Home Energy Saving Mini Projects #1
Over the next few newsletters, we’re going to be offering some ideas for simple, quick, cheap ways to save energy (and therefore money) in your home. As April is offering up some arctic chills alongside the brilliant sunshine, we’ve chosen draught-proofing as the first topic. So instead of turning up your heating when you feel icy air blow in through the gaps in your home, here are a few ways of blocking up the gaps. Most of these projects are even suitable for rented properties.
- Add a draught excluder to your letterbox. A flap of fabric, held on with drawing pins or sticky pads on the inside of the door, will do just as well as anything you can buy. If you choose fabric you like it could even look nicer than a commercial option! If the fabric isn’t particularly weighty, you might need to sew a few metal washers or coins into the hem to weight it down.
- For the gaps under doors, you can make a simple door snake. (Most likely your front and back doors will be the draughtiest, but in our house the coldest air was coming from the cupboard under the stairs.) Sew a long tube of fabric, stuff it full of clothes which are too worn out to send to Oxfam, and then sew up the end. If you are strapped for time or aren’t a fan of sewing, then one leg cut off a pair of old jeans, stuffed and tucked in/safety-pinned at the ends, will do the job fine.
- A similar approach works for chimneys too. If precious heat is escaping through your open fireplaces then you can take a cloth bag (a fabric shopping bag or old pillow case would work fine), stuff it with holey clothes, other waste fabric, or even just scrunched up newspaper, and push it up a little way into the chimney. Just remember to take it out if you ever use the fireplace to burn anything! There are various commercially available products which are designed to do this job, including some made of sheep's wool and some which are more like balloons.
- English Heritage use silicone bath sealant as a clever solution for rattly, draughty single-glazed windows. Thanks to Hook Norton Low Carbon Ltd for this description of how to do it: ‘Clean the window casement and frame, removing all loose paint, wet bits and mouldy bits, dry thoroughly. Rub vaseline generously onto the opening casement along all edges. Shut the window, and fill the gap with silicone bath sealant, smoothing off with a wet finger. Leave 24 hrs, then open the window. If you got the vaseline right, the window will open again, leaving a seal made of silicone that exactly fills that uneven gap.’
- Thick curtains for windows and doors can also be great for keeping the warmth inside. As you can see from the infrared image below, single glazed windows in the door let out a lot of heat! Charity shops are often the cheapest source of good quality curtains, and if you find some which are a natural fabric then you can even dye them your favourite colour too.
An Important Note About Ventilation
First, and crucially, if you’ve got gas appliances then it’s really important to have ventilation to avoid risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Second, it’s a really good idea to ventilate when doing anything that fills the air with water vapour, like showers and cooking pasta, because wet air is harder to heat. Wiping down the walls of the shower after you’ve finished can also really help keep the air dry.
Finally, did you know that opening all your windows for a few minutes each day actually saves energy rather than wasting it? To avoid the air inside your house becoming damp and stale, it's good practice to open a window and ventilate daily - well, at least when it's dry! It’s best if you can open windows on both sides of your home, to get proper cross-ventilation. It may seem like this wastes a lot of heat, but this is the key part: the air in a room actually holds little heat. It's the building itself which holds onto the warmth! The colder air from outside won't be able to carry as much moisture and will be warmed up by the retained heat inside.
Of course if you’ve time and money spare then there are lots more great ways of making your home more energy efficient, but we reckon these mini-projects are a good start for anyone who wants to save a bit on heating their, ahem, well-ventilated home! We’d love to hear how you get on!