Home heating advice needed

We live in a rented Victorian 3-bedroom house with gas central heating. The heating is excellent, and while on it heats up the house nicely. Within 30 minutes of it switching off the house cools back down to below a tolerable temperature - and that’s with extra jumpers and blankets etc. Throughout the house are original wooden single-glazed sash windows, which are by no means well sealed.

It’s pretty obviously an insulation/draught problem, but given that we are in rented accommodation there is little we can do about the underlying causes without incurring the wrath of the letting agency.

Can anyone suggest any non-marking, non-permanent DIY solutions for improving the insulation of our house (most especially the windows)? Google is mostly throwing up the idea of nailing brushes around the gaps in the windows, which isn’t an option for us.


You can buy clear plastic sheets and tape/staple those to the window frames. This creates a second barrier in front of the glass window to help prevent the drafts and to provide a second layer to counteract heat lost directly through the glass. You won’t be able to open the windows until you take the plastic down, but you probably won’t open them much during the winter anyway. Friends of mine used this and claimed about $50/month of savings during the coldest months.

Packing tape around the edges of the windows stops the drafts, but not the loss through the glass.

I don’t know where you live, but local utilities often provide rebates to encourage landlords to make efficiency improvements. When I was a property manager, we got low-flow shower heads for free, and low-flow toilets and CFL bulbs at steep discounts. Maybe a little research can turn up something that would prod the landlord into a more permanent solution.

there are (USA) polyurethane foam adhesive strips that can be applied at window edges to fill in or block infiltration gaps. can be removed slowly and carefully in spring to cause no damage.

in the USA there are window film treatments: you apply double sided adhesive tape (will come off most painted surfaces [quality and still in good condition]) around the window perimeter then apply a thin transparent film and then use hot air from a hair dryer on the film to shrink it tight. it is not visibly bad looking, mostly unnoticeable. removing slowly and carefully in spring causes no damage. this acts like a storm window or double glazing.

Are you leaving the heat running long enough to heat up the house and it’s contents? I assume you have forced air gas heat, which heats up the air very quickly. But the rest of the house needs more time to warm up to that temperature, and turning off the off heat will cause it to absorb a lot of heat rapidly from the air. It still sounds like you could benefit from additional sealing around the window frames, and using thermal drapes over the windows.

I’m not sure what country you’re in (“draught” and “letting agency” suggest it’s not the U.S.), so I’m not sure what sort of temporary insulation products are on the market where you are.

In the U.S., we have “window insulator kits”, which consist of plastic sheeting and tape which is specifically made to not take the paint / finish off of the windowsills when you remove it in the spring. The plastic is a type which will shrink when heat is applied; after you tape the sheet to the window, you use a hair dryer to make the plastic taut. We have some very drafty windows in our house, and these help quite a bit.

On some of our windows, we have also put temporary caulk in the edges between the windows and frames. This is sold for this purpose; it’s basically coils of clay, which you can mold to fit in the cracks.

If those specific products aren’t available where you are, then regular plastic sheeting and something like modeling clay could work – just make sure that the tape you use won’t mess up the finish of the window frames.

(Edit: johnpost posted while I was typing, which explains the marked similarity. :slight_smile: )

In the USA, temporary caulk is also available in tubes to fit a caulking gun. The one I have is “DAP Seal 'n Peel Removable Weatherstrip Caulk”.

Your location field says UK - I’m a bit surprised therefore. Don’t the Brits also have efficiency standards and laws? Don’t renters have rights? Who pays the heating, you or the landlord/ agency?

Surely reducing the heating costs by improving the insulation is a benefit even if permanent? Why would anybody get wrathful about it?

True, if it’s a Victorian home, there might be protection laws for old property - but usually there are exemptions for energy efficiency. Esp. in the cold British climate! If I were you, I’d contact the proper legal office that makes the laws for protection of old buildings (Denkmalschutz in my country), and maybe a renters club, as well as the energy provider, who usually have a program to reduce consumption, plus the local Green or enviromental group, about insulation and legal possibilities. Maybe your town offers advice where somebody comes in, does a look and suggest what options cost how much and save an estimated % in turn, and what govt. credit is available, and you (or the letting agency) decides on how much to invest. That’s how we do it here.

Thanks for the tips. Have just applied sticky foam strips to windows and doors - evidence of it having been done before, but hopefully much less draughty now. Will contemplate the window coatings, and see how it goes from here. We usually have the heating on for 1-2 hours at a time.

FYI our letting agent has already proven himself to be a) over-zealous; b) inefficient; c) lacking in common sense. We’re not planning to give him any more excuses than he needs (i.e. none).

I will second the plastic film over the windows. I did all my windows this year, and I have already noticed a difference. The film is a shrink-wrap type plastic, so after you install it with the tape, you can hit it with a hair dryer, and it will shrink until it is as tight as a drum over the window, and becomes completely transparent, making it difficult to detect unless you are up close. It cuts off all the drafts from the windows, and minimizes heat loss through the glass. I have one window that would get ice on the inside during bitter cold, and I am looking forward to seeing how this works out this year.

We have the same problem (house not as old), but high ceilings with skylights don’t help. I think we lose a ton of heat though the windows. We’ve considered the plastic film before, but didn’t think it would work well for us because we have 3 cats who love sitting in the windows and would probably claw the plastic to ribbons on the first day.

Can anyone think of any other solutions? I don’t think it’s necessarily the edges of the windows (the seal) that is losing heat so much as that it’s single-pane glass and the heat just goes right through it.

You can put the shrink plastic just over the individual panes to give yourself a pseudo double pane glass effect without blocking the windowsill. It’s not going to be nearly as effective as covering the whole window, but it may help.

A lot of these old houses should have come with storm windows, you’ll see hooks above the windows on the outside, or extra window tracks outside of the main window. Ask the landlord if there are storm windows stored somewhere that you can put up.

Our windows are one pane, top to bottom. :frowning:

I am surprised that only one person mentioned insulated curtains. They really seem to help a lot. Find some at a second hand store. Sometimes they have a backing made of a rubber type material, similar to the backing on a bathroom rug. If you cant find that type get the heaviest curtains you can find.

A lot of gas and electric utilities here will perform an energy audit free of charge. Some would even include thermal imaging to evaluate wall heat loss vs. window heat loss, and make recommendations about how to get the most bang for your buck on whatever you end up spending on remediation.

If your wall bays are empty of insulation, the main improvement to hope for from window leak control is comfort from drafts. That’s important, but it may mean you can’t reduce your energy bill very much without the landlord doing some capital improvement on the insulation.

I hope your utility has that available for you.

I didn’t know they made insulated curtains. Our main window in the living room has some foofy (ugly) curtainish window treatment where you pull a bundle of strings at one side and the whole thing lifts up bubble-style from bottom to top… I wonder if I could hide regular curtain hardware behind all that and put up insulated curtains? And it might work in the bedrooms where we just have vertical blinds. Depends on how cheap we could get the curtains, of course…

in winter especially at night you can feel cold on the side facing a window at a distance of 4 to 6 feet, this is heat being lost out the window. you can loose comfortable living space and have increased heating costs.

insulated curtains do help. though air cooled by the window can drop down behind the curtain.

if you really want to conserve heat then use use window quilts. these are good for windows that are large and not have storm windows like a picture window. you mount the top in a sealed valance and have hold down methods on the sides and bottom.

I see you said you have the heating on for 1-2 hours. That’s part of your problem, as well as draughts and poor insulation (maybe none?) The time you are heating may not be enough to heat the internal structure. When we have heating on all day, it takes some hours for the house to cool once it is turned off. If it hasn’t been going for long, such as you are doing, then it cools very quickly.

A Victorian house will have high studs, poor or no ceiling and wall insulation and lots of draughts. The draught problem won’t just be doors and windows. If you have no fitted carpet, then there will be leaks through floorboard gaps and even under and around skirting boards. With high studs, there is a lot of wall area to lose heat through and also material to heat to comfortable temperature.

Windows can be double insulated using the plastic film that people have already mentioned, or have lined curtains which provide good insulation. If you use the plastic film, then try to keep the gap between glass and plastic quite small. The double insulation works by reducing the amount of convection cooling of the air against the cold surface. If you baffle the air flow, then you reduce the heat transfer because of less convection current. That’s how most fill insulation works too. By stopping the air currents you cut down on heat transfer.

The curtains you have sound like Roman blinds. Do they concertina as they are being pulled up or just bunch up? If they are Roman blinds, then they can have a lining which helps retain heat. Are they like this? Otherwise try putting normal lined or insulated curtains behind them.

To whom were you addressing this part of the post?

If you don’t have any particular distaste for IKEA, I have these and they make quite a difference during a Minnesota winter. They aren’t absolutely fabulous, but for $29 they aren’t half bad either. Several color options as well.

Ah! I see it was you who has the curtains, not the OP.