make your own: draft guard.

July 30, 2019

Longtime readers might recall that for years James and I went without using air conditioning. We didn’t want to block what little light we had with a bulky window unit. And we didn’t want to buy the bulky air conditioner in the first place. More than anything, we didn’t want to contribute to the energy suck that is the American obsession with ice cold rooms in the summertime. We were A/C free when we slept in a tiny loft, when we moved to a fourth-floor apartment, when we had a newborn in the summertime, and even when we had to plunge our feet into ice buckets to try to get a modicum of relief from the oppressive city heat that doesn’t go away even after the sun sets.

Two summers ago though, when temperatures were climbing past 100 in this attic apartment, we broke down and bought an air conditioner. We do our best to keep our A/C use infrequent and moderate. We set the thermostat to 78 and turn it off when we’re not home. (Helpfully, ours syncs with an app that lets us turn it on remotely when we’re on our way home.) We use fans to help move the cool air around. I’ve sealed up the unit itself with silicone caulk and now, I’ve finally sealed up the rest of the apartment, too.

On Sunday night when we returned from Connecticut, James hoisted the air conditioner into the window. Last night, I sewed up a draft guard to block the 1-inch gap between the base of our apartment door and the floor. Now instead of cooling the inferno that is the landing outside our door, we’re staying cool inside.

There is nothing revolutionary about this project. For anyone who grew up in an old house in New England, these kinds of draft guards (or draft snakes, or draft blockers, or whatever term you’d prefer) were ubiquitous, except they often had duck heads or snake heads or an abundance of paisleys. You do you, of course, but I opted for a simple canvas draft guard, cut from one end of an old drop cloth.

If you have a sewing machine this project will take about three minutes, start to finish. If not, sewing this up by hand, like I did, will take a bit longer than that, but it’s still a project that can be easily finished while watching a show in the evening after work.


+ An old canvas drop cloth or similar heavy-duty cloth

+ Scissors

+ Safety pins

+ Needle

+ Thread

+ Beans, rice, lentils, dried lavender, etc. for filling

+ Toilet paper roll cut in half or large funnel


+ Cut a 5-inch wide strip from your drop cloth.

+ Fold the fabric strip in half and pin together with safety pins, spacing the pins about 5-inches apart as needed. You’ll be turning the tube inside out after sewing, so be sure that whatever side of fabric you’d like to ultimately face outward is facing inward while sewing. (As an example, the paint smears you see above aren’t visible once the tube is turned inside out.)

+ Sew a seam along the length of the fabric and along one end, leaving one end of tube open.

+ Carefully use your thumbs to turn the tube inside out so that the seam is on the inside along with any remnants of past painting projects.

+ Once the tube is right-side out, you can fill it with whatever non-perishable you’d like: dried beans, rice, lentils, and dried flowers if you’d like it to smell good. I had made a mixture of all of the above for my kids to play with last year, and it had been sitting in a jar in my kitchen cabinet unused, so in it went.

+ Use a toilet paper roll cut in half as makeshift scoop and funnel.

+ Once filled, roll the end of your tube and sew or safety pin it shut. I used a large safety pin because it was easy and because if my draft guard gets dirty, I can unpin it, empty, wash, and fill again.

The finished draft guard is practically unnoticeable and I swear in just one night it’s made a demonstrable difference in how well our A/C is able to cool our apartment.

Other things:

+ If you don’t happen to have a stash of toddler-fondled dried rice or beans on hand, you can reach out to your local Buy Nothing group. (Forgive me my proselytizing, but it’s just so great.) Before I realized that I had enough to fill my tube, I put out a call and had a neighbor quickly chime in to say she had past-their-prime beans to spare!

+ If you lack the skills or desire to make your own, there are lots of places to commission a draft guard to be made for you. Fortress Co. on Etsy has lots of lovely fabric options.

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.

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  • Reply dianna July 30, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    would it be possible to use Stitch Witchery instead of sewing?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 30, 2019 at 3:34 pm

      You could give it a try, but the beans etc. are a little heavy, so if it gets moved a lot it might put too much stress on the seam!

  • Reply Audrey July 30, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    I’ve heard that it uses more energy to turn your air off when you’re gone vs. letting your AC maintain its (reasonable) temperature. I honestly have no clue if that’s true so curious if you’ve looked into it!

  • Reply Trish O July 31, 2019 at 10:58 am

    We have one as well. 115 year old house. NEED in the winter and summer as we have the original door. I also made my own, as my door is extra wide. I used canvas then made a cover out of an old blanket so I can wash it (we get some weather on it in the winter if the snow is really blowing and hits the door.) This simple item is one of the best things we have done for our home

  • Reply Andrea August 3, 2019 at 9:57 am

    My mother made me a cute one in the shape of a cat (the long piece was its tail) when I rented an old house in graduate school. She filled it with rice so if I got really broke and ran out of food I could open it up and cook it!

  • Reply lord farquad August 5, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    78 degrees?! as your ac setting?! curious what you run the heater at in winter. we set ours at 68 in summer and 71ish in winter (we live in the midwest) and our heating bill is always ridiculous, no matter what temp changes we’ve tried. maybe i have it all totally wrong?!
    we’d just leave the windows open all the time in summer, but we have people with severe seasonal allergies and asthma in our house so its just not a possibility.. sigh

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 6, 2019 at 9:14 am

      Yes. I love the warmth of the summer, and I’m often way too cold in air conditioning, so we only cool our house enough to be comfortable. We live in an old building with steam radiators, so there’s actually no thermostat in the apartment (only on the a/c unit itself). The heat is included with the rent, so we don’t see a direct bill for heating, but the radiators definitely keep things quite (sometimes too) warm.

    • Reply Lilian August 10, 2019 at 10:10 pm

      When my family succumbed to turning on the AC (and triple digits basically reign from May to October) we set it to something like 89 degrees, unless guests were over. Fortunately we had a backyard pool and an icemaker in the fridge and tons of homemade popsicles from our fruit trees. Whole house fan running in early morning/late evening also helped with the temp, but I can relate to Lord Farquad re: allergies because our town is super polluted so it had its drawbacks.
      Similarly in winter the thermostat was set at 58 degrees. No wood burning was permitted in our town for 354 days of the year (not an exaggeration) so a fireplace remedy wasn’t an option. Wool socks, a Santa hat, and two sweatshirts help.
      However, now that we installed solar energy things are a few degrees more comfortable! (BTW live in a snow-less area of California so solar makes lots of sense.)
      Also, please pardon my ignorance, but would the contents of the snake tend to sprout if they got wet? Just concerned about mold or seedlings…

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 11, 2019 at 10:24 am

        I don’t think we’re in danger of sprouting unless there’s a flood 😉

  • Reply lord farquad August 5, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    also, i read your NRDC article linked above, and it mentions higher electricity bills in the summer. we have the complete opposite in our home! winter is astronomical!

  • Reply Mihela August 13, 2019 at 9:35 am

    What a great idea. I will have to make one for my garage access from the house.
    For the winter that is… Summer here (Oakville, Ontario – Canada) is really hot and we keep our AC at 74/75. I only turn it on so we can get good sleep, the heat does not bother me during the day unless I am doing chores. The humidity can be really heavy though… What really helps me is keeping the blinds shut all day until the sun goes down… Keeping the house dark keeps the heat out too and it is so much easier to cool. I see no point in cooling a house if the blinds are open. Our house ‘wakes up’ after dinner when all the blinds are up and we head our back yard for coffee. Our tomato plants love the sun though!

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