Easy-fit letter box draught excluder

Month: July 2019

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.

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