According to the Energy Saving Trust, 44 per cent of UK homes have problems with draughts. Older properties are particularly affected.
Yet there are simple solutions that could solve many of these issues in seconds. Draughtproofing your home remains the cheapest and easiest means of improving thermal efficiency in your home — and many of the costs involved can be recovered in the first year.
Why are so Many Homes still Draughty?
Older homes were built to have lots of draughts. Plenty of air movement was needed to feed open fires and to limit condensation. This sort of ‘natural’ ventilation replaces warm air with cold air, which then needs to be heated.
A draught gives the impression of a room being cooler than it actually is, which usually leads to the heating being turned up. The problem then is that warm air can carry more moisture which condenses out as the room cools or when it meets a cold surface. Fixing the draughts and ensuring there is proper ventilation where needed is key.
Finding the Draughts
Finding draughts is usually a two-step process. There are obvious sources such as:
- letter boxes
- rattly sash windows
- wooden doors that have shrunk over time
- redundant air bricks
Your local DIY shed will have shelves of appropriate materials to fix these, as will many online sources. These obvious sources need to be fixed before doing anything more.
The second step is to invest in a smoke pen for around £20. Don’t pay more unless you intend to take this up as a profession.
- Pick a day when there is air movement outside, but not a gale, and the house is up to its usual temperature.
- Light your smoke pen and wander around the house allowing the smoke trail to lead you to the source of the draught. Areas to focus on are floor boards, skirting boards, where window and door frames meet the wall and the ceiling-to-wall junctions. The less obvious areas are keyholes, kitchen cupboards (where pipes are likely to penetrate walls), loft hatches and downlights.
- Mark every draught source.
- Visit your DIY shed, or go online, and look for suitable remedial products. Believe it or not, your problem will not be unique. Every possible draught has been considered and appropriate products produced.
Draughtproofing is generally considered to be DIY work — if you can handle a screw driver and a silicone gun you should be fine. If you choose to employ people to do the work, bear in mind that it is not complex and does not need expensive specialist skills.
Typical fixes include:
Fit draughtproofing strips between the door and the frame, often a brush to the bottom and rubber strips either screwed or glued to the frame.
Brush strips that are fixed to sliding sash windows and rubber strips for casement windows are both effective. In the case of sash windows with glazing bars, there can be too many gaps to deal with individually, so you could consider secondary double glazing — an effective draughtproofing solution that also significantly reduces heat loss. Damaged sash windows can also be professionally repaired by companies such as Ventrolla.
Skirting boards, frame-to-wall joints and floorboards
Cracks and gaps can be treated with decorator’s caulk or silicone. Standard silicone will dry and shrink over time allowing the draught to return. Specific airtight silicone overcomes this problem, though it is more expensive.
A better option for draughty floors would be, where possible, to install insulation below the floorboards. Ideally this will be a semi-rigid material like Knauf Dritherm or Rockwool RW3 — there are also several natural alternatives. This can be cut slightly oversize and squeezed into place to ensure draughts are sealed.
There are specialist products for the likes of downlights, letterboxes, loft hatches and even keyholes. All are easy to fit, relatively inexpensive and highly effective.
Pipe and cable penetrations
The solution is generally airtight silicone or an airtight duct tape. Both are specialist products that provide a long-term solution.
Draughtproofing the Chimney
The purpose of a chimney is to draw air to feed the fire and to take the smoke away from the room. As a consequence, an unused chimney is a source of draughts and makes other draughts worse.
If the fireplace is used, then consider installing a woodburning stove and sealing the chimney around the flue. This cuts out the draughts and gives more efficient heating.
If it is not used, then get the chimney sealed by a professional, top and bottom. If that is not practical, there are temporary chimney blockers that are cheap and effective.
The difference between draughts and ventilation is one of control. Draughts are uncontrolled, while we can switch ventilation on and off at will. Ventilation in the form of extractor fans and cooker hoods will ensure that condensation is properly dealt with, at source. Other ventilation needs will be met by:
- the movement of people around the house
- moving in and out
- naturally opening and closing windows and doors
Controlled ventilation will reduce condensation, maintain a healthy atmosphere and prevent damp and mould growth by letting in air where it is needed. Draughts let in too much air in the wrong place at the wrong time, making draughtproofing the cheapest and most effective way to save energy, and money, especially in older buildings.