Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
Even though insulation and weather stripping is one of the most important (and boring) issues of today, many people just don’t know how it actually works. I certainly don’t. I’ve read dozens of articles in my how to books and done countless internet searches to read online websites about how to insulate and weather strip my home. I found they are all full of technical terms I truly don’t understand. Like, for example, this line from a tube of caulking. ”When caulking your windows, be sure to put a one-eight-inch bead of polyvinyl-butylacetate caulking between the jamb and the main soffitt, adjacent to the eve cornice, taking care not to dislodge the….”
Now honestly I’ve looked at my windows and I cannot for the life of me locate any of those things. All I have in my windows are pieces of wood and poisonous spiders. I don’t have the vaguest idea where to put the caulk. This is a problem because, as you may have noticed, caulking guns are designed so that as soon as you pick them up the caulk starts oozing out. It keeps oozing out until there is none left. This is a clever ploy by the caulk manufacturers to keep themselves employed when many others are getting layed off.
Well anyway, I end up standing outside the window searching for the eve cornice with caulk oozing onto my flip-flop clad feet. After several long minutes I finally give up, smear some caulk on the spiders, and go inside. Forget weather stripping, now its time to think about the insulation. Thank goodness I’ve actually learned some things about it.
So I thought, as a public service for my blog readers, I would explain home insulation in laymen’s terms. Laymen’s terms is a secrete code for…. “words that any idiot can understand”. To make it easy for me to write, and for you to read, I will use a handy question and answer format. That’s where I make up some questions and then answer them too. Sort of like talking to myself. Yes, I do that. I hold some pretty good conversations with myself when no one’s looking. And heck, it’s a lot easier than answering real questions. Besides, if I’m holding a conversation with myself, or having a really heated argument with myself about something, as I walk down the street waving my arms and poking a finger at myself, even would be muggers stay a wide distance from me.
Ok, so here goes:
QUESTION: How does insulation work?
ANSWER: Try this little experiment. Make yourself a good stiff gin and tonic. Be sure to put in plenty of ice. Now drink it quickly. Notice how cold the glass feels in your hand? Now make yourself another stiff gin and tonic…. only this time wrap a paper towel around the glass before you drink it quickly. Notice how much warmer your hand feels? Even your stomach feels warmer doesn’t it? Try this experiment a few more times and you’ll have all kinds of insight into insulation. It works fairly well on understanding the Affordable Care Act and the government budget talks too.
QUESTION: What is “R-value”?
ANSWER: Nobody knows. It’s just one of those terms the professional insulation guys make up and toss around to confuse the heck out of us laymen. They get paid more for using big words. ”Relative humidity” is another example of those terms.
QUESTION: Should I use blown in insulation?
ANSWER: Hmm… blown in insulation is fine…. if you don’t mind the taste of insulation in your mouth and wads of spit covered insulation all over the place.
QUESTION: How much insulation do I need?
ANSWER: The equivalent to about 10,000 yards of quilting stash fabric worth. Or a comparable amount of other craft stash stuff worth. I’m a quilter so I think in fabric. If you are a shoe person it would be 6,000 pairs of shoes worth. Anyway, you want the insulation to fill every hidden nook and cranny you can find. Just like when you hide your newest fabric find or newest shoe purchases from your significant other.
QUESTION: How do the energy tax credits work?
ANSWER: As I understand the law, if you sincerely believe in conserving energy, you can deduct all the money you spend on anything that claims to save energy. Go back and do the drink test again. It will help you understand the tax credit much better.
Well, I guess that’s enough clear, step by step information to get you started on insulating your home. If you have any further questions write them on a three by five file card, lay it on the work table of your craft room or home office, and wait a few days. In no time at all you won’t worry about unanswered questions. Can’t find the table? Put the card into your file cabinet where it will be fine. Nobody ever looks in there anyway.
NOTE from Na Na:
I originally wrote this back in the late 1970′s or early 1980′s. Sometime around the time of the oil embargo. This story was a part of a book I attempted to write. That book, like many others I attempted to write, never got finished. Why? Life got in the way. Anyway, here it is once again re-written for the readers of this blog. I updated it a bit to fit today’s world. I hope you enjoyed it.