Honey, I Shrink-wrapped the House

I don’t really handle the cold well. You’re probably wondering why I moved to Scotland, and there are times at the moment when so am I. At the same time we’re trying to keep our oil usage low both for planet- and money-saving reasons, so we can’t just let rip with the heating. Our electricity company have sent us a handy little thermometer with temperatures ranging from Reduce heat, but stay warm (24-27° C or 75-80° F) to Danger of hypothermia take action now! (9-12° C or 48-54° F). We’ve been so far hovering between these two extremes with the bedroom at about 15° C and the kitchen (where the Rayburn keeps things nice and warm) nearer 20°. 18 degrees I can just about handle, if I’m dressed for it, although it still means blue fingers and chilblained toes. And with the cold comes damp – streaming condensation on the windows, and anything left unattended in a quiet corner likely to sprout mildew or grow a beard of mould.

So we decided to do what we could, and – following the advice of Huttonian, former owner of the Coldest House in Christendom (TM) – we decided clingfilm was the answer. OK, not exactly clingfilm (although it can also be used) but a clear plastic wrap that you tape over the windows on the inside to create instant, cheap (eight quid so far for three sets of windows) if not 100% effective double glazing.

It was actually pretty easy, although the 18-point detailed instructions the film came with managed to strike a healthy level of fear in our hearts before we began. Not only that, but the pack we bought contained that substance beloved of all Blue Peter viewers, double sided sticky tape (up until now, I wasn’t entirely certain it existed). As the other half found when he left me going solo on the last set of windows last night, if you take care the process is difficult, but not impossible, to screw up and is also forgiving enough so that when you do screw up, a bit, maybe, the magical application of a hairdryer (or a little fan heater. One glance at us would be enough to see that we don’t actually own a hairdryer. I mean, come on) makes it okay again as the film shrinks into place.

As for the results, so far the main effect is that there’s much less condensation on the windows we’ve done. We’re not exactly wandering around in t-shirt and shorts, but the house seems to hold the heat better than it did before when the heating is off. And you can’t really see the film once it’s on – I was going to take before and after shots until I realised that the after shots looked just like the before ones, except you could see through the windows better because we’d cleaned them. The only real downside is that I look back now at the two really quite miserable winters we spent in a similarly cold rented house in London, and wonder why we didn’t think to do it there as well. I think it’s just that it’s hard to believe that something as simple as clingfilm and double-sided sticky tape could actually make a difference. But now that we’ve started down the DIY insulation road, what’s next? Knit-your-own hotwater tank lagging?

14 Responses to Honey, I Shrink-wrapped the House

  1. This stuff sounds great – what’s it called and where did you get it from?

  2. disgruntled says:

    From Wickes – it’s called ‘Double Glazing Film’ and it’s their own brand (although the instructions call it ‘Stormguard(TM) Seasonal Double Glazing’. There’s probably other brands available

  3. 2whls3spds says:

    That is great stuff. I used it on some of my rental houses in the past. It does an excellent job of reducing the drafts from old windows. I have also used it on my Airstream (Caravan) when I was staying in it during the extended season.


  4. 2whls3spds says:

    I have also seen it used as an impromptu cold frame in the garden to extend the seasonal veggies a bit.


  5. disgruntled says:

    Stuff of many talents … I’d have thought with an airstream you’d probably have to shrink wrap the whole thing…

  6. Try leaving all the doors tp the rooms open so that the heat spreads throughout house and doesn’t heat a room individually, that helps to keep a more or less constant temperature.

  7. disgruntled says:

    We’ve tried that but it’s an odd shaped house – long and thin – and so the heat from the kitchen doesn’t spread. Also the front door is between the kitchen and the sitting room and so the heat goes out that way too and tries to heat up Scotland (a losing battle). So mostly I shut all the doors and sit in the one warm room…

  8. Stormfilled says:

    Friends who rented a badly maintained Victorian terrace in London taped bubble wrap over the windows for winter. It did a surprisingly good job but did look rather odd from the outside! We’ve also put a thick velvet curtain over the front door. It makes quite a difference. In this house though I’m fully with you on the heat one room and stay in it plan!

  9. Autolycus says:

    Having been brought up in a draughty Victorian house without central heating, I’m a great believer in door curtains and any sort of draught-proofing you can manage for your windows. In one flat I used perspex sheeting on a sort of frame (from Wickes), which sealed the windows completely. Heaven knows what would have happened in a fire.

    And don’t jest about knit-yourself lagging. Don’t they use wool for loft insulation? Your part of the world must be quite well provided for in that department.

  10. disgruntled says:

    A door curtain may well be our next move.

    There are certainly plenty of sheep here, and the wool doesn’t seem to be that valued – half the time the sheep seemed to have scratched off their excess fleece before the farmer gets round to shearing them. So maybe there’s a gap in the market…

  11. We used this in a draughty rented Victorian house a few years back, and it seemed to work pretty well. Probably worth the £8. Bills were still high, though. We bought somewhere with a cavity wall we could fill, which makes a huge difference.

  12. disgruntled says:

    Our walls are a good foot thick, but probably un-cavitied. Still, there’s always more jumpers.

  13. About 15 years ago a friend of mine put external insulation on a house without a cavity. It had a thin skin over the top which looked a lot like pebble-dashing, and the windows end up looking very recessed into the walls. I thought it was a bit ugly, but in theory it’s more efficient than cavity insulation as you can put a thicker layer of insulation outside and the foot thick brickwork gives you a larger thermal mass inside the insulation.

    His was a detached house so he could get away with it. I dare say it would upset the neighbours to do this on one terrace in a row.

    I’m afraid we lost touch, so I don’t know how successful it was longer term.

  14. Dom says:

    Yes, it is getting a bit cold these days. I had to shut the windows the other day, soon I may even have to turn on the heating 😛

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