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.
A big part of the USA is in a heat wave right now. Including where I live. The heat index is brutal. The news reporters, over the last couple of days, have given instructions on how to recognize heat stroke. That’s when you know the weather is HOT.
I don’t have central air conditioning and I live in a two story house. I do have a survival room window unit in my bedroom. When the inside temperature of my house reaches between 85 and 90 degrees I go to the bedroom and stay for awhile to cool down. This morning when I woke it was already 80 degrees inside my house. I have to work quickly to get cooking or washing or sewing or other things done before the sun reaches high in the sky. By noon it was 90 and I went to the survival room. It gave me some time to think about ways to stay cool without it costing a fortune.
If my ancestors could live without air conditioning so can I. Grandma Mama didn’t have electricity when I was a child so we didn’t even have electric fans to keep us cool. I can’t remember anyone in the family suffering heat stroke. I’m searching my childhood memories for what we did back then to survive the heat. I’ll start with the windows.
Grandma Mama’s house had single pane windows. She didn’t have actual curtains for the windows like those of today. She had window quilts. The quilts were very pretty with lots of decorative handwork and handmade lace. Actually Grandma Mama’s handwork wasn’t ribbon winners but I thought everything was beautiful. The winter quilts and summer quilts were different. Two of her summer window quilts were about 10 inches shorter than the other ones. Both were short about five inches at the top and five inches at the bottom. The winter window quilts were bright, cheery, thick, and covered the whole window plus casings. The summer window quilts were lots of white with pastel colors and not so thick.
Its only as an adult that I realized the true reason for Grandma Mama’s window quilts. Winter quilts were to keep heat inside the house and summer quilts were to reflect heat away from the house. Winter is almost always dreary and lasts too long so bright colors help keep occupants from getting cabin fever. On sunny days she rolled the quilts up and tied them with twine to allow sunlight to warm the room. Summer window quilts were light color to reflect the sun.
Grandma Mama understood creating cross breezes to cool the house. That is the reasoning behind two of the summer quilts being about ten inches shorter than the window. During the early morning she opened the windows on the sun-up side of the house about 4 inches at the bottom. On the opposite side of the house, the sun-down side, she opened the windows about 4 inches at the top. Cool air came in on the low side, heated and rose to the ceiling creating movement, then exited at the high side. Later in the day, when the sun reached the opposite side of the house, she reversed the openings.
All my windows are double pane and have mini-blinds but no curtains. I haven’t got around to making curtains and the cost of redi-made is way beyond my budget. Only my survival room has curtains. The big warehouse behind my house and the trees in the back yard block the sun from the yard but does not shade the house. The sun moves from side to side but not back to front. My house gets full sun all day all summer.
I can’t open a window at the top because of the blinds. Sun coming through window glass, even double pane glass, will heat up a room. First thing every morning I change the angle of all the mini-blinds so that the angle is up toward the ceiling. This keeps the sun rays from coming into the rooms. Think about it. When the angle is from up top going downward toward the floor the angle allows the sun through. If you have window blinds walk up to a window and look up through the slats. See that blue sky? That’s where the sun shines through. But, when you angle the slats going the other way; from bottom of window toward the ceiling the sun gets blocked.
Can you see the difference in the two photos? The first one is angled down toward the floor and looking through them I can see the house next door and the sky behind it. In the second the angle is toward the ceiling and none of the sky or house next door is visible. If I walk up to look through the slats I see the gravel driveway.
I do get some reflected light which allows me to keep ceiling lights off and helps keep the electric bill lower. I keep all the blinds closed all day. In the late evening, near dark, I reverse the slats of the blinds. Why? Well, to prevent any potential peeping-tom from seeing into my house at night. The mini-blinds are old and dirty and need replacing. I do plan to get, or make, curtains eventually. My budget doesn’t allow me to do this right now so its a future project.
I realize the savings by doing this may be minimal but any savings on utility bills, no matter how small, are worth the effort of using. My hope is someone using mini-blinds does find this information useful and that its not old news to everyone.