A Chill Wind is an Ill Wind - Part 1

"If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it"    Lucy Larcom

Alternatively, try draughtproofing! This post describes a small draughtproofing project I undertook in 2021 and 2022.

Our front door, sited at the bottom of a stairwell, faces north and is, at times, the coldest part of the house (Figure 1). There is a cellar below, where the temperatures varies from about 8 ℃ in winter to 14 ℃ in summer.  There is no heating in the stairwell and it is the main entrance so lets in the cold winter air when visitors call. The outside wall surrounding the door is of single brick construction typically found in Victorian properties. The house was built in the 1850s and so does not have a damp-proof course to prevent rising damp (not this one but this one). The surveyor's report did not indicate a problem with rising damp but the inside walls were cold enough to cause condensation and allow mould to grow, especially near ground level. This problem was dealt with using a thermal liner, kindly donated by one of our neighbours, that was overpainted.

Figure 1: The Cold Stairwell (January 2022)

The door is modern and made of uPVC solid composite while the transom window is double-glazed (Figure 2); both were installed in 2008.

The sash windows are modern uPVC double-glazed equivalents installed in 2002.

Figure 2: Front door leading to stairwell

The denser cold air settles at the bottom of the stairs and spreads into the adjoining reading/music room, via the door to the right (Figure 1). The rooms left and right of the front door (Figure 2) were cool in summer (great during the hottest weather) and just about OK in winter with the gas fires on provided you did not want to just sit around!

There was an improvement (in terms of warmer rooms/lower fuel bills) when internal cladding, including 50 mm thermal insulation, was added to the external walls of both rooms in 2013. There was insufficient space in the stairwell to do this. When the Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) were installed in 2020, both gas fires were decommissioned and replaced with radiators.

Figures 3 and 4 are infrared photos (FLIR One Pro) taken in April 2021. The outside temperature was 1 ℃ and it is clear where the cold spots are: around the door edges, the handle/lock, and the doorstep. The solid stone doorstep (painted red outside, see Figure 2) provides a direct conduit for transferring heat/cold from inside/outside and is a major contributor to the coldness of the stairwell.

Figure 3: InfraRed Image/Photo (7/4/21)

Figure 4: InfraRed Image/Photo (7/4/21)

In Part 2, I'll describe work done in 2021 to alleviate the coldness.


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