No perfect home is complete without one room that simply cannot maintain an appropriate temperature. While you might be able to shut out the sunlight in those hot summer months, a drafty, winter-prone room isn’t so obviously remedied. Various technological and structural issues contribute to a room feeling cold, not least of them being the introduction of cold air directly from outside.
Where there’s a problem, though, there’s a solution. Warming up your room means addressing the most likely and most common sources of cold air and lack of adequate heating. With winter fast upon us, it’s time to get proactive about our home improvement, lest we end up wrapped in blankets and huddling around toaster-like space heaters in our drafty rooms, sipping hot cocoa and counting the days til spring.
Space heaters are popular, and not for no reason. They’re portable, affordable, and typically accomplish what they advertise to. But we made fun of them in the intro for a reason. Let’s not think of plug-in appliances as a real solution. They’re more of a band-aid. With that said, there are other options for electric heating that do what space heaters do, but often better, and most importantly without making a footprint.
Kickspace heaters are basically electric heaters that can be installed in any floor-level wall space hollow enough to accommodate them. Also called toe kick heaters, these inconspicuous heaters are usually installed in the recessed part of a wall underneath kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, and similar structures -- the kickspace. Unlike pricey and difficult-to-install baseboard heating, kickspace heaters are affordable and installation is as simple as making sure electricity is supplied to the heater.
Other supplemental heating options include wall-mounted haters, perfect for those seeking to conserve floor space, and the slightly more ostentatious false fireplace, which supplies an image of a burning fire while blowing hot air from an electric heating element.
In most freestanding homes with central HVAC, a furnace is what produces heat during the winter. If your home has a central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, then you might want to take a look at how well your furnace is supplying hot air, and specifically how much of that air is reaching your drafty room.
Check your furnace’s air filter. If you haven’t done this before, then there’s a solid chance you’ll find you’re overdue for a replacement filter, which will no doubt improve flow and air quality. When your heating system is in use, try to replace the filter at least once every four weeks.
If you’re still not feeling enough hot air, take a look at your HVAC ducts. Make sure your duct work is in good condition. The older a home is, the more likely its ducts are in disrepair, with cracks and gaps that let hot air escape before it ever gets to your chilly room. If your ducts are in good shape, find the duct dampers -- usually located close to your system’s central supply plenum -- and make sure they’re open. Dampers are included in HVAC ducts so airflow can be altered depending on the season. If you notice better airflow, mark the position of the switch so you know how it should look in winter.
Sometimes an HVAC system can be impeded by external factors. You aren’t blocking any vents, are you? Make sure furniture and other objects aren’t getting in the way of ventilation. If you think you’ve done all you can, and there’s still not enough hot air flow, a duct-booster might be what you need. Duct-boosters are fans that supplement an HVAC system’s weak airflow, and can be easily mounted inside ducts.
If you’re living in an apartment or an older home, you may very well depend on a radiator for your heat. Radiators are connected to a central heat supply, typically one that uses steam and hot water. Radiators are usually effective, but improper use can limit this effectiveness.
Your radiator should have good airflow around it, which means you should make sure it’s clear of objects that might prevent that. Radiators aren’t the most visually exciting part of a home, but instead of covering it up with furniture, consider a radiator cover. Radiator covers allow proper airflow while also making your radiator look more like a natural part of your space, complete with a usable surface in the warmer months.
If your radiator just doesn’t seem to be heating up as much as you’d expect, it might be due to trapped air. Hot water radiators can accumulate pockets of air, and when there’s enough of it, the radiator’s heating ability is diminished. For this reason, most radiators are designed with a release valve. Locate your radiator’s release valve and turn it slowly, using a screwdriver or other tool, until you notice some moisture being released. After this, your radiator should work as intended.
So far, we’ve talked about heating fixes: electric heating, furnaces, and radiators. It’s important to make sure our heating implements are operating as intended, but, if our indoor space suffers from structural compromises, hot air can only do so much. If we want to warm a room and keep it that way, we need to establish a sealed environment.
In winter or summer, gaps are your biggest enemy. Gaps in walls, windows, and doors will let out the air you want, and let in the air you don’t. Look first to your windows: are they properly sealed, or does your closed window still have a sliver-sized opening that allows air to transfer? If the window itself closes tight, is its frame airtight? You may have to seal it up with caulk, or explore other options.
Now, about the door: if your drafty room features an exterior entry door, that may be contributing to the problem. Front and back doors are the most common way air is exchanged between the inside of a home and the outdoors, because they’re always being opened and closed. However, a door can facilitate heat exchange even when closed if it’s not solidly built. A solid-core wood door, like the solid wood slabs manufactured by ETO Doors, will retain heat better than cheaper, composite alternatives, or synthetic materials.
Your door frame can suffer the same problems as your windows, so once you know you’re working with a quality door slab, make sure proper sealing measures are in place. You may need to replace your weather stripping; even if it’s not that old, a more robust weather stripping will make for better insulation.
And if you’re dealing with a bothersome heat exchange via an internal doorway -- say, between a bedroom and a chilly hallway -- then maybe the solution is simple: a draft stopper. Draft stoppers attach to the bottoms of doors and plug up the gap that often remains between the floor and the door slab.