The Ecoflap

Easy-fit letter box draught excluder

Author: heather (page 1 of 6)

Energy efficiency: A to Z of draughtproofing

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is the goal for every home. Consider the forms of energy householders use, mainly gas and electricity, oil, coal and wood, with niche use of other fuels. All of these fuels come with a cost, both financial and environmental. Aiming for optimum energy efficiency will bring down bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

Some choices you can make through developing good habits at home (more on that later), others are made for you by the manufacturers of the products you buy, the design of the house you live in, the way your working environment is set up and so on. There probably isn’t much you can do about your commuter train running on diesel or your company operating wasteful policies (although it may be worth asking a few questions at work and making some suggestions), but you can affect how you run your home,  and make informed choices about purchases.

Energy drains

energy efficiency

This is a good idea if you don’t need that catflap.

Energy drains are those areas that you know are inefficient, for instance:

  • old or unserviced boilers
  • badly fitting windows and doors (link to an article we wrote on the importance of good fitting to meeting energy performance standards)
  • a draughty chimney
  • a draughty letterbox or catflap
  • noisy electrical appliances (especially if they’re frantically running a fan to keep cool)
  • poorly-insulated walls and rooves.
  • if your house came with a catflap but you don’t have a cat then block up the catflap.

We all use energy-hungry modern appliances including fridges, washing machines, computers and so on. We’d never advocate replacing these for the hell of it as the energy use that goes into making them is a consideration, but when you need to replace an item or you decide the time has come to buy something, look at its energy ratings. There’s plenty of information available pre-purchase, and once you’ve acquired your shiny new computer or washing machine, look at how to use it on the most energy efficient settings.

Then there are the bad habits that reduce your energy efficiency.  None in themselves may be that costly but they can really add up, especially if several people live together. These are things like:

  • boiling far more water than necessary in the kettle
  • repeatedly boiling the same water
  • leaving appliances on stand-by
  • using a tumble drier other than as a last resort
  • not filling the washing machine or dishwasher appropriately before running them
  • wallowing in baths rather than nipping into the shower
  • leaving lights on (especially incandescent lightbulbs which are so inefficient they’re being phased out).

You can no doubt think of more, especially if you have children!

Improving energy efficiency

There are many steps you can take to improve the energy efficiency of your home. They depend on your budget, your set-up and the period over which you need to see a return on your investment. Making changes to your boiler and heating system or fitting energy efficient windows is a serious investment with a return period of years. However if you have the cash or have obtained a grant,  and expect to be in your house for years to come, it will be well worth it. You’ll notice the difference in improved comfort at home and in reduced bills. Similarly buying doors and windows with insulating properties and insulating your walls and roof – it’s an investment but the benefits are immediate.

energy efficiency

A typical Victorian house – poorly insulated, expensive to heat and low on energy efficiency

The UK has some of worst-performing housing stock in Europe in terms of energy efficiency. 50% of our housing stock was built before 1960, in the days when energy was cheap, plentiful  and dirty. Insulation was rarely built-in as it just wasn’t considered necessary when you could whack up the thermostat. There are many articles on the subject but this from The Guardian although a couple of years old gives a good run-down of the situation.

Sadly more modern housing still lacks the levels of insulation that makes homes really comfortable. Building standards stipulate a shockingly low level of insulation despite improvements in recent years. This leaves a great deal of scope for the householder to add to it. If you can’t afford to fit insulation don’t worry, there are still plenty of energy efficiency measures you can take. In simple terms you want to use as little energy as possible and waste none. Take note of your habits and see what you could do to make the most of the energy you do use.

Tips for the home

Here are a few easy and cheap ways to make your energy spend count:

  • fit an Ecoflap to your letterbox (it cuts letterbox draughts, a good move especially if your thermostat is in the hallway near that draughty letterbox)
  • switch up from a draughty noisy catflap to a draughtproof Petflap
  • block your chimney if you aren’t using it eg with a Chimney Sheep
  • fit a curtain over external doors and any that are draughty
  • slip a sheet of foil behind radiators to reflect the heat back into the room instead of out through the wall
  • lay a chunky ‘sausage dog’-style draught excluder along the base of doors. If you’re handy with a needle make one yourself.
  • shut the door to any unused rooms
  • after you’ve used the oven leave the door open to let the heat into the room
  • use radiator thermostats to keep rooms at an appropriate temperature
  • give your computer fan a quick clean from time to time as they can become clogged and then use huge amounts of power to keep going

Draughts: A to Z of draughtproofing

Draughts

draughts

We love this dramatic black-on-black look

Draughts are part and parcel of any home. Defined asA current of cool air in a room or other confined space”, draughts are generally unwelcome unlike a nice refreshing breeze on a warm day. In simple terms draughts find their way in uninvited and make you uncomfortable whereas a breeze is something we go in search of that makes us feel better.

A draught can come in through any of the myriad ways we make holes in our houses. Chimneys, windows, doors, letter boxes, catflaps, air bricks to name a few are not only designed to open up and allow air, animals, post and people to and fro, but many of them let in draughts when they shouldn’t, too. A properly-fitted window or external door should be completely airtight when closed – see our article on the importance of proper fitting to reach stated energy efficiency standards.

It’s not only poor fitting that interferes with airtightness. Doors and windows themselves can be slightly warped (this is why we recommend using silicone sealant to fit an Ecoflap or Petflap as it compensates for a couple of millimetres of irregular door surface), the surrounding wall can be to blame or a design can inherently allow draughts to flow in.

Draughtproofing

We’re heading into the time of year (particularly this year with our dismal wet and windy summer) when the ‘draughtproof your home for winter’ articles being to appear. In simple terms this means plugging all the gaps where draughts wind their way in to bring down the temperature of your room, prompt your boiler to fire up and generally make your home a less cosy place to be. This has an impact on your wallet too: many central heating thermostats are in the hallway, near the front door. If your letterbox is draughty or frequently jams open, draughts will blow into your hallway, bringing down the temperature and prompting the thermostat to turn on the heating, whether the rest of the house feels fine or not.

Draughtproofing is relatively simple to achieve in most problem areas. Unused chimneys can be blocked with a Chimney Sheep or similar, doors can be covered with a curtain and floor-level gaps blocked with a sausage-style draught excluder, and clear gaps at the sides of windows can be filled with spray sealant.

Your letter box is another gap easily draughtproofed. Our Ecoflap letter box draught excluder goes on the inside of your door and presents a slightly larger surface area to draughts, whichever direction they’re coming from. This means the flap is always pressed more firmly against the frame by the airflow, sealing it and leaving draughts outside, together with rain and anything else the weather wants to throw at us. Our draughtproof Petflap works on exactly the same principle, and both units can be fitted to a fence or through a wall, as well as to a door.

Draughtproof letterboxes

draughts

This letterbox will let in draughts all day long

Why aren’t all letterboxes draughtproof? It’s down to design. Other letter box draught excluders function by presenting a barrier to incoming deliveries, often a brush or spring-loaded flap. If post struggles to get through these barriers it’s left sticking out at both sides of the door, allowing a fair old draught to whistle through, all day long if no-one’s in the house during the day. The Ecoflap’s clever balanced cut means that although it will stay shut in the teeth of a 100mph wind (yup, we’ve had it tested), it opens with the merest touch, so a leaflet will slide through as easily as a weekend paper or Amazon box.

Not only does the Ecoflap present no barrier to deliveries, but it returns itself to the shut position every single time and gets on with its job of keeping draughts out of your house. In North America many people order it to keep that expensive air-conditioned air in during the sweltering summer months, so whatever temperature you want your house to be, whatever the season, you can rely on the robust Ecoflap letter box draught excluder.

 

Catflaps: A to Z of draughtproofing

Catflaps

catflaps

The draughtproof Petflap

Catflaps – cat owners will know all about these. Do you prefer a prolonged rattle and bang every time your cat goes through the catflap together with a draught round the ankles, or getting up every five minutes to open the door for your cat?

These have traditionally been the options for cat owners whose cats go outside (which is the majority) but now the Petflap draughtproof pet door gives you a third option: carry on with what you’re doing as your pet comes and goes as it pleases through a quiet, gentle and draughtproof pet door.

Draughtproof

The Petflap works on the same principle as our Ecoflap letter box draught excluder. It’s cut fractionally larger on one face on each side, so that any draught blows it more firmly against its frame instead of allowing it to blow back and forth. This eliminates noise and prevents draughts from blowing in to your house. We haven’t come up with a solution for wet and muddy paws, but the Petflap (and the Ecoflap) keep out rain too.

Gentle

Many traditonal catflaps are spring loaded in order to shut properly, but this can lead to trapped tails (mentioned in this amusing article about cats and catflaps). The Petflap relies on physics to shut properly so doesn’t put any pressure on any part of the animal until the animal is completely through.

Top-hung catflaps tend to crash down on an animal, something cats particularly dislike, but the Petflap pivots vertically. The animal exits one side and enters the other (in our experience it takes them very little time to get the hang of that), taking their time, dignity completely intact.

Aesthetics

The catflap is a utilitarian item of homeware, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be ugly or a design-free zone. We’ve modifed the design of our Petflap to make it easier to fit into glass, but we’ve been keen at all times to maintain its good looks. So not only can your cat come and go quietly and safely, but your door can look stylish too.

Bespoke

catflaps

The new round shape

When our final manufacturing ducks are lined up we plan to release and larger size, and we’ll be able to return to making bespoke Petflaps.  We’ve had so many enquiries about spaniel-size Petflaps that we plan to create a door big enough for a Cocker. Our circular design allows us to create larger animal access areas within more reasonable size overall frames. Our previous rectangular design was getting too big for the average door when it was scaled up for a medium-size dog.

If you’d like to go on the list to be notified when we have stock, please email info@ecoflap.co.uk.

Building regulations: A to Z of draughtproofing

Building regulations

building regulationsBuilding regulations give a specification for many aspects of constructing a house. Building regulations for England are laid out in the Building Act 1984. Part L deals with “conservation of fuel and power” and covers:

the insulation values of building elements, the allowable area of windows, doors and other openings, air permeability of the structure, the heating efficiency of boilers and the insulation and controls for heating appliances and systems together with hot water storage and lighting efficiency

Sadly most new build houses are quite legally woefully short of insulation. Many buildings experts point the finger at poor building standards.

Enforcement

Buildings inspectors sign off new builds in England. This should mean that all aspects of the build are measured against the published buildings standards by a qualified person from the council or the Construction Industry Council, a QUANGO. However, according to this Wikipedia entry, Energy Efficiency in British Housing,:

A 2006 survey for the Energy Saving Trust revealed that Building Control Officers considered energy efficiency ‘a low priority’ and that few would take any action over failure to comply with the Building Regulations because the matter ‘seemed trivial’.[23][24]

So not only are regulations on insulation in English new build housing considered weak, those that do exist aren’t enforced properly. The result is a poor deal for householders aiming to keep their homes comfortable and their bills low.

The problems faced by owners and residents of new build properties go much further than this. Some report cavity wall insulation completely missing. Others report badly-fitted windows and holes in external walls. There are shocking reports of a new development in Peckham so badly built that parts have been pulled down. Other residents have had long fights with their house builders with little joy. Some had to move out for months while problems were fixed. Others were unable to move in at all.

Optimism

Despite the doom and gloom, some local authorities and developers are doing a good job. Two areas of Ireland have made passivhaus mandatory for new builds. Social housing in Exeter has been built to passivhaus standards and a similar project confirmed in Norwich. In terms of the number of new builds every year this is a drop in the ocean, but it’s a start. If building regulations as they stand aren’t up to the job, let’s do something better.

Image credit: http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/alehlic-30782

Airtightness: A to Z of draughtproofing

Airtightness

Airtightness is key to concepts of draughtproofing. If air can’t get past a barrier then by definition that barrier is airtight. This is great for keeping biscuits fresh, and for keeping your home comfortable. It can be a relative term though and something that’s difficult to measure, so here we look a little closer.

Passivhaus

The Passivhaus standard is an energy performance standard which the Passivhaus Institut (sic) defines like this:

“A Passivhaus is a building, for which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling of the fresh air mass, which is required to achieve sufficient indoor air quality conditions – without the need for additional recirculation of air.”

Trying not to get too technical, this usually means that extra heating is unnecessary most of the time.

airtightness

You won’t need heating very often in a Passivhaus

Passivhaus standard is achieved by fitting specialised measures, including doors, windows and MHRV systems. These units must be fitted with great care otherwise they can leak air. Leaky windows and doors cause most draughts in ordinary homes, and would wreak havoc in a passivhaus.

A passivhaus remains at a fairly even temperature, comfortable on warm and chilly days, with little input. That said, of course passivhaus owners open windows sometimes. A common passivhaus myth is that residents are sealed inside with stale air. Passivhaus is about controlling air exchange rather than being at its mercy. If you have a rattly old letterbox or cat flap then you don’t have control over airtightness.

EnerPHit

EnerPHIT is a slightly less stringent airtightness measure. It applies to retrofitting an older house to a vastly improved standard of airtightness. It’s almost impossible to raise an old house to Passivhaus levels of airtightness, but EnerPHit still demands high standards. Homebuilding and Renovating quotes this:

The EnerPHit standard includes the following requirements: Annual specific space heating demand of 25kWh/m² (as compared to 15kWh/m² for full PassivHaus); airtightness ideally to PassivHaus levels (0.6ach) but will allow 1.0ach; windows need to be PassivHaus certified, with triple-glazed panes; and calculations to demonstrate moisture is adequately managed.

Draughtproofing

airtightness

Our Ecoflap letter box draught excluder

Most UK housing doesn’t aspire to either of these standards. Much UK housing stock is expensive to heat as there are so many gaps in the fabric of the building. The warm air leaks out, the temperature drops and more energy is needed to power the heating.

Draughts get in round badly-fitting windows and doors, and through poorly insulated floors and rooves. We also invite draughts into our houses through letterboxes and catflaps, but there’s a solution to that. Our products work by always presenting a slightly larger surface area to any draught. This means the draught pushes the flap more firmly against its frame, increasing airtightness. It also stops rattling and prevents rain getting through. Both the Ecoflap and the Petflap have a gentle but reliable closing action. This means no tails trapped in the Petflap or fingers pinched by the Ecoflap.

 

Radiator photo credit: http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/dariuszman-61341

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