooked when it comes time to winterizing a home, which is unfortunate because insulating them is very easy and inexpensive.  

Spray Gaps around Electrical Boxes and Switches on Exterior Walls 
Image via The Family Handyman
Electrical boxes and outlets on exterior walls can allow alot of heat to escape.  Sealing the gap between the box and the sheet rock is pretty easy.  
  • Before you start turn off power at the breaker box. and use a noncontact voltage tester to ensure there's no power.  Better safe than sorry!  
  • Also make sure to put your hair back if you have long hair, put on disposable gloves, and safety googles  before starting. 
  • Next, remove the outlet cover.   
  • If the gap between the electrical box and the drywall is less than 1/4 in., fill it with acrylic latex caulk. If the gap is bigger and lopsided, use foam sealant that’s formulated for use around doors and window framing. The minimally expanding foam sealant is so much easier to use because it's water clean up and won't over expand warping anything. 
  • After the foam dries, cut away any that protrudes. The spray foam and the foam gasket can be purchase at the local hardware store very inexpensively.
Insulate Electrical Outlets with Foam Inserts
 Foam gaskets ($3 for a pack of 12 at home centers) won’t completely seal the boxes, but they’ll help. They’re quick to install— just take off the cover plate, stick the gasket over the box, then put the plate back on.

Stick a Child Proof Plug in the Sockets
image via Squawk Fox

Bonus points for using those outlet safety plugs to further eliminate heat loss through outlets. 

Additional Notes: To take the insulating one step further, we'd also recommend caulking the perimeter of the outlet boxes to the surrounding drywall, this will also help eliminate drafts and sound transfer.

How easy was that? Have you tried this yet?  If so I'd love to hear about it in the comment section.

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