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Easy-fit letter box draught excluder

Category: Blog (page 1 of 5)

Interiors: A to Z of draughtproofing

Interiors

interiors

Fitting dry lining

Interiors brings to mind paint colours and fabric finishes, but it’s much more than this. Episode 6 of the pod looked at the quality of new builds. Poorly fitted dry lining came up as an issue. Dry lining is the process of fitting ready-made plaster panels to walls. It’s quicker than wet plastering but if poorly fitted properly gaps appear between the panels. Draughts come into the house through these gaps. Any decoration applied to these walls will suffer over time.

Often these gaps are plugged with mastic or decorator’s caulk. This works for a while but degrades over time. If you’re having carpet fitted the fitter will often remove caulk from skirting boards, and not replace it. This leaves you with gappy, draughty skirting. Pay attention to both these infrastructural elements if you find a room draughty despite paying attention to the obvious causes.

Your home furnishings make a difference to how your home feels and performs. Colour choices matter. A light-coloured ceiling will reflect warm air down into a room. A dark carpet will absorb warmth and radiate it back up into the room. Consider your summer and winter furnishings. A thick curtain over a door in the winter helps to keep draughts at bay. A draught excluder at the foot of a door is very effective at keeping draughts out. Thick curtains at a window keep draughts away from the room. Blinds help to regulate solar gain in the summer. It’s preferable to sort out the source of a draught, but if you can’t then considering your interiors carefully will help.

In episode 7 of the pod we looked at passive cooling. This is the practice of designing a building to be comfortable all year round using good design and natural features. It’s a science all of its own, but put simply it’s about ensuring a house is cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather without using air conditioning. There are different considerations all round the world in different weather zones. As the planet heats up it’s likely we’ll be looking to passive cooling more and more.

Heating: A to Z of draughtproofing

Heating

heatingHeating your home is crucial to autumn and winter comfort in the UK. There are several choices, many of which we’ve looked at on the podcast recently. How you heat your home depends on where you live, how you live and how much you have to spend.

If you fit a ground source heat pump your home will need to be particularly well-insulated and draughtproofed. This is because ground source heat pumps provide a steady source of heat at a lower temperature than most of us are used to. A house needs to be well insulated so that it keeps the heat in well. This is one of the issues with upgrading many houses to ground source heat pumps. A report from the CCC found that most houses currently running on gas are suitable for a heat pump in terms of location, but not insulation.

Draughtproofing

You can control your heating by the central thermostat and valves on the radiators. Look at where your thermostat is fitted. If it’s by a draughty door or window it will get a false impression of the ambient temperature. It will come on when you don’t need heat, and increase your bill. Draughtproofing your door and windows will help. Fitting a small ledge above your thermostat will help too. That will make sure ambient air reaches its sensors. Otherwise air that has risen to the ceiling and cooled will hit the sensor on its way back down. That will also give your thermostat a false reading.

Thermostatic valves can be upset by draughts too. Thermostatic valves are set to the temperature that you want the room to be. They sense air temperature and change the water flow into the radiators accordingly. If they are in a hot or cold spot in the room they will misbehave.

Whichever way your home is heated, draughtproofing the building will optimise your heating.

Glazing: A to Z of draughtproofing

Glazing

Glazing makes a critical difference to the success of any energy efficiency building upgrade. A central plank of passivhaus or EnerPHit projects, paying close attention to it in any works will pay dividends. Glazing can be responsible for making a building comfortable and for making it draughty. Here’s how to make the most of it and avoid the pitfalls.

glazingWe looked at passive cooling in episode 7 of the podcast. This is the science of using the environment together with good design to keep a buiding a comfortable temperature. Glazing can make a big contribution here. 

Use a building’s orientation to maximise solar gain (ie have the sun shining through big windows for as much of the day as possible). Ensure the house is effectively draughtproofed to keep that warmed air in the house and at temperature. Use shutters or blinds to keep the sun out if you’re getting too warm.

In cooler weather shutters and particularly blinds and thick curtains can help to insulate the area around a window. However this is only useful if a window is not letting through gales of cold air.

Blocking draughts

The best way to avoid draughts in modern houses is to block up cracks and gaps. It’s important though to distinguish between windows that just aren’t very insulation, ie a single pane, and windows that have actual gaps around them. If you can afford it, have poorly-insulating windows replaced with the highest-performing alternative you can run to.

Before you start work, understand how your windows contribute to overall airflow in the room. A historic building will have different considerations from a recent new build. If you have a new build don’t rely on the energy performance information you’ve been given. There are numerous instances of new builds falling short of the advertised energy performance due to poor construction.

Plug gaps around non-opening windows with silicone sealant. Use a sealing tape or strip to keep openers draught-free, double checking the opening action isn’t impeded. 

glazing

Historic buildings

Obtain expert advice if you live in a historic building. Simply plugging gaps around windows in older buildings can cause problems with damp building up. Understand the airflow and how your house and each room behaves, particularly in a house with multiple building phases over a few hundred years. Consider how different areas of the house are heated. Look at their solar gain and loss.

Windows have a role to play beyond letting in a cool breeze or keeping out the elements.

Fitting: A to Z of draughtproofing

Fitting

There is a wide range of products sold under the ‘energy efficiency’ banner. These can be small budget-friendly household items such as the Ecoflap and the Petflap. There is also an entire industry devoted to expensive energy efficient doors and windows. These are well-advertised and promoted, but you hear little about the importance of proper fitting.

The most highly engineered, energy efficient window in the world won’t be of any benefit if the wind is whistling through the gaps around it.

Expert fitting

fitting

If your windows look like this, you need specialist fitting advice.

We wrote a blog post earlier this year about the important of having windows fitted properly. This applies to all windows, but especially technical energy efficient ones. Our main point was that without expert fitting the windows will under-perform. This leads to disappointed customers, bad reputations for tradespeople, and possibly compensation claims. In episode 6 of our podcast we cited this as one reason why new builds underperform in energy efficiency.

The problems stem from top-end doors and windows being fitted by people used to sticking in a door or window to the standards of ordinary new builds. We’ve discussed before how woefully poor current new build standards can be (here’s a Guardian article on the subject). The skills required to fit them out aren’t up to what’s needed in an energy efficient house. This can be a particular issue with the drylining used instead of traditional wet plastering to speed up construction.

Fitting a door or window properly requires excellent attention to detail. There needs to be a good understanding of the materials. Fitters need to understand how buildings behave. Without a clear grounding in these there’s lots of scope for things to go wrong.  If your home is historic or listed there are additional considerations. In that situation you would be well-advised to consult SPAB. SPAB runs courses which are invaluable in helping you understand what your home needs.

Finding a fitter

fitting

Even a smart door like this won’t perform well if it’s badly fitted

So how do you go about finding a good company that can give you confidence?

To some extent this depends on what you’re doing. If you have a renovation project underway with an architect, presumably one experienced in designing energy efficient houses, they’re the person to ask.

If you’re looking to replace old doors or windows with a more energy efficient model then ask lots of questions from the vendor. Ask if they include fitting. If they do, grill them on how they ensure maximum energy efficiency. If they don’t include fitting ask if they recommend anyone. Remember – expertise in designing and manufacturing energy efficient doors and windows doesn’t necessarily translate into expertise in fitting them.

If you have to find your own fitters ask the vendor what you should be looking for from the fitters you choose. Any fitter you employ should offer a guarantee on their work and be able to explain to you what they bring to fitting your doors and windows.

Expert fitting is essential to the return on investment from new doors and windows. Ask questions, ask more questions, and then don’t be afraid to go somewhere else and ask all the same questions.

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
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