Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The many types of drafts/draughts, and how I got rid of a few

This post is about my latest attempt to reduce drafts in my house.  While trying to think of some random historical tidbit to include in this post, it struck me that the word "draft" (or sometimes "draught" in British English) means an awful lot of different things:
  • Currents of cold air flowing through your house and making you chilly
  • The intentional flow of air (and smoke) up a chimney
  • A preliminary version of something you're writing or creating, like a rough draft
  • A bank draft, an order to take an amount of money from an account
  • "The draft", people getting conscripted into the military, or a sports team
  • The depth of a ship's hull under the water (and also a measure of the curvature of a sail, for some reason)
  • Beer or cider from a large container like a keg rather than individually bottled
  • A horse or other animal that pulls heavy loads
  • Draughts, the game of checkers
  • Drafting, making technical drawings
  • A political draft where supporters attempt to convince someone to run for office
  • An angle of taper for a mold or cast used in manufacturing to make it easier to get the manufactured item out of the mold
  • Campdrafting, an Australian rodeo sport (probably called that because it involves draft animals)
What on earth do all these things have in common? The word comes from Middle English meaning to pull or draw something in.  Aha!  Cool!  A lot of these things do have to do with pulling: air being pulled through a crack or a chimney, a ship's hull being pulled down into the water, a draft horse pulling a cart, the military pulling in people to serve, pulling beer from a keg, etc.

But a rough draft of a paper, or a technical drawing?  The word "draw" comes from the same or similar origins, as it turns out, which is why to draw also means to pull (like to draw a card or a gun).  I guess maybe it comes from the act of pulling a pencil across a paper (or ink across some parchment).

Anyway, I'm still trying to make my house more energy efficient and comfortable.  Despite the new top-sealing damper on my chimney, I could still feel a draft sucking the warm air out of my living room on a cold day.  Time for another crusade for draft reduction!

This time, I really wanted to actually plug the fireplace up with a cover or something.  I was going to cut a thin board to size and glue some insulation to the back of it or something (I drafted a plan), but when I got to Home Depot, I discovered that you can buy board insulation for pretty cheap.  Board insulation is a rigid foam material that you would normally install inside your wall in between joists when you're constructing a new house.  There are different types that go in different layers, and they come in really large sheets that are $15-$20 each.  I bought a large sheet of it (which didn't fit in my car) and cut it down to fit into my fireplace.  It cuts very easily with a large utility knife, but little bits of foam cling to everything.

It was kind of hard to fit it into the fireplace.  I had to make a rough cut and then slice off slivers until it fit.  There are still a few gaps around the edges, but it's not too bad, and I can fill it up with some cloth or something.  Maybe I'll actually make a cover for it for both that purpose and for aesthetics, at some point.  It's...not very pretty.  But hey, this was a LOT easier than my original plan, which was to cut out some wood to fit this hole.

Fireplace insulating plug. It even has a handle!

Floor heater insulating plug, with handle.
There's a hole in my floor where there's an old floor heater that's no longer in use.  I can feel a draft from that hole, and I had plenty of leftover board insulation, so I put a layer of foam in there and then taped a plastic sheet over it to make it air tight.  The metal grate goes on top.  One day, I'll get someone to remove the old heater completely and patch the floor, but that's a more ambitious project for the future and not critical.

Here's to a slightly less drafty winter!

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