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Pull Up a Chair: Getting Ready for Cold

It’s almost Hallowe’en – do you feel ready for winter?

NOAA National Weather Service just released their ‘through January’ predictions, and though here in the Northeast we seem to be getting off easy through the end of the year, the ‘Polar Vortex’ is slated to dip way down into the US in January and February, bringing our temperatures way down.

Just like last year (oh, yes – this is where I say, “Climate change is a hoax’).

And if you’ve been putting off getting ready (and no matter where you live, cold, is cold – even if cold for you is 35 degrees F), well, now is as good a time to start the sorts of things that can be accomplished in the next 6 weeks or so.

Top priority: Sealing up the housing envelop while the temperatures are still above 50 degrees. The most important thing you can do to save energy and stay warm in the winter is to seal up any holes in the housing envelop.  Other stuff can be done once things get colder, but if you want to caulk outside surfaces, you need temperatures above 50 degrees F. in order for the caulk (and use silicone folks) to cure. Caulk around all windows and doors which open to the outside, both inside and outside. If you have a basement, caulk between where the foundation meets the sills. If you own a home that is more than one floor you’ll be pulling out a ladder to take care of any windows on the second floor, so while you are up there, clean out the gutters (you get two-fer points for that).

But what if you don’t live in a home – you live in an apartment. What can you do? Well, your issues are more limited – and your options are more limited as well since as a renter, you can’t make any real physical changes to the infrastructure itself. Shrink-plastic window and door kits are your friend, window kits.  My experience with these is that as long as you can get them firmly fixed around the window frames themselves, you can get a good tight seal and keep a lot of cold air out – and keep warm air in.

Next: Adding insulation if you can. Now this point of the year is a time when it’s actually better to be doing insulation jobs because it’s not as hot, so rolling out those batts in the attic is not as sticky and annoying as would be in August. However, please be aware of one thing (and I would hesitate to mention something that seems as obvious as this but we saw this particular error in a home that had been done by a homeowner recently so it’s obviously not so obvious): If you are using kraft-faced batts (or are using unfaced and are putting a plastic sheeting vapor barrier with it), here’s the way it goes: in attic walls, put the batts in the spaces between the studs with the kraft-facing toward YOU. If you are putting in un-faced batts or rolls, put in the roll and then put the plastic sheeting as the last layer – again, it will be the layer facing toward YOU. In attic ‘floors’ (and here is where people get confused), put kraft-faced batts with the paper facing DOWN, with the fluffy insulation facing toward YOU. In other words, the paper (or plastic, if you are using a separate plastic vapor barrier for an unfaced roll of insulation) should be on top of what is the ceiling side of the room below.

I hope this clears this up because if you install the insulation in the attic floor with the batts with the vapor barrier (kraft paper in the case of kraft-faced, plastic sheeting in the case of unfaced batts) facing you (that is, it is the layer on top of the insulation), then you will trap warm moist air between the insulation and the ceiling below and this makes for mold and a lot of other issues. Don’t know if the insulation in your house (like, you bought the house as ‘insulated’ and are not sure) was done correctly? Climb up in the attic with a good strong flashlight and check – the stuff in the walls will probably be done correctly; you’ll need to pull up a couple of the floorboards in the attic to check what the situation is there. If what is facing you is kraft paper or plastic sheeting? Pull up the floor boards, pull off the plastic sheeting or pull out the batts, bring in a dehumidifier and a couple of big box fans (and obviously some long extension cords), air everything out. Throw away the insulation and get new batts or rolls and install correctly. This actually can be done at any time – even the depths of winter, but it’s probably most convenient and comfortable to be doing it now rather than in January.

Now, if you live in an apartment and it gets cold (which might mean no or little insulation – you’ll be able to tell if in the summer you can put your hand on the wall and it’s warm; in the winter, it’s cold), what can you do? It’s not as if you can drill holes in the walls and get blown-in insulation. Well, it’s time to go Medieval: put something thick and insulating between the ‘conditioned space’ (that is, you and the air in the rooms) and the walls. If there is a picture molding up toward the ceiling, get some picture hooks (these are metal, s-shaped, and a couple of inches long) and run them every couple of feet along the molding. Then go (and seriously, go to anyplace like the Salvation Army store) get something  warm, thick, but cheap like big wool blankets or quilts. Go to the lumber yard and get what is called ‘lath’ (it’s a long piece of wood about an inch wide and about 1/8″ thick, you can buy it by the 8′ piece) in a piece as long as your blanket or quilt is long and with a staple gun, fasten the lath to one edge. You’ll need to staple it every 3-4 inches. Using pieces of twine or strong fishing line, hang the lath’ed edge from those picture hooks. Got a wall with windows? Then slice your blanket or quilt into pieces which will fit between the windows and do the same deal. This will trap the cold air next to the wall and not allow warm air to move out of the room by conduction. Between that and the plastic shrink-wrapped over your window, things will be more comfy for sure.

Anyone have a favorite ‘winterizing’ tip to share?

 

CommunityMyFDL Front Page

Pull Up a Chair: Getting Ready for Cold

It’s almost Hallowe’en – do you feel ready for winter?

NOAA National Weather Service just released their ‘through January’ predictions, and though here in the Northeast we seem to be getting off easy through the end of the year, the ‘Polar Vortex’ is slated to dip way down into the US in January and February, bringing our temperatures way down.

Just like last year (oh, yes – this is where I say, “Climate change is a hoax’).

And if you’ve been putting off getting ready (and no matter where you live, cold, is cold – even if cold for you is 35 degrees F), well, now is as good a time to start the sorts of things that can be accomplished in the next 6 weeks or so.

Top priority: Sealing up the housing envelop while the temperatures are still above 50 degrees. The most important thing you can do to save energy and stay warm in the winter is to seal up any holes in the housing envelop.  Other stuff can be done once things get colder, but if you want to caulk outside surfaces, you need temperatures above 50 degrees F. in order for the caulk (and use silicone folks) to cure. Caulk around all windows and doors which open to the outside, both inside and outside. If you have a basement, caulk between where the foundation meets the sills. If you own a home that is more than one floor you’ll be pulling out a ladder to take care of any windows on the second floor, so while you are up there, clean out the gutters (you get two-fer points for that).

But what if you don’t live in a home – you live in an apartment. What can you do? Well, your issues are more limited – and your options are more limited as well since as a renter, you can’t make any real physical changes to the infrastructure itself. Shrink-plastic window and door kits are your friend, window kits.  My experience with these is that as long as you can get them firmly fixed around the window frames themselves, you can get a good tight seal and keep a lot of cold air out – and keep warm air in.

Next: Adding insulation if you can. Now this point of the year is a time when it’s actually better to be doing insulation jobs because it’s not as hot, so rolling out those batts in the attic is not as sticky and annoying as would be in August. (more…)

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TobyWollin

TobyWollin

Snarky housewife from Upstate New York. Into gardening, fiber arts, smallholder farming.