It’s tough being a tenant – you hand over a large chunk of your hard-earned cash every month for the privilege of living in a property you can’t do anything with. While this usually means living with white walls and questionable carpets, it also means things such as energy efficiency and home improvements are out of your hands, and draughtiness in particular is often responsible for high energy bills and low comfort.
A couple of years ago, Citizens Advice and Friends of the Earth called on private landlords and Government to take action on heatless homes that are costing tenants hundreds of pounds in wasted energy a year.
But there are a number of low-cost, easy measures you can take that’ll help warm up your rented property without having to involve your landlord. It’s well worth the effort – according to the Energy Saving Trust you could save up to 10% on your energy bill with some simple DIY draught-proofing measures.
The answer isn’t always obvious. Yes, windows and doors are obvious culprits but floorboards and plug sockets can also be sources of unwanted chills. On a cold day spend some time moving around your house, identifying cold spots and finding the source of the draught. Most draughts can be easily detected simply by running your hand up and down the door or window frame. If the source of cold air is proving more difficult to locate, a lit candle or smoking taper can help.
As a general rule, if you can eliminate the draught then you should, but be careful in rooms that require ventilation, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Never seal up intentional ventilation such as extractor fans, wall vents or trickle vents.
The best way to draught-proof a window is to install double glazing, but if you’re a tenant you don’t get any say in that matter, unfortunately. Instead, you can use foam strips around open casements and invest in window film – neither of these are permanent solutions but they will reduce the problem (Wickes offer a range of foam draught excluders for window frames that won’t break the bank, as well as secondary window glazing film that can be fitted easily using a hair dryer). A good pair of thick curtains will also help keep draughts at bay – just remember not to cover radiators with them or you’ll trap and waste all that lovely heat. Depending on your landlord and contract, you might also consider using a foam sealant or putty in cracks between frames and walls.
A brush strip fitted to the bottom of a door, for example this one from Homebase, can work wonders in draught-exclusion – it’s a very minor DIY job and almost entirely unnoticeable. Similarly, foam strips around the sides of doors make for a simple, unobtrusive solution. Make sure your letterbox is covered with a flap or a brush, and a purpose-made keyhole cover will prevent draughts coming in this way. Regular tape will also work in a pinch, just remember to tape up the side of the keyhole that isn’t used! You can also check out our great tutorial for making your own sausage dog draught excluder.
Flooring can be a tricky one to draught-proof from a renter’s perspective, simply because most of the more viable solutions are permanent and likely require express permission from your landlord. If you can get your landlord on side, flexible fillers and decorator’s caulk will block draughts and don’t require any skill to apply.
Otherwise, position rugs and furniture over the draughtiest areas to eliminate chills as best you can. When it comes to gaps and cracks in skirting boards, stuffing the offending area with cotton wool is a good makeshift solution.
Chimneys are a major source of draughts, and while it’s possible to have them blocked permanently, it’s straightforward enough to take temporary measures yourself. A chimney balloon sits snugly inside the chimney breast and can be easily installed (and removed) yourself. Chimney draught-excluders sit around the fireplace and can make as much of a decorative impact as an energy efficient one.
According to research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) in 2014, nearly a third of privately rented properties in the UK would fail to meet the government's decency standards designed to raise standards in social housing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if the situation has changed since 2014, it hasn’t been for the better. Yet many tenants admit to feeling somewhat nervous about asking their landlord or letting agent about home improvements.
However, landlords have a vested interest in keeping their tenants happy, and the majority are happy to carry out reasonable requests to good tenants. It helps to think of your relationship with your landlord as a business agreement - that means before you approach them, you should consider how you can sell the requested measure as something that benefits the both of you. At this moment in time, it may help to mention the government’s Energy Company Obligation scheme (ECO), which provides funding and support for C02-reducing home improvements, particularly in low-income and vulnerable households.
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