Into Thin Air
Draught-proofing saves energy and cold, hard cash.
Visitors from European countries sometimes get a shock when they step inside Australian homes in winter. “They can’t believe how cold they are!” says Simone Schenkel, the German-born director of Melbourne firm Gruen Eco Design. “The temperatures outside are much milder than a European winter, yet the homes are freezing. This is because many Australian homes are riddled with draughts.”
You might not think the tiny gaps around doors or windows are of much concern, but sealing them could save you up to 25 per cent on your heating and cooling bills. “Draughts aren’t always taken seriously, but they should be,” says Schenkel. “I always advise clients to make draught issues a priority. If they can’t afford to address them all, they should fix the ones they can.”
Sealing windows is a good first step, she advises. Consider pelmets if you have curtains; they stop air circulating between the curtain and window. “Doors are sometimes overlooked,” says Schenkel, “but sealing them properly will prevent a significant amount of heat escaping.”
Thoroughly draught-proofing means that the sides and top of external doors have perimeter seals, says Lyn Beinat, CEO of Melbourne retrofitting company EcoMaster. “These seals are in addition to the draught excluders on the bottom of a door. No amount of ceiling insulation will keep a home warm if you can see daylight around the edges of a closed door.” And don’t be concerned that addressing draughts might restrict airflow – the
‘WHEN YOU FIND A PROBLEM AREA, SEAL IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. HAVING DRAUGHTS IN YOUR HOME IS CAUSING YOU TO USE, AND PAY FOR, MORE ENERGY THAN YOU NEED TO.’ ANDREW REDDAWAY, ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION
ordinary comings and goings of occupants provide ample air.
Check for draughts in your floorboards, architraves, skirting boards, vents, downlights, skylights and even cornices. Exhaust fans are another overlooked culprit, says Schenkel. Look for models that feature backdraught shutters to stop unwanted air entering via the exhaust fan when it’s not in use. As well as looking for obvious gaps, rattling or whistling doors and movement in curtains may also suggest a problem.
“To find draughts, hold a lit incense stick near the areas in question and see if the smoke moves,” says Andrew Reddaway, energy analyst for the Alternative Technology Association. “When you find a problem area, seal it ASAP. Having draughts in your home is causing you to use, and pay for, more energy that you need to – and no one wants to do that.”