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.