Friday, 14 November 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.