Quick Fixes for Cold, Draughty Homes

Winter proofing your home needn’t be as complex and expensive as you might think.

Christian Hoerning from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) says it’s hard to keep a draughty house warm and comfortable, but the problems are usually fairly cheap and easy to fix.

Spending a few hours draught proofing your home will pay off with a warmer, cosier home when winter’s bite really arrives.

One of the first steps is to check hinges and catches or latches.  If they are loose, tighten them up. Weather stripping can be used to seal gaps around many doors or windows and it’s easy to use. If you get draughts from around door or window trims, seal behind them with clear or paintable sealant.

For gaps under doors, you can fit draught excluders, either brush strip types or for external doors, spring loaded automatic seals. Damaged rubber seals around aluminium joinery can easily be replaced.

If you have an unused fireplace you will get a lot of draughts. Block the chimney with a rubbish bag filled with shredded newspapers, or you can buy inflatable bags. Make sure no one tries to light the fire with a blocked chimney.

If you have holes in floorboards, cover from underneath with a small square of timber.

Unsealed skirting boards and cornices can be dealt with by using flexible silicon-based or latex sealants to seal the top and bottom of skirting boards and cornices, or remove them and foam the gap where the floor and wall or the ceiling and wall meet.

People may be surprised to learn there are gaps around electrical wiring and plumbing passages through walls, floors and ceilings. Seal using silicone sealants (for smaller gaps), or polyurethane foam for bigger gaps. These passages are often hidden so don’t forget to look behind kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and inside wardrobes and hot water cupboards.

Air leakage and heat loss can be a real problem with older style recessed downlights. Most downlights installed until mid-2012 cannot be sealed or covered, as it could cause a fire hazard, so holes are required in insulation to create a safety gap. The best solution is to replace these old style downlights with modern IC or IC-F rated LED downlights that can be insulated over, or removing them altogether. Surface mounted or suspended light fittings allow you to plug the holes in the ceiling and can be insulated right over.

If your house isn’t insulated or the insulation is old or needs topping up, you will struggle to stay warm. If you can do it safely, get a step-ladder and peek through the hatch of your ceiling into your roof space to see if you have insulation.

Add a top-up layer of insulation if it:

  • Is less than 12 cm thick (it should be thicker than the height of the ceiling joists)
  • Doesn’t cover the whole ceiling
  • Has gaps in it, or places where
    it is squashed or tucked in.

Check under your house – if you have old ripped foil insulation (don’t touch this as there is a
small risk it could be live) or old bulk insulation, you will need to get it replaced.

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