Draft Guards

Prevent cold air infiltrating your home

Draft guards are a cheap and effective way of cutting down heat losses from your home. Drafts can account for as much as 30% of the cost of your heating bill - that is a vast waste of both energy and money when added up over a winter, especially when cheap and easy solutions exist to eliminate the most common causes of drafts

At its simplest a draft excluder is a fabric barrier that blocks gaps under doors. Ill fitting doors and windows are some of the commonest sources of cold air infiltration into a building as they play up to natural air convection currents (cold air sinks so passes beneath doors).

Traditional draft excluders are just cloth 'sausages' filled with relatively heavy wadding - when placed snugly in front of doors they do a good job of cutting drafts down. Unfortunately they are easy to dislodge, especially when a door is in regular use, and only need to be knocked a few inches out of place to loose their effectiveness. And if you have ever tried to keep one in place behind a door as you leave a room you'll have an idea of their inadequacies.

Draft Guards that move with the door...

A simple improvement is to use a draft guard that moves with the door, but doesn't impede it's opening or closing. Some types permanently fasten to the bottom of the door itself and act like a brush, sweeping the floor. Others fit beneath the door and slide with it as it moves. Here are some that I have looked at - just be aware that they are not all suitable for every situation.

Twin Draft Guards

These are a neat way of overcoming the "draft excluder keep becoming dislodged" problem. Simply, they have a sausage of foam either side of the door, with a fabric sheath that passes beneath.

As the door opens and closes the foam is pulled backwards and forwards, always staying tight to the door.

They have some weaknesses:

  • They don't fit every door - especially not those with any kind of door jam or lip.
  • They work best on smooth floors, although they will work on carpet
  • They don't work well if the gap between the door and the floor is too large - the foam can get trapped beneath.
  • There are some comments that the construction is a little flimsy, but given the low price that shouldn't be a problem. If they wear out buy another!

Personally I really like these - they are cheap and easy to install and, come summer, you can take them off again.

Don't by shy about spending a bit of money on insulation and draft prevention. Drafts could well be costing you hundreds of pounds every winter and an investment in draft proofing will quickly pay for itself, both financially and in terms of comfort in your home.

Clip on draft excluders

This new variant has just become available, so I haven't actually tested it myself yet. Initial review on amazon look good though.

Basically it clips to the bottom of the door on one side only and sweeps across the floor as the door moves. It is supposed to overcome some of the short comings of the twin version above, as it will work against a door jam, and glides over uneven surfaces and door mats.

This is a "no tools" installation and easily reversible when summer comes along.

DIY Solutions

With some time and ingenuity you can cobble together quite an effective draft excluder, similar to the "twin draft guard" above.

What we did was use some large size tubigrip and stuff it loosely with balled up newspaper. By sliding it under the length of the door, and carefully adjusting the paper so that it is evenly spread on both sides, you get a cheap and effective wind block that moves with the door.

It isn't really as good as the commercial ones (the newspaper tends to shift around a bit) but if you don't mind adjusting it fairly regularly it does a reasonable job. This worked well for us last year because our interior doors are very wide, so off the shelf products don't fit well.

Do I need draft excluders?

While many modern homes have very tight construction, older building can be very leaky and let air infiltrate through many different nooks and crannies. While it is very difficult to block all of these off completely, you can help minimise their effect by shutting interior doors and installing draft proofing in door ways.

Wood stove actually can make leaky buildings worse, because the chimney is continually drawing air from the house, through the fire and out to the atmosphere. Air is sucked into the house from outside to replace it, finding it's way through all the cracks.

Test for drafts

The first thing to work out is if drafts are actually a problem in your building. This is a little process you can use to work out which doors to focus on:

  • On a cold day, get your fire going nicely and make sure the house is nice and warm. This makes any drafts stronger and more noticeable, as the temperature difference is greater.
  • Close interior doors to spaces that are not used regularly - spare bedrooms, studies, bathrooms etc...
  • Visually inspect the doors - do they fit snugly into their frames? Is there a gap beneath? If the fit isn't good you may need to fit some draft proofing
  • Smoke test around the door frame to locate any drafts - you can do this with the smoke from an extinguished match, or using an incense stick. If there is a draft the smoke will be blown around.
  • Alternatively, wet the skin of your arm or hand and hold it close to the door - a breeze will make it feel cold as the water evaporates.

You will probably find that some rooms have stronger drafts coming from them than others. Make these a priority and get draft excluders fitted to the door quickly. Follow up by trying to find the leak into the room from outside; this might be a poorly fitting window, an external door or a ventilation gap that needs closing. Deal with this and you will save money, fuel AND your house will feel warmer.

There aren't many situations which are such clear winners - save money and feel warmer!

Can you afford not to?