Friday, October 2, 2009

The Best Time of Year

Winter in Chicago can be bitter: The biting wind, temperatures incompatible with carbon-based life, snow whipping around and sticking to any part of you not covered with big coats, evil penguins thirsty for blood. Not a pretty picture.

But it has one redeeming feature: winter is the season of INSULATION!

Some of you may remember my earlier work on window insulation and caulking. It was fun, and it helped quite a bit. Well, Ashley wasn't so convinced on the second point but she certainly observed the first. Of course, we weren't paying for heat in that apartment, just trying to adjust it. Well we are paying for our own heat here, and that's a strong incentive. That means it's time to pull out the big guns.

That's right, styrofoam insulation. The cold passes through the windows, but it stops there (ok it's actually heat getting out, but you get the idea). Hard core heat stoppage. Put packing tape (of which we have a lot after our last move) around the edges to prevent cold air infiltration, and we are good to go. This is Kendra's room, which is the most important because we keep a space heater in there to keep her comfy. The tarantulas don't get that kind of love. Nor does Daddy. Not yet anyway.

The styrofoam also leads to moderate light stoppage, which is actually kind of a plus in some windows, like in the bedroom. In the summer I use aluminum foil as the first light barrier in our room (before the blackout curtains) because it reflects the radiant heat out. Now that it's winter I'm thinking of changing my strategy. I'm thinking styrofoam and then black paper. Diffuse the light, absorb some of it it on the inside of the house, and maybe the outside light will help heat the house. On the other hand, the warm inside of the house radiates heat and that escapes through the window if we don't use aluminum foil (think of the mylar emergency blankets that make all the difference if you are trapped in a cold car). I'm not sure which effect dominates. Anyone who has some technical insight on the subject is welcome to share with me. I guess I could apply styrofoam, then black paper, and then aluminum, so any outside rays not absorbed by the paper will be reflected off the aluminum and have a second pass at the paper (not to mention the foam) as it heads out.

We haven't decided exactly how many windows to do. Certainly all that single paned glass in the kitchen and all bedroom windows. Actually probably all the windows in the house except the two in the family room that look out over the park. Those are the only windows we really look out anyway. Who want's a view of the fire escape or the street? The remaining windows will get bubble wrap. And we may keep a token window uncovered in case we want to see the pretty snow.

Then I'll go around all the windows and caulk. As we learned in the last apartment, caulking is king when it comes to keeping your house warm. That and cuddling. Gosh I love this time of year.

Eeventually I'll probably even light the pilot light on the furnace and heat the house the old fashioned way. I guess insulation technology can only go so far. More's the pity.

1 comment:

Kristina said...

I think it is great to cover the bedroom windows but be careful with the other ones. Even if you don't look out the windows much, not getting any natural light in your house can be really depressing. You might start to feel like it's snow covering your windows and that can make a long winter seem even longer (trust me, I've lived entire winters with snow covering all my windows). When they painted our house they covered all our windows with plastic and it was one of the most depressing days of my life!