Thursday, December 30, 2010

Windows Update

Having gotten the windows done just in time for the snowstorm last weekend, I'm happy to say they work wonders. The entire house felt warmer, and the chill that used to stay in the air (even with the heat at 70'f) is gone. The heat is turned down a bit and we're still more comfortable. In the evenings we sometimes use the fireplace for supplemental heat in the main area. It gets toasty warm and even the cat curls up to watch the fire dance.

I'm now planning on getting a window film for the patio window. It's too large for the shrink wrap. the film has the bonus of helping block heat gain in the summer, plus a smaller-but-still-there effect with keeping the heat inside in the summer. Since we are in the South and this is largest window in the house, blocking heat gain is a good thing. I just need to find out when it goes on (while it's warm out?) and what it's going to cost.

Related Links:
Gila Residential Film - this page lets you see what they look like as well.
3M Residential Film - they also have security films.

Both also have privacy film options.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Independance Day Challenge - 29 Dec. 2010

I've shortened this list a bit, to reflect that it's winter and there is no food coming in right now. We got a rare, good snow (east coast blizzard) and we're enjoying the effects - the way it changes the play of the light and the colors of everything around.

Want not: I bought a snow shovel, and cleared the front steps Monday. We didn't need to run to the store for anything before the snow hit. Yay!

Waste not: We've eaten lots of leftovers, and I'm made meals from whatever is to hand.

Build community: I'm playing hermit, staying home.

Eat the food:
I made a delicious toss-together soup with roots, barley, lentils, and dried greens cooked in elk broth and 'tomato drippings' (from canning) that I had frozen. Homemade pumpkin pie with homemade whole wheat crust. Lots of leftovers.

Crafting: I've done a bit of sewing. All yarny crafts (knit, crochet, spin) are on break till the first of the year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Windy Windows - not anymore!

I've finally finished the windows.

Wow. I can't believe the difference it's making. We may not need those insulated/blackout curtains for our room after all. The room got warmer with the plastic up, before I picked up the hairdryer. It's windy out today, and I could see the plastic moving...

I watched this video before I did it. That did help. I learned that part of the reason you leave the extra is so that if it pulls off the tape (or pulls the tape off the frame) as it shrinks, you can re-stick it. My hair dryer is several years old - I can aim it straight at my hand without burning my skin, which the one before could do. So I learned that after the initial "make sure the edges really did seal to the tape" phase, to aim the dryer directly at the plastic from about 3 inches away. That got results.

All told I spent an hour or so on one window. Please measure each window before you go to buy the supplies. When the package says "Enough for three 46x62 inch windows!" it means 3 pieces of plastic. Our bedroom window used half of a package meant for a patio door. At least I have a piece to apply next winter - or possibly next summer, to keep the A/C costs down....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another Step Warmer

Foam Switch InsulationThe outlets & switches are done. I use foam insulators from the hardware store - $2.16 for a six-pack, and I bought 3 each for outlets & switches. I have leftovers, but I will simply put those into my toolbox and use them when we move again.

Before & After:
Switch, with and without insulation
If there is too much open space on one side, I cut the edge of a switch cover and taped it on the insulation. I learned that North walls need to be done first, then the rest of the exterior walls, then the interior walls. There have been one or two that had actual breezes coming through the outlets.

For the cable hookups, I used a switch cover and cut a slit from the bottom to the center opening. Worked great.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Airlock is up

We could feel a difference within five minutes of this being hung. We've also learned that we can't hear the neighbors as well as before (bonus!).

I used two 7ft+ lengths of 54" flannel-backed white vinyl. The backing is thicker that what they called 'tablecloth vinyl' and it cost a bit more., but I feel the thicker backing will help insulate more. The pieces are hung flannel sides together, held by the clips. The hall is 42" wide, so the extra 12" allows for better contact on the sides, to keep the colder air out of the living area. The vinyl means that any water that gets on the fabric will just slide right off without me having to wash it.

The bar & clips are a bit sturdier than needed - we had done this before, using a thick blanket, and needed the strength then.

Vinyl: approx. 14 feet (4.6 yards) at $9.99 a yard, with 50% off coupons. Cost: $25
Closet bar: $15?
Curtain clips: $15? These are one of the sturdier options.

Total cost: $55.

Pretty good, especially when all the items can be re-used without damage for other projects when they aren't needed here any longer. We will probably keep this up year-round at this apartment.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Independance Days - 20 December 2010

The spinning rests between Mother's Night and the beginning of the New Year. Solstice is coming, and the days will once again grow longer.

Plant/Harvest something: Nothing; the ground is frozen - we got an early snow! I did get out there and clean things up, though.

Preserved something: nothing.

Waste not: apple desserts made with apples that are good but interesting. Soups made with homemade broths and lonely root veggies.

Want not:Still getting the things we need to insulate the house. Thankfully Home Depot and Joann's shouldn't have the crowds the mall does.

Build community: Nothing much. I'm being a homebody, and staying away from the insanity of the area we live in - so close to Christmas, so close to the malls and so much retail, I'm staying home whenever I can!

Eat the food: Finding all kinds of ways to eat eggs, since I ended up with extra. We're eating out of the pantry as much as we can. Leftovers, planned overs, interesting combination.

Crafting: I finished our niece's blanket, and haven't picked up anything since. Until the New Year I'm taking a break from yarn and spinning. I want to work on my love's cross-stitch stocking sometime this week, and do some sewing.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cleaning the House, on the Cheap

As I've changed the way we do things, I've become more sensitive to the chemical smells in so many things. The last time I went down the cleaning products isle, I held my breath because it was so strong.Cleaning supplies - baking soda, vinegar, and cotton rags

Now, I clean with baking soda and vinegar. My cleaning tote has a spray bottle of 50/50 water/vinegar, a tub of baking soda, and lots of rags made from worm-out bath towels. I also keep on hand paste toothpaste (not gel), borax, and lemon juice. This is also quite a bit cheaper; I seem to remember that a full re-stock of cleaning agents once cost me $150 about 10 years ago (memory could be foggy, I'll admit). Now? $20. Maybe.

The spray cleans any surface I can wipe down. The baking soda is for anything needing scrubbed. Combining the two gives fizzies for hard-to-clean stuff, including pipes.

I've used these techniques in two apartments, one 40 years old with ceramic & tile, the other 20 years old with a plastic tub/shower insert thing (yuck!). It works well on both.

Windows: Use the 50/50 spray and newspaper. I've heard that a drop or two of liquid soap in the mix is also helpful, but I haven't tried it.

Tub & Sinks: I scrub them with backing soda and enough water to make a paste, and rinse with full-strength vinegar if it’s bad. That cleaned out the mini-scratches on a 40-year-old bathtub that nothing else touched. If it’s a ‘maintenance’ clean (i.e., barely dirty) I’ll rinse with water.

Also, this same treatment works on the tub walls. Use the spray bottle for the initial rinse, for easy application - it will still fizz. Just rinse everything with water at the end.

Faucets: Use baking soda like you do for the sink. If it has heavy soap scum on it, scrub well and rinse with vinegar, then with water, and then polish with a clean, dry cloth.

Toilet: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into the bowl, and pour 1/2 cup vinegar onto it. Close the lid and walk away for half an hour. Come back, give it a quick scrub, and flush. If it's really bad, scrub before & after. I've also poured some vinegar in the (clean) bowl just before bed and let it sit all night if I think it needs it.

Pipes: In the drain, pour 1/3 cup baking soda, followed by 1/2 cup undiluted vinegar. I try to get the baking soda into the pipe, and kind of drizzle the vinegar it. I want it to clean the pipes, not the sink! When it's done I rinse with very hot water from the faucet.

What's the toothpaste for? If (ok, when) I get a watermark on wood, I rub the paste toothpaste on it, just thick enough that I can't see through it, and wait. Usually for a couple hours. It will pull up the watermark, and you'll never know it was there. Buy this when you see it; at least near me it's a bit hard to find.

Borax I'm still learning to use, but it is very useful and a laundry booster as well.

Lemon juice will help brighten whites, and remove stains. Especially if you apply it and put the item in the sunshine. Wash again afterwards, as the lemon juice is acidic and may damage the item if left on too long.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Insulating an Apartment

I've spent three days watching trees dance in cold, whipping winds, and we had actual snow accumulation yesterday, along with icy rain. In this area, that's usually a month or two away - this is early! And next month will be colder. The Old Farmer's Almanac says we're in for a bit of a cold winter this year, and January will be the coldest. I don't want to pay as much as we did for last year's bills.

So, I'm doing more research on how to insulate our apartment. I've bought insulated curtains for DD's room, and picked up some socket/switch insulators. We've got a towel at the base of the front door until maintenance gets the door sweep fixed, and I plan on getting vinyl fabric to make a waterproof airlock curtain for the front hall. We've turned the heat down and eat more soup.

Putting a blanket on the water heater and insulating the pipes from it wouldn't hurt, either, but it's lower on the list. It's inside, so it's at least room temperature, but this will still help.

Related Links:
5 Ways to Insulate Your Windows for Winter at Apartment Therapy - a great site for anyone living in apartments!
Weatherizing Your Home: Weatherstripping
Resealable (Cat Proof) Magnetic Window Insulation Tutorial
Applying Temporary Insulation (video)