Sash window with view onto parked cars through a net curtain. Trees are visible through the plain glass top half of the window. On either side there are wooden shutters.
Shutters or thick curtains can help reduce heat loss through windows. © Historic England Archive. DP114097
Shutters or thick curtains can help reduce heat loss through windows. © Historic England Archive. DP114097


Draughts can be a major source of discomfort in older buildings, and eliminating them could make a big difference to your energy costs.

Eliminating draughts

Although ventilation helps to prevent dampness and decay in older buildings, too much of it can lead to uncomfortable draughts. You therefore need to strike a careful balance.

Older buildings can lose around 15-20% of their heat via draughts but there are many ways to tackle this without damaging the historic character of your building. And the good news is, the work involved pays for itself very quickly.

Windows and doors

Original windows and doors are a key part of the character and interest of older buildings, and should be retained where possible. Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and least intrusive methods of cutting down on heat lost through windows and doors, and the costs can be quickly recovered by the energy savings.

About one-fifth of a home's heating is lost through windows. Most of that escapes through air gaps rather than through the glass. Research has shown that air infiltration through a sash window in good condition can be reduced by as much as 86% by adding draught-proofing. And it has the added advantage of reducing noise and dust.

Wiper seals (the brush type) draught excluders can be effective, especially along the base of doors, even if there is some warping. Compression seals are particularly well suited to external doors as the initial 3 millimetres of the draught-stripping allows for seasonal movement of the door.

More on draught-proofing windows and doors

Another very effective form of draught prevention is secondary glazing. This lets you keep your historic windows in place while improving their overall efficiency. If well designed, secondary glazing can be discreet and reversible.

More about secondary glazing for windows 


Chimneys are often the source of draughts. Dampers can reduce draughts when the fireplace is not in use. A cheap and effective temporary alternative is a chimney balloon, which inflates to block up the chimney.

Whichever solution you choose, they should not be a complete fit. Chimneys need some ventilation to prevent a build-up of dampness in the flue, so be sure to keep some air moving through.

More about open fires, chimneys and flues 


Gaps in timber suspended floors can also let draughts in. A quick way to reduce them is to put down a heavy rug or carpet.

More about insulating suspended timber floors