Operation Household Energy Reduction: Part 4 - Not Leaking Like a Sieve

As I noted in the caveats to this series, what good is an extremely expensive solar ventilation system if the house leaks air like a sieve? There seems to be a fairly universal sense for remediation projects like this that a good, inexpensive place to start is draught proofing. And whilst remediation sub-projects took place at various times and in various sub-stages the first major sub-project to be completed in full was our draught proofing work. I would divide this sub-project, in turn, into several component pieces:

1) filling of small gaps naturally occurring in a house which was constructed prior to concern about thermal performance. These include things like gaps around window architraves and around the sills of showers and bath tubs that permit cold/hot air intake from under the house and warm/ed/cooled air escape from within the living areas.

2) filling of larger gaps built into the structure and not seen as issues in earlier times: examples would be uncontained ventilation capacity above refrigerator cavities and open spaces near ducted heating return vent which permit cold air from under the house to enter the return vent and cause the heating unit to operate unnecessarily.

3) application of draught proofing techniques to external doors to prevent excess air intake and loss.

4) application of draught proofing techniques to external windows to prevent excess air intake and loss (in our case this became part of a separate sub-project to apply secondary glazing to our external windows).

5) plugging of wall vents required under previous building regulations but no longer required now.

6) application of commercially available draught stoppers to ceiling mounted exhaust fans and integrated light/heat and exhaust units. These draught stoppers remain closed when the unit is not in operation blocking excessive air escape or intake but open when the unit is being used for purpose of expelling air.

We undertook work consistent with all of the above.

Now, just to repeat the caveats that have been part of all of these posts….

1) whilst there are technical fixes that can contribute to energy reduction, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t concentrate exclusively on them. My gadget-attracted persona is fascinated with new photo-voltaic cell technology or the latest approach to circulating filtered warm ceiling air into the house. We consider these approaches but also try to make sure that lower cost, high impact corrections are prioritised. What good is an extremely expensive solar ventilation system if the house leaks air like a sieve?

2) Related to this point, we are aware of the relative economic capacity we enjoy that allows us to make some of these changes simply.

3) So we want to avoid seeing this as a way we can “proof” our little home against the rest of the world. 90000 litres of localised water storage might be fine if it makes sense in the context of your local rainfall and reasonable water usage. It doesn’t make much sense if it is to safeguard your lifestyle while the rest of the world runs out of water.

4) And part of the reason for adding these thoughts to this blog is to add to the conversation about what is possible and keep us all thinking about ways we can contribute to this kind of work for ALL dwellings, regardless of personal economic capacity.

5) Our efforts are not necessarily particularly remarkable in the scheme of things, but its fun to tell the story, to be encouraged in what you are doing and to encourage others

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