Easy-fit letter box draught excluder

Author: heather (Page 2 of 6)

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

Fitting windows effectively for top energy performance

Fitting windows effectively for top energy performance

A recent technical article in The Installer magazine on fitting windows effectively raises a very good point: any energy saving measure is only as good as its installation, particularly when it comes to windows. We were shocked to read that windows can be so poorly fitted, assuming naïvely that high end window systems were fitted to suitably high end standards. Clearly this isn’t always the case, with uncomfortable and undesirable results for the homeowner and bad publicity and expensive repair work for the company that fitted the windows.

Fitting windows effectively is far from standard

If we all want to get in and out of our houses and have some natural light and fresh air, we have to accept that big holes need to be made in our walls. If we’re lucky enough to have chosen the windows and external doors on our house we’ll have considered all sorts of factors, including price and the properties of those windows and doors. Many windows are sold on the basis of numerous claims including their thermal qualities. High levels of insulation are vital to the comfort and energy efficiency of a window’s destined building, but can be rendered largely pointless if the fitting isn’t done to the required standard, ie the large hole in the wall isn’t blocked properly. It’s clear from the article that fitting windows effectively is far from standard and often leaves a great deal to be desired, a particular let down for the client when they’ve put in a great deal of effort into choosing their windows and then paid a premium for them.

Strict standards & clear guidance

The article in The Installer makes a clear distinction between the claims a window can make for energy rating based on its properties on paper, and how that window performs in situ. One particular area of concern highlighted was the sealing between window and wall. If carried out poorly the seals will stop performing adequately within months. There are strict standards and clear guidance available, taking into account the behaviour of the materials involved an how to accommodate them, so there should be no excuse for work to be carried out so such a low standard. What this comes down to is that while companies are keen to jump on the bandwagon of selling window systems with excellent energy ratings, some are not matching with a suitably professional standard of fitting. It’s not enough to tell your clients that a window performs to an A rating if poor fitting means it will be letting draughts whistle through within a year.

Discuss fitting with your builder

If you’re considering having any sort of draughtproofing or insulation work carried out on your home, especially expensive and invasive work, discuss with your proposed builders and fitters how they ensure their methods complement the insulating properties so important to you. You’re looking for a company that’s familiar with the principles and methods of draughtproofing and understands how to carry it out for long lasting results. Don’t be dazzled by energy ratings – they’re just your starting point.

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