Friday, October 3, 2008

takin' care of business

With all due apologies to those of you on the West Coast who are in typically sweltering October weather, I've got issues.

Autumn issues.

Cold weather issues.

Financial issues.

And here's why. Last winter, in my big, drafty 1887 Victorian house, I got a $400 heating bill one month. I wailed, I moaned, I gnashed my teeth - I paid it. What else can you do? The next month, after watching the thermostat with an eagle eye, I got a $700 heating bill - which I couldn't pay. I'm still making installment payments. There's something that needs to be said about that period of time. We were never warm downstairs once. Not for a single minute. (And I don't count being wrapped in a fleece blanket over three layers of clothes in front of a roaring fire, either). A lot of the things that I wanted to do to make sure this never happened again fell through the cracks in the chaos that was my summer. None of the weatherproofing, new windows, yadda yadda yadda.

But now I have to get on it. So the front door just got measured for a storm door, which will hopefully mean that the wind tunnel on the stairs disappears. I'm going to Home Depot and buying the gross looking but very effective plastic saran wrap stuff to cover all of the windows in my front three rooms. (It was on the windows when we bought the house but I tore it down immediately. Something about it being ugly. At this point, I'd put avocado green shag carpeting on my walls if I could avoid an $1100 heating bill). I'm going to buy ceiling fans for upstairs to force the heat back downstairs and help us lose that tropical feeling in our bedrooms in February. And our friend who is my home maintenance guru is going to set aside some time to come and deal with all of this for me. He's not cheap, but he's worth every penny.

I don't even want to add up the cost of an odd size storm door, three (or more) ceiling fans, a boatload of saran wrap and the labor to install all of the above. (Except the saran wrap. The kids and I are doing that this weekend. Then, when we jack it up, I'll go buy more and pay to have it done properly). I'm not itching to give Home Depot my weekly check, but this way at least I'll have something to show for my money. If I give it to the gas company - again- I'll have nothing.

All in all, it's not a huge price to pay for being warm for once from October to March. And for the satisfaction of knowing that I'm taking care of unpleasant business. The gas company can pick on someone else this year.


ped crossing said...

Another trick that is pretty cheap is to get these little foam insulator things for your outlets. Lots of cold air comes in through them. You buy them at Home Depot and then take the plate off, push the foam thing over the outlet and put the plate back on. You can do it, so you don't need the pay the handy man.

It helped in our last house, and every little bit helps.

Thalia's Child said...

the saran wrap stuff is amazing, and I don't think the boys will bugger it up - it's pretty easy

Good Luck - heating bills in winter are ASS

softinthehead said...

I did a stupid thing this summer as well - removed a very ugly screen door from my back door and now I can see daylight all around it and with the plummeting temps this last week am regretting my impulsiveness. And I was so pleased with the results at the time. Doh!!!

Akelamalu said...

Good luck with all the preventative measures RC. Energy prices here have rocketed too, it's very scary!

Rudee said...

I turned my heat on the other day. Poor Miss Rachey was sick and freezing and I relented. I wore a wool sweater yesterday-it was 50 and raining. Nasty. I'm thinking of the saran wrap in my eastern exposure windows. The wind blows right through those-and they're only 15 year old windows.

It's so hard to see your hard earned dollars just go up the chimney.

Marti said...

Hey RC

In our old house in Lawrence, we used the saran wrap until we got our new windows. It does not look that bad and it really does help. Getting the storm door for the front door will help a lot too.

Good Luck!

Lil Mouse said...

good luck.

CrazyCath said...

At least you'll be warm this year. Snug and warm. That's worth plenty.

aims said...

The joys of an old house.

When I first bought the barn I was working for family - so very little pay. Then I took in my nephew after he moved into a group home, beaten and going down further. The two of us sat in front of the fireplace burning everything we could as we started renovations. He was 13 - and hungry.

He lost 100 lbs when he moved in with me because we couldn't afford to eat and heat. We lived on tuna, cottage cheese, and rice cakes. Nothing else. And we were too proud to ask for help. Determined to show the world that we could do it.

He blossomed out of my love for him and the fact that he wouldn't be beaten for being himself under my care. He got awards at school for super-achieving. He was failing back with his own parents.

We did the saran wrap and the outlet things - we found every scrap of wood we could and lived in front of the old fireplace and played games and read every single night.

It was almost magical - and now our friendship cannot be broken. Ever.

I started insulating after that. The wool stuff and the blow-in foam stuff in a can. Every single crack got worked on. Now it is toasty warm and I have new windows thanks to my mother and the man.

Thinking of you my friend.

Devon said...

You poor thing! My dad's house is a huge two story. The upstairs is boiling in the winter while everyone freezes downstairs... until 2 year ago, then he installed a heavy curtain (floor to ceiling) at the top of the stairs, it keeps the heat from going into the upstairs bedrooms and there is a fan infront of it to help push the heat back down. Works just great!

On a happy note, it is raining here for the first time since February according to the tv weatherman. Everyone I saw today is smiling and happpy, I, being me, took the dog for a hike in the wet stuff... we are both pleased!

-Ann said...

When I first moved to Ireland in 1995, we rented a one-room bedsit in the basement of an old house. (It was the sort of place where the room had a sink and small stove, but the bathroom was down the hall and we had to save up 20 pence pieces to get hot water in the shower.)

The first night was spent freezing underneath a couple of thin blankets I'd bought at a charity shop. Around 4, we realised we were awake and gave up to sit shivering infront of the space heater, drinking tea.

The next day, we went to the hardware store and I got clear plastic drop-cloths and heavy-duty tape. We plastic=ed up the windows, as my dad did in our house every year.

It worked amazingly well. You could see the plastic doing its job, bowing out from the air slipping in through the drafty windows. Everyone who came to visit us remarked on our 'bouncy castle window'. :)

laurie said...

it's smart of you to do this, especially the saran wrap. if you trim it to fit the windows and shrink it with a hair dryer, you can't even tell it's there. truly.

also, get those stuffed long things that you cram under the doors to stop drafts. those are very helpful.

and another thing: at some point, take out a home equity loan, bite the bullet, and get some good windows. your energy bills will drop WAY down.

we did the whole upstairs for less than five grand. i know that's a lot. but so is your gas bill.