Insulating electrical outlets

I’m a notorious tightwad, so I just did something today that’s guaranteed to save me pennies per month: I insulated my electrical outlets and light switch outlets on my outside walls with some foam inserts I found at the local closeout store.In actuality, I don’t know how much money they’ll save me. Probably more than a few pennies per month, but I doubt if it’ll save me much more than a dollar or two. But still, two packages cost me $3 apiece, so even if they only save me a buck a month on average, they’ll pay for themselves by next fall. And I’d rather spend my money on basically anything other than energy.

I suspect you can get those inserts at most hardware stores. I just happened to find them at Big Lots a day or two after someone told me about them.

The idea is pretty sound: There isn’t a lot of insulation around those outlets, which allows warm and cool air to escape through the empty space. The uninsulated outlets on your outside walls probably isn’t quite as bad as keeping a window cracked year round (I’m not an energy expert, if you haven’t figured that out yet), but the principle is the same. Stick a piece of insulated foam behind the outlet cover, and you’ve reduced the amount of space your inside air has to escape.

More energy saving ideas

I’ve done a number of other things to help me save energy over the years. Most are pretty inexpensive. I installed thermal blinds and thermal curtains. Then I insulated my hot water pipes. I added child safety plates. Of course I also use LED bulbs.

My electric usage dropped 19 percent in 2011, so these things work.

4 thoughts on “Insulating electrical outlets

  • March 21, 2004 at 9:51 pm

    You can also blow insulation into the stud cavities; If it’s done right, it doesn’t leave any gaps. Usually it has to be done by professional installers, but sometimes you can get access from the attic and dump in bags of loose (flame retardant!) insulation.

    Of course, being more expensive, It might not pay.

    Glad to see you back; hope you’re feeling better.

    You and I are but earth.

    • March 21, 2004 at 10:26 pm

      Blowing insulation would be a bit difficult in this house, with where some of the outlets are placed. And it’s definitely beyond both my skill set and ambition.

      Thanks for the welcome back. My doctor did OMT on my neck on Monday and it helped a ton. Then I promptly got sick–nothing to do with the doctor, someone from church shared his cold with me. That was nice of him.

      Now I’ve got stuff hurting that I didn’t know was hurting, but it’s comparatively minor. I can concentrate now.

    • March 22, 2004 at 7:30 am

      Hi Dave,

      Depending on how old your house is, insulating the outlets on the inside of exterior walls can also be a good idea.

      Our house was built in 1917 and has NO insulation (other than the properties of the brick, plaster and lathing). Insulating the outlets with foam inserts made a detectable difference when "feeling" the air around the outlet.

      Interestingly, "This Old House" magazine recommends against using blown insulation if your house has active wiring of the “knob and tube" type. Our house still does for a few circuits and it is in excellent condition (based on our inspection during some remodeling where we have seen large sections of it).

      Good luck with your home!

      – Bruce

  • March 22, 2004 at 9:15 pm

    I did the same (70-yr old house) and it probably made some small difference. But replacing the old double hung windows made far bigger difference–for far bigger $$.

    IMHO the answer to most of these things is return on your investment. Generally the only way you stand a chance to break even is to stick with the cheap improvements. There’s lots of exotic expensive stuff out there with no hope of payback.

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