Home Energy Saving Mini Projects #1
Draught-proofing

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.

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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.
     
  3. 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.  
     
  4. 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.’
     
  5. 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!

Home Energy Saving Mini Projects #2: 
Hot Water

There are some great alternatives to gas boilers available, like solar hot water panels to go on your roof, or for small flats electric boilers could be suitable (and can be green if you’re signed up to an eco electricity supplier), and air or ground source heat pumps for central heating.  There’s even a microwave boiler being developed!  The only problem is that they’re all very expensive.

If you do have the cash then we’d heartily encourage you to swap your hot water system for something lower carbon, but we know that it’s not an option for most, whether because of money or because you’re renting your home.

So what can you do?  Use less hot water!  Every bit of hot water you don’t use will save you money and cut emissions.  Here are LCEO’s tips:

  1. You can save energy by reducing the amount of water your shower uses.  Water-saving shower heads are easy to swap on, and Thames Water has even been giving these away free (you can do this water-usage calculator to find out if you can get a freebie: https://www.thameswater.co.uk/help/water-saving/water-saving-calculator). 
     
  2. Cheaper and easier still, for saving water in the shower, is a kitchen timer set for five minutes (or less), to rouse you from your shampooing daydreams and oust you from the shower! 
      
  3. If you are someone who uses conditioner, then swapping to one which you spray in after your shower (or using 2-in-1 shampoo) can help cut your showering time and save even more water and energy. 
      
  4. Become an expert on ‘spot washing’ your clothes, so a small toothpaste mark doesn’t require a go in the washing machine.  Google will find you more info on stain removal than you ever thought existed.
     
  5. Only wash clothes when they need it - a sniff test will tell you when it’s time.  Some fabrics stay fresh longer than others.  Wool and denim are both excellent choices for minimal washing.  For inspiration, here’s a fun article about a company challenging people to wear one of their wool dresses for 100 days straight! https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2021/may/02/could-you-wear-a-dress-for-100-days
       
  6. When you wash your hands, is the water only just getting warm by the time you’ve finished?  If so, the heat from the boiler has only warmed the pipes - you might as well use the cold tap and save energy, money and emissions.
     
  7. When it comes to personal washing, you can swap a shower for a washcloth and a basin of warm water.  This technique has a varied, huge and wonderful selection of names.  At the last LCEO meeting we knew it variously as ‘French wash’, ‘quatre points’, and ‘top and tail’!  What do you call it?

Eco-Educational TV for preschoolers


To help reduce our homes' impact on the environment, we can educate our young ones!

There is a great program for preschoolers on the BBC iPlayer called Maddie, The Home, and You which explains low carbon living in easy-to-understand terms.  It's set in the lovely Findhorn eco-village in Scotland and covers a vast range of topics, including insulation, batch cooking, food miles, mechanical heat recovery ventilation, and lots more!  It's a great conversation starter, and it's fun too.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000w0dn/maddie-the-home-and-you

 

Video: Improving Your Home to Use Less Energy

Here is a video of a talk organised jointly by Low Carbon West Oxford and Low Carbon Oxford North, all about how to improve your home to use less energy.  If you’ve not yet seen it, it’s well worth a watch!

https://www.lowcarbonwestoxford.org.uk/5-things/homes/improving-your-home-to-use-less-energy-a-video-resource/

Reftrofit Guide from West Oxon District Council

West Oxfordshire District Council has published a retrofit guide. It offers good general guidance on insulation and heating systems.

https://www.westoxon.gov.uk/netzerocarbontoolkit

LCEO