Christmas is coming

Article by Tom Bragg

As so many others, I’m busy preparing for Christmas.  It’s nice to have a time of year where we particularly focus on being kind to our family and friends, but it can also be stressful:  How we going to fit all those relatives in our house? What presents do we need to get? When’s the last posting date?

However, this also made me think about some of the simple ways we can get our homes ready to welcome family and friends, while also being kind to the planet and to our children’s future.

These all relate to avoiding draughts and reducing the “air leakage” in our homes from all the little crevices and cracks, particularly in an older home. They easily lose half of a home’s heat.

Draughts also effectively make your home smaller than it needs to be, because no-one wants to sit in that cold draughty corner. Even subtle air movements will make it substantially colder, particularly downstairs. This is the last thing we want, particularly when welcoming a house full of people at Christmas.

An easy way to find draughts is to go round on a windy day and feel for them with a wet finger (this will feel colder if in a draught). An alternative is to hold up a little fluttery piece of foil (an old crisp packet is ideal) which will flap in a draught. This could be a good detective project for the kids to do?

Doors, windows and letter boxes are a common source of draughts and air leakage.  Gaps in sash windows can very easily be temporarily draught proofed using “magic” easy-to-remove invisible scotch tape. Wonky doors can be draught proofed with screw on metal and rubber sealing strip. These cost about £25 from DIY Stores and include a range of rubber or brush seals. An eco letterbox flaps helps reduce draughts too.

Open chimneys are a huge source of heat loss.  If Father Christmas can come down, similarly all the nice warm air created by your central heating will rise up the chimney and be lost.  This is why traditionally many fireplaces had a shutter that could be used to block off the chimney. Today, some people use a carrier bag filled with scrumpled paper to block off most of the air flow. But clearly, if you do this, it’s absolutely essential that you remember to remove it before using the fireplace. 

The best solution of course, is to have unused chimneys properly blocked up and where you do want to have a real fire, to install a modern high efficiency woodstove instead. This will reduce the heat loss up the chimney, will burn less fuel and will create much less air pollution than an open fire.

With best wishes for a cosy Christmas and New Year

Tom Bragg

Fancy doing some thermal imaging of your home? Free cameras to borrow and training 7:30pm 15th Jan 2018. Booking and details from

A version of this blog post first appeared in the Cambridge Independent