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Friday, November 14, 2008

Bring Back the Draft Dodger

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm

In the United States, back in the 1970's, we had what was then called The Energy Crisis. An embargo on crude oil shipments to the U.S. by OPEC nations dramatically cut supply. The quickly-rising price of petroleum products - gasoline and heating oil especially - caused many people to look for ways to cut expenses by using less. Events now remind me of that time, and of some of the things we did then. It's time to bring back the draft dodger (no, not the military type - the drafty doors type)!

To save energy when heating your house, you need to keep the warm air in and the cold air out. Many home-owners are now adding more insulation and replacing windows and doors with more energy-efficient options. This is wonderful, if you can manage it. But it can be very expensive, and is simply out of the question for renters. An easy, low-impact remedy is to make little stuffed fabric tubes for the bottom (cold air sinks) of your outside doors.

Measure inside your door frame, add a seam allowance for each end, and cut a long piece of fabric that will just fit when sewn. A heavy fabric, such as denim or corduroy, is best. The draft dodgers for my front and kitchen doors are made from recycled blue jeans. Sew it into a tube, sew one end, stuff or fill it, and sew up the other end. My dodgers are filled with clean kitty litter, not too full, so they will mold firmly against the door, then stand in the corner when not in use. Or you can use any kind of rags, or other stuffing, packing it into the tube with a dowel or broomstick. Keeping in mind the weight of the stuffing you use, you can add a loop to hang it on the doorknob. If you'd like to get creative, you can make a snake by adding eyes and a forked tongue (coiling it next to the door when not in use), or maybe a dachshund dog with felt snout, ears and a tail. The cutest one I remember was a ballerina, with legs in a split when in use, and her stitched together hands reaching up over her head when she'd hang on the doorknob. I've seen some too, that are two stuffed tubes, one on either side of the door connected by a bit of flat fabric, so it'll slide back and forth with the door as it's opened and closed.

I also have a north-facing sliding glass door. If it were just the opening I wanted to block, I could have made a vertical draft dodger, with a loop at the top and a hook or a nail in the top corner to hang it on. But this is an old door, not very well-insulated, and I wanted a bit more protection from those cold north winds. I got a 4'x8'x1.5" sheet of rigid foam insulation at a home improvement store. After careful measurements, we used a saw (you can also use a serrated knife - be very careful, and mind what's underneath), cutting it to fit tightly inside the door frame and just under the sliding door handle. I can still open the door if I want to poke my head out, without freezing my toes. Surface friction holds it in place, and it can easily be flipped upright, out of the doorway, and slid into the corner behind the drapes when I'm using that door. I like having this one so much that I use it year-round. During the summer nights I leave the door open with the screen closed, and it turns my slider into a dutch door. Holding it in place with a tension curtain rod, I get the cooling night breezes while blocking the cat from picking at the screen door wanting out.

One more tip: increasing the humidity can make your home feel warmer. We keep a pan filled with water on the wood stove in our house. But when I'm feeling cold, heating up water for a pot of tea and then letting the rest boil on the stove for a while longer will make the whole place seem warmer.

14 comments:

Sarah said...

I remember that we had these growing up. I need to make a couple for our house this winter.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

We had the dachsund draft dodger, and what I remember most about those days, were the odd/even gas fill up days, and that business' had to turn off lights when they were closed. A huge energy savings, not to mention it kept light pollution at a minimum.

Chookie said...

I think the official name for them here is "draught-stopper", but most people call them draught snakes. Ours are filled with sawdust or sand. Just make sure your children don't play with them as they can rip them, or knock someone out.

Anonymous said...

Here in the Netherlands we hear constantly that we have to make our homes less humid because humid makes the house and the air feel colder.
To dry isn't good either because that doesn't feel ok for your nose and eyes.
In my house i have some big windows from the ceiling till the ground. They are double glazed but it still gives a lot of cold. In winterdays i have the curtains closed all day by those windows.
On my couch i have a few knitted blankets (sort of patchwork). I love it to sit under it with some hot pitchers.

Annikka

Slice of life said...

We always called the 'draught excluders'. It is time to hang the heavy curtains back up in the kitchen at the french doors.

Tracey McBride said...

A time-honored idea that should have never gone away because it's so useful! I love the draft dodger in the photo...the handles are very clever! Thanks for the reminder!
Warmly,
Tracey

notesfromthefrugaltrenches.com said...

What a great simple idea!

emma said...

We have used 'draught snakes' as we call them, for ages and they work wonderfully. Love the idea for a ballerina one!

amanda o said...

thanks for the post...i recently did one about this myself and need to get busy making a new one!

Nancy M. said...

That is such a great idea to use old blue jeans! I never would have thought to use kitty litter either. I bet that helps it stay against the door better!

Anonymous said...

You would think with as many bloggers writing for this blog there would always be something new to read. I know you all have your own blogs and lives so I understand all that, but I would just like to see more post. Some of us are new to reading blogs and the green way of life and can't get enough info, maybe we are obsessed but hey, trying to save the world here guys. Jk love this blog and would love to see more!

annette said...

I like your idea of used jeans. My BF has a few pairs that are no longer patchable (already so patched) that these may be repurposed to draft dodgers!

kathirynne said...

I make my draft dodgers from old jeans, too. (And stuff them with dryer lint.)

Shasta said...

These are great ideas - I have been meaning to make a draft dodger. This year, I'll definitely do it. I was trying to think of something elaborate and pretty, but using up a pair of jeans seems like a perfect idea.