Endsleigh specialise in Home Contents Insurance for people in the UK

Keeping the heat down


We’re working hard to earn a black belt in frugal winterizing. Living in Central New York, it’s a necessary skill – unless you’re willing to sell a kidney to keep the pipes from freezing. Everyone has their tactics. There’s the “layer-up” method, whereby you force everyone in the house to wear 3 pairs of long underwear and thick slippers (including visiting guests) so you can keep the thermostat at 55°. There’s the “partition off the east wing” strategy, which requires you to stop using half the space you own so you can turn the heat off in spare (or not so spare) rooms and pretend this means they aren’t sucking the heat up through the walls. And there is the “insulate the bejesus out of every crack, crevice, wall and ceiling” tact, which is by far the most comfortable way to enjoy winter – but also requires the most manual labor.

We take a hybrid approach. A three-pronged attack against the business of big oil. We’ve seen firsthand the ROI of insulation. We keep the thermostat uncomfortably low. And like everyone else in the neighborhood, from December until April we will hibernate on the couch in our sweats with small dogs for lap heaters, emerging from our blanket cocoon only for cups of hot tea and the occasional snack.

One problem you always have in a two-story house is the “heat rises” phenomenon. In our house there is a noticeable temperature change between the first and second floor. With the stairwell wider than it used to be, it has become harder to keep our heat where we want it. Last year I tacked a ratty old comforter up – embarrassing, but functional. This year I decided to get fancy with our “heat block blanket”.

In the spirit of frugality, I repurposed some old curtains and 2 cafe rods we already had to make this lovely beast:


I made it about 1.5 times wider than the opening, and a few inches longer all around so that it would “pool” at the bottom and keep all that marvelous hot air from sneaking through.

To hold it up, I used 2 cafe curtain rods and 4 shallow brackets screwed to the stairwell trim. Since it’s on curtain rods (instead of nailed or tacked in) it’s easy to take down when guests are expected – because quite honestly, it does look a little weird.

Here’s the backside view:


I spent about an hour making this, which I consider time well spent. Even if it doesn’t save us boatloads of cash, every little bit helps – and doing something about a noticeable problem always makes me feel better.

If I were really fancy, I would have put a backing on it to make this side pretty as well. Maybe next year I’ll add velvet lining and satin tassels :)

Need to do some last-minute insulating at your house? Run down this handy Home Energy checklist from the Energy and Environmental Building Association and check out our step-by-step tutorial on blown-in insulation.

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

Gene had this to say on 11.05.07:

I’d suggest making it insulated, too. A single layer of fabric won’t help nearly as much as something thicker.

ellipsisknits had this to say on 11.05.07:

I like it! Don’t think it looks out of place at all – cute in a vintage-functional way. I think it helps that your stairs have that corner so it’s up and back a bit from the rest of the room.

Do you have problems tripping on the bottom when you go up and down the stairs? That would be my only concern.

Sandy had this to say on 11.06.07:

Very clever!

Kristin had this to say on 11.06.07:

We’ve been planning a similar project for our stairwell. Ours leads only to the attic, so we’re losing a bunch of heat to totally unusable space. It’s always lovely and comfortable in the attic and miserably chilly in the house, even though the attic floor is insulated.

Trouble is, our stairwell is completely open on one side and makes a 90-degree turn. We’d have to have one massive curtain and drape it over the railing at the top. It’s going to look hideous no matter how we do it. The good news is we rarely have guests, and when we do they’re old home owners, too, and don’t judge. :)

Ted had this to say on 11.07.07:

Please post photos of Teague in his three layers of long underwear.

Thank you in advance.

Your brother-in-law

Mark from Rochester had this to say on 11.07.07:

Hi, Mindy: I think it looks fine, and it probably makes a big difference. Since your upstairs is too warm, have you regulated the registers in the basement? You can restrict the heat going to the upstairs registers and even out the heat a bit — that is, if you have forced-air heat. Good luck this winter!

colleen had this to say on 11.10.07:

a few yrs back when propane started to rise my husband insisted on a wood stove. we had one of the new efficient ones installed . we turned our propane stove to very lo and saved lots on our energy bill. if you had a fireplace i would look into the insert thing.
i also think quilted fabric would even increase your savings using old bedspreads ect work really well. we even go so far as to use a heavier shower curtain cause it holds in the warm h2o .also i have quilts on my windows esp the bedroom.
when i was a kid my father put plastic over the windows i hated it but it did work.
oh the fabric you used very pretty !!! looks great with your paint colors.

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