Sunday, 28 November 2010

Chilling out... a winter warmer

That one is from a book of vintage patterns on Amazon; for free pet warmer jacket patterns:

Temperatures are plummeting and there's a foot of snow outside. We could be in for another long, hard winter.

How did we manage in the past, without, for most people, central heating?  I recall it well. We were bloody cold at times and we had frost patterns inside the windows, since you ask. We wore warm clothes (oh the joys of a Liberty bodice...) and huddled round the fire. We ate warming soups and stews with seasonal veg and bulked them out with barley, followed by jam roly poly or spotted dick  with custard.


I'm not suggesting a total return to days of austerity, unless we must,  but if we want to be 'eco-aware', save on energy costs and keep warm then we could look at the past to help inform the present.

We could eat more local and seasonal produce. Yesterday I made the veg crumble from here:

eaten with home grown baked spud and buttery cabbage. It was delicious.

For those of us with older properties*, we can cut out draughts and take simple steps to conserve heat without spending a great deal of cash and ripping out historic windows (not really very 'green' in a wider view) and their beautiful wobbly old glass, which gives so much life to properties which modern flat glass cannot.

I have written in past blogs about this, here's one with further useful links to research and advice

Edinburgh World Heritage (which is doing outstanding work in research and dissemination of information re upgrading period buildings to make them eco-friendly and energy efficient without spoiling their historic interest and fabric) recently took thermal images of windows with curtains and shutters closed and found that highly effective:

Here's the BBC report, with video:

At least one company which purveys replacement windows has been trying to suggest that fitting its products is far more eco-friendly and saving of energy than the straightforward advice of EWH; please remember that double glazing salespeople are there to make money not save your bank balance and the planet, don't really see much beyond the next few years, certainly aren't interested in the long-term future of their products, and that in listed buildings, ripping out historic windows without consent is unlawful (and hopefully also such consent would not be granted).

Here's English Heritage on why you should save your historic windows (although warning: Simon Thurley talking alert in the video, it is worth watching!):

Windows are a precious part of our built heritage that makes the places we work and live special. Most people find them attractive.

But keeping them is not just a matter of taste. It also makes economic and ecological sense. Original timber windows were made of very high quality wood seldom found nowadays. It is a waste to replace them unnecessarily. Plastic windows consume a lot of energy in their production and most are only expected to last for around 20 years. When broken, most go to land-fills.

Besides, sash windows are a unique feature of your property. It gives it character and special appeal. 82% of estate agents we surveyed this year felt that original features such as sash windows tend to add financial value to properties and 78% believed they helped a property to sell more quickly.

The common objection to original sash windows is that they are not energy efficient and there are very limited ways of upgrading them. Now, for the first time an important piece of research has been commissioned by English Heritage at Glasgow Caledonian University that is going to show people just how easy and effective it is to bring a sash window up to modern standards. Download the research report to find out more.

DIY draughtproofing is available from numerous  places (do a google!)

Small selection

(Guide also available to buy via that site, as well as components)

and here's an online  DIY guide

Even the Guardian has a simple repair guide

One specialist firm which can do the draughtproofing job for you and repair even the most knackered windows (those who moan about draughty, rattly sash windows really should do something about that, it's not how they are meant to be) is currently featuring on TV:

It made environmental, aesthetic and financial sense to use Ventrolla to restore all 147 sash windows we had at Rise Hall that were on the brink of collapse.

They then fitted them with their two patented systems - first Ventrolla Perimeter Sealing System which draught proofs the windows, preventing heat from escaping and therefore making them energy efficient.

Secondly with their Sash Removal System (SRS), which allows the window to be easily removed from inside so future repainting and repairs will now be quick, easy and most importantly cheaper, as no scaffolding will be needed.

Ventrolla were not only a pleasure to deal with and by transforming the windows they have also transformed the façade of Rise Hall.

Graham Swift and Sarah Beeny

My own home's historic sash windows are currently 'draughtproofed' by pushing loo roll in the gaps. Works fine. 

For those interested, there's also the possibility of secondary glazing, which can be very simple or more sophisticated:

although for historic windows consent will be required for anything which alters the existing windows. Also of course costs can add up, and payback time should be factored in.

Edinburgh World Heritage has also produced two online guides to basic energy saving measures which are worth reading

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings

Relatively simple measures can make historic buildings as energy efficient as most modern constructions,  for example draft proofing windows or reinstating wooden shutters. This project aims to reduce carbon emissions over the 16 month period and continue to generate savings on an ongoing basis, with a significant reduction in the overall carbon footprint of the city.

Those links also give links to advice on how to make simple draught excluders.

(comments worth reading)

Well, when it's freezing outside a few homecrafts will help make the long dark nights indoors pass by rapidly. What else would you be doing?

For those with a wider interest in both homecrafts and vintage fashion, as well as keeping warm and how it used to be, the V & A has a smashing free online selection of 1940s knitting patterns.

From fetchingly attractive warm hats to wool undies via stockings and bedsocks with pompoms ('make a very acceptable present')  all your Christmas gifts dilemmas solved?

'The balaclava helmet', from Essentials for the Forces, 1940s. Jaeger Handknit. With ear flaps to enable good hearing during telephone operations (or for use with a mobile phone).


*Of course this blog is the most basic of guides. For further reading on how to deal appropriately with period buildings here's an excellent start:

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