Draught-proofing your home is a constant battle between stopping draughts, letting people and pets come in and go out as they please, and creating adequate ventilation.
Gaps in the fabric of your home let cold air in and warm air out, whether they’re official gaps like doors and windows, or unofficial ones like cracks between the floorboards or around pipework through the external walls. So they’re one of the first areas to tackle when you’re trying to make your home more energy efficient.
Luckily, stopping draughts can be comparatively cheap and easy, and often offers immediate results.
Draught-proofing your home could save you between £25 and £50 on your heating bills each year. And once you’ve stopped all those cold draughts from creating sudden shivers, you’ll find you can comfortably lower the setting on your thermostat, which could save you another £10 each year. 
Here’s our handy guide to creating your very own sausage dog draught excluder.
However, completely sealing every single gap can also result in stuffy, germ-ridden, polluted air in your home. And warm air can hold much more moisture than cool air, so you could be creating ideal conditions for condensation and mould.
Your home particularly needs good ventilation in places where there are open flues or fires, and rooms that produce a lot of moisture, like bathrooms, shower rooms, kitchens and utility rooms.
To help you maintain a suitable balance between cosy warmth and a healthy atmosphere, this guide answers the main questions about creating energy-efficient windows and doors.
There are several products available that work with either doors or windows. They all seem to have several different names, depending on the manufacturer, so it’s best to chat to a sales assistant to make sure you’re getting what you want.
There are also products for specific parts of your door:
When it comes to heat loss, doors are usually far worse than windows. If your home has an ill-fitting, unsealed external door you might as well knock a 6-inch hole in it and let the warm air blow out through that.
The best way to prevent heat loss through doors is to create a double-door airlock, by building a porch or conservatory outside, or adding a second door a few feet inside the original one. This inside door works particularly well if you live in a Victorian terraced home where the front door opens onto a passage that stays much the same width as the door.
With a double-door airlock, as long as everyone remembers not to open the second door until the first one is closed, you can considerably reduce the amount of hot air lost with every exit and entrance.
The easy, but expensive, answer is to install double glazing. It creates highly energy-efficient window insulation, and you can choose from a range of materials, all equally effective: uPVC, wood, aluminium, steel or composite.
However, you can achieve similar results much more cheaply, simply by sealing up gaps in single-glazed windows. Then, as and when your windows need replacing, you can consider double (or even triple) glazing in each individual case. For example, if you have sash windows, these are expensive to replace even as single-glazed units, so it might not cost much more to upgrade to double glazing.
It can also be less expensive to install secondary double glazing, which is equally effective at stopping draughts and soundproofing, but can be quite fiddly to clean.
Here are some tips for stopping up those gaps:
Double glazing can take a while to pay back your investment, but it’s long lasting (20 years or more) and can certainly make a home warmer and more comfortable, as it reduces draughts and cold spots. Fully insulated windows can also cut down your carbon footprint, shut off external noise thanks to double glazing’s soundproofing qualities, and reduce condensation.
These figures from the Energy Saving Trust show how much you could save each year if you live in a typical gas-heated home in England, Scotland or Wales, with single-glazed windows throughout, and replaced them all with double-glazed ones.
|Energy rating||Detached||Semi detached||Mid terrace||Bungalow||Flat|
|A rated||£120 - £160||£85 - £110||£65 - £90||£55 - £75||£40 - £60|
|B rated||£110 - £145||£75 - £110||£60 - £80||£50 - £70||£40 - £55|
|£110 - £135||£75 - £95||£60 - £75||£50 - £65||£40 - £50|
To find a more ideas to help you save energy in your home, try our Energy Saving Calculator, which was developed to help you cut your costs of electricity in your home.
Windows are rated by the independent British Fenestration Ratings Council (BFRC) on a scale of G up to A+, where A+ represents the most energy-efficient windows and G is the least efficient. So an A-rated double-glazed window would have reached the second-best level of energy efficiency.
The scale is called the WER (Window Energy Ratings), and it assesses the performance of door and window insulation based on:
So a window’s overall rating depends on the total combined energy efficiency of its frame, double-glazing units and airtightness.
The WER label shows the rating by using a set of coloured bars, much like the energy efficiency labels found on electrical appliances. It also shows the product’s U-value, which is the measure of how easily heat can pass through it – the lower the better.
A- or A+-rated windows could include these features, which can increase a product’s energy efficiency but may also make it more expensive:
If you live in a conservation area, an area of special architectural interest, or a listed building, any work you carry out must preserve or enhance the character of your home. You’ll need to talk to your local council’s conservation officer and ask which specific restrictions apply to your property. You may well be allowed to install double glazing, but it may need to be in a style and material that suits the building and replicates the original windows.
You’ll also need to check with your local planning office if there is an article 4 direction on your property, as this limits your permitted development rights.
If you are definitely not allowed to install double glazing, you may be able to achieve greater energy efficiency with blinds, shutters, heavier curtains or secondary double glazing.
It’s a secondary pane of glass fitted on the inside of the existing window. It can’t be sealed as effectively as an integral double-glazed unit, but can still help to keep heat in, and cold air and noise out. It’s also much cheaper to fit, and experienced DIY-ers can buy kits to cut costs even further.
You can improve the performance of secondary glazing by using Low-E energy-efficient glass.
Visit the Glass and Glazing Federation website to find double glazing installers in your area who’ve signed up to their consumer code. This should ensure you get excellent service, and if you’re not happy with the work you can use the Federation’s free reconciliation service.
If your home is in England or Wales, you could choose an installer who is registered with an official Competent Person scheme. If so, once they’ve finished the work, they’ll give you a certificate stating that your new doors and/or windows comply with the scheme’s regulations.
In Scotland, you’ll need to check with your local authority’s building standards office.
*Source and notes for graphs and table
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