Winter

Winters chill

Winter has its own challenges but the same basic principles for climate control work in keeping your home warm.

In Winter, we try to keep the heat in but it may not be apparent that the ways we do it are the same ways that we keep heat out in Summer.

There is still convection, radiance and transmission but we look at them in reverse. We are trying to stop warm air from getting out, we try to get the best distribution of heat from a heat source and we are trying to stop heat from being sucked out of the room through window glass,

Leaks

Loss of heat through outgoing draughts or introduction of cold air through incoming draughts are easy to fix and can save discomfort, illness and high power bills.

Some draughts are easy to find (that one under the front door that everyone has for example) while others are a little more tricky. Tiny airflows over a whole night cans quickly sap the heat from a warm bedroom. Gaps in the skirting board or a small crack in the wall can slowly drain the warmth given time.

The solution is easy. Stop the draught.

The most common places cold draughts come from are –

  • around and under doors
  • around windows
  • cornices and skirting boards
  • floorboards
  • fireplaces
  • exhaust fans
  • air conditioner vents
  • manhole or inspection covers
  • cracks around pipes where they come in from outside
  • powerpoints

So you can see that there are many ways that warm air can leave your house of sneak into it,

All you need is to find the source of the draught and block it.

There are so many ways that you can block a draught, some free, some expensive. It’s up to you to decide but I know which I go for…

  • weather strips – foam or rubber strips to seal around the door frame
  • draught excluders – strips or flaps that attach to the bottom of a door
  • Silicone, caulking or putty – squeezed into gaps to seal them
  • fabric snakes – squish up against or under doors
  • rolled up rugs, t-shirts, jeans – squeeze them into larger gaps
  • paper -folded or scrunched up and squeezed into spaces
  • sticky tape of all kinds – great for sealing around windows and over cracks
  • rugs and carpet to lay over floorboards and against skirting boards
  • underlay or paper placed under rugs for extra insulation
  • curtains and blinds – block the heat from moving over a large area
  • insulation – for rooms or the whole house

Sealing around the door of our lounge a couple of years back last year gave almost instant benefits with an average of a 1 degree rise in temperature in that room over Winter! Doing the same to the laundry raised the temperature of that room by an average of 2 degrees overnight . That meant that we could lower the thermostat for the same level of comfort or take off one layer of extra clothing.

Our lounge has been caulked, the door sealed, had the fireplace blocked off by a book case and sheet of wood and has sticky tape run along the tops of the windows to great effect.

Conduction

You can feel the heat being sucked from your hand when you place it on an unprotected window or wall. The same with your feet when you put them down onto a cold floor.

The best way to stop it is with an insulating barrier. If you take away your hand or lift up that foot, the insulating barrier between you and the surface is air.

The major unprotected surfaces in your home could be

  • windows
  • floorboards
  • tiles
  • ceiling
  • brickwork and stone

All you have to do is to find the most suitable insulator and place that between your room and the cold surface.

Some options could be

  • newspaper on the floors or in the ceiling
  • curtains and blinds
  • wall hangings
  • rugs and carpet
  • insulation batts
  • bubblewrap on . This gets its own special page.

convection

Convection is the movement of air in the room. Draughts can also be caused by convection as warm air rises and leaves through gaps in the ceiling.

convection is best dealt with by either blocking it or by redirecting it.

Ceiling fans are great for redirecting warm air back downward and mixing up the air in the room.(layers strsatification) Pedastal fans can help by creating turbulents that distributr some of the hot more evenly around the room.

One feature of convection is thermocycling. It has its own page to describe it in more detail. In Winter, shis is warm air from the ceiling level that cools and falls toward the floor. When it falls, it is then heated again and rises back to the ceiling, This can cool a room very effectively, especially if the cooling item is large




Roof and ceiling insulation.

That’s expensive, but well worth the investment. You can get by by using the commercial stuff and installing it yourself (a horrible, horrible job!) room by room. In our old house, we started with the main living room and main bedrooms – it’s your living space that you’re heating, and later, when finances permit, you can insulate other rooms.

Ceiling insulation works to make a barrier to heat whether it is coming in or out. It therefore works with other means of cooling. The direction of its effects change with seasons. In Winter, it is a barrier to heat getting out and in Summer, to heat coming in. In short, it keeps the heat where it is highest. You still need some way of venting or moving the heat build up that occurs inside in Summer though. That heat comes from bodies, cooking, showers…all sorts of things and is trapped there by the effectiveness of the insulation. If you can reduce the inside temperature at night in Summer, the insulation will keep inside at that temperature until other sources of heat let the temperature build up.

Cornices and skirting boards. 

These often move as the house shifts and can open up some quite large gaps. Ideally, seal them with caulk or silicon sealant or similar, but as a stop gap measure, push some fabric or paper into the hole to temporarily seal it.

Manhole cover.

The access cover to the roof cavity can be loose and poorly fitting. See if you can adjust it, or, as we did, put a sheet of cardboard or coir flute over it during the cold weather.

Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans are wide open to the roof cavity, letting heat escape   continuously in Winter, even when not in use. In Summer, they can allow hot air into the house as strong breezes and wind causes the air in the roof cavity to move.You can reduce the heat loss from living spaces by closing the bathroom or kitchen door or there are caps with pivoting lids that are easy to install on top of the exhaust fan. These allow air to flow when the fan is on and settle back over the hole when it stops. You don’t need to go into the roof cavity to install these, just remove the exhaust fan and slide the two pieces through, then clip then together around the hole in the ceiling. Then you just return the fan.

Exhaust fans. 

Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans are wide open to the roof cavity, letting heat escape   continuously in Winter, even when not in use. In Summer, they can allow hot air into the house as strong breezes and wind causes the air in the roof cavity to move.You can reduce the heat loss from living spaces by closing the bathroom or kitchen door or there are caps with pivoting lids that are easy to install on top of the exhaust fan. These allow air to flow when the fan is on and settle back over the hole when it stops. You don’t need to go into the roof cavity to install these, just remove the exhaust fan and slide the two pieces through, then clip then together around the hole in the ceiling. Then you just return the fan.

Old exhaust fans can us a lot of power for the short time the’re in use. Those that I removed from here averaged 80W each! I replaced them with low energy fans from Arlec that draw, around 4W each. Their flow rate is lower than the old style fans but their power consumption means that you can have them on for longer and still use less power. They’ve become a big piece of our temperature control system. At night, when the outdoor temperature drops below the indoor temperature, we turn the kitchen, toilet and bathroom exhaust fans on and open windows. That moves hot air out of the house and draws cool air in from outside.

If you’re replacing exhaust fans with low energy models and adding draught stoppers, make sure the draught stopper is light enough to be opened by the pressure from the fan. Some models are a bit too stiff at the opening and won’t open.

In many cases, you won’t need an electrician to install exhaust fans. Many houses have a plug in the roof cavity where you can unplug the old fan and plug the new one in.


Air-conditioner vents.  

Some of these close, other varieties are purely aesthetic. In theory, the air-conditioner is sealed and the conduit is air tight and insulated. This may not be the case with older units which will allow air to flow all the time. Either invest in closing covers or use cardboard to cover them. Some folks take them down and put newspaper or magazines inside to do the same job. We used coir flute sticky taped across the hole for a couple of years but last Winter, we had lots of scrap bubble wrap left over and put large loose wads of this into the vents to stop the draught.

Wall vents.    Ours’ is an older, double brick home with 2 wall vents in each room on both the inside and outside bricks. This is  to prevent dampness from building up in the wall cavity, but is a case of overkill. We close off one of each of the inside vents in each room with a square of cardboard and Blu Tack. This reduces heat loss in Winter because the vents are near the ceiling, where the hot air goes, but still allows some flow throughout the cavity. We have whirly birds on the roof so they draw air through the wall cavities into the roof space, so we don’t need to worry about negating the effects of the wall vents by blocking them up.

Power points.  

This is  something that I’ve only recently found out about. Some power point plates allow air to flow through the holes where the plugs go. As I found from experience, the draught from these can be quite strong. We now keep them sealed with those little plastic plugs that you can buy to keep kids from poking things in to the power point. Alternatively you  can just leave things plugged in (but turned off when not in use) or cover the plug holes with sticky tape.

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