Frugal ways to stay warm in an old house? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 21 Old 09-20-2013, 02:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So we signed a lease this morning on a house built in 1905 thats been partially renovated. AFTER we sign and the agent leaves were looking around and I realized something I missed. Something big. I knew the master walk in closet had the walls missing (looks like they stopped after putting in insulation) and I would need to drywall it if I want to use it but some how it just didn't occur to me that the closet ceiling is open into the attic and from the floor I'm not seeing any insulation peaking out and I see an air vent in the attic and can feel cold air coming in (today is our first kinda chilly day this year). My room is going to be a bleepin ice box! It can get sub zero here. House is "as is". I like the house. Its for sale, I am treating this as a trial to see if we like it enough to buy and give me time to find out what all is wrong with it.

 

I am going to get my hands on a ladder and check out the attic and see what its got for insulation, my 1st priority will be to finish and close out that closet, we should have snow in less then a month.

 

Is it worth the cost to insulate the attic? It will cost about $500 to add an R-38 layer of the rolled stuff (on sale right now). I've never done insulation before, do I have to nail it down? Lease says I have to leave anything I attach to the house, if we pull out I want to take my insulation with me lol

 

The house is equipped with an oil heater which is way to expensive to use. Previous guy used one of those Eden Pure heaters, I pulled his usage history and his highest bill was $144 in Jan which is the coldest month. I'm guessing that open attic is why he moved in Feb. Suggestions for the best bang for your buck portable electric heaters? If we buy I will be installing a rocket mass heater, the place is plumed for wood heat but they removed the stove and its not allowed in the lease.

 

I plan on putting plastic on all the windows, I found 4ml window plastic at walmart which is 3x thicker then the window kits they carry.

 

I'll make some draft doger things for the doors

 

window calk

 

I know the kitchen and bathroom have been totally renovated and well insulated. Upstairs where the bedrooms are I don't think anything has been done.

 

Everyone will have bed tents to help keep us warm at night.

 

What else?


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#2 of 21 Old 09-20-2013, 07:29 PM
 
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I've lived in cold houses and have used kerosene heaters but I don't really recommend that. The smell just sticks to everything. I dressed with long johns all the time and used those half gloves with the cut off fingers. I'd be a little wary of adding insulation on my own dime. Perhaps you could talk the landlord into seeing the benefits of doing it??....

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#3 of 21 Old 09-20-2013, 07:47 PM
 
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Definitely talk to the landlord and see if you can split the costs of insulation, or he can purchase, you can install, or something.  The house is as-is, and the insulation will be good for whoever owns the place in the long run.

 

The roll insulation is usually fiberglass.  It requires special cutting, and it's rough to work with.  You're not going to pack it up and take it with you when you go.  OTOH, if you're paying the heating bill, yes, it could save you $500 in the course of very few heating seasons.

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#4 of 21 Old 09-21-2013, 04:17 AM
 
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I use a large rectangular piece of styrofoam (something like that, it is a firm piece of insulation from a hardware store, it is dense) to cover my attic opening. There is a door entrance and stairs leading up to the open attic. I lay this across the opening and can easily move it aside.  There is a huge difference of temperature, it really does a sufficient job keeping the heat from escaping up (and it would be cheap to buy)

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#5 of 21 Old 09-21-2013, 07:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I use a large rectangular piece of styrofoam (something like that, it is a firm piece of insulation from a hardware store, it is dense) to cover my attic opening. There is a door entrance and stairs leading up to the open attic. I lay this across the opening and can easily move it aside.  There is a huge difference of temperature, it really does a sufficient job keeping the heat from escaping up (and it would be cheap to buy)

 

 

I know what your talking about, their used as floating rafts in hydro/aquaponics:) Not sure how it would make a huge difference though, I think they are rated at R2.


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#6 of 21 Old 09-21-2013, 08:33 AM
 
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When I lived in a truly unheated house, I used electric blankets and electric bed pads, rather than try to heat the whole place. It was cozy in bed, but I realized I had probably gone too far when the toilet water froze solid....


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#7 of 21 Old 09-21-2013, 05:46 PM
 
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I think you've got some of the major "easy" things you can do on your list. Get some rugs for the floor as well, and maybe look for insulated curtains (though they can be pricey). 

 

You should also talk to your landlord about being able to deduct at least a portion of any improvements that you make to house from your rent - especially bigger stuff, like attic insulation. That shouldn't be only your responsibility, especially if they end up selling to a different buyer. Check your renter's rights for your area - your landlord might very well be obligated to make certain improvements to make the home more "livable" (not saying it's a dumpy place or anything, but it sounds like it needs some work). 

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#8 of 21 Old 09-21-2013, 08:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think you've got some of the major "easy" things you can do on your list. Get some rugs for the floor as well, and maybe look for insulated curtains (though they can be pricey). 

 

You should also talk to your landlord about being able to deduct at least a portion of any improvements that you make to house from your rent - especially bigger stuff, like attic insulation. That shouldn't be only your responsibility, especially if they end up selling to a different buyer. Check your renter's rights for your area - your landlord might very well be obligated to make certain improvements to make the home more "livable" (not saying it's a dumpy place or anything, but it sounds like it needs some work). 

 

I forgot to list those, we have quite a few thermal curtains and I will buy more to make sure every window has them. This place has a lot of windows! I got into the attic today, well sorta and the entire floor is in place (I think someone started trying to finish the attic at some point) but I could see that blown in stuff along the edges, looks older then dirt and like really overgrown dust bunnies lol. Noticed there are a few spaces where light comes in between the slats to the outside that I need to block off. Some stuff was stored up there, found some really beautiful wood twin bed frames, 2 old suit cases, . A really old metal bed frame, reminds me of one of those you see where 8 kids in the bed. A HUGE baseboard heater, not sure where that thing could have been installed, it ran half the length of the attic. Can't even figure out HOW they got it up there. There's got to be another access point, Found all the missing window screens too:) Couldn't actually get into the attic, just standing on a ladder with a flash light, ladder was too short lol.

 

Lease says under no circumstances can I reduce rent, if they approve an expense I will be reimbursed for it. This house could be totally awesome with some work and some paint. I can make changes but have to get approval first. Most rooms have plush carpet with padding I would love to rip out, burgundy is not my color, at least it will help with the insulation. I opened up the sub floor access between the 1st and 2nd floor and as far as I could see there is that pink rolled insulation every where and I could see about 40-50 feet across but there was a wall blocking my view left and right. At some point I will crawl in there to get a better look. Guessing its all pretty old, found some newspapers dated 1984 and 85 within reach sitting on the insulation. oh get this, I saw 2 street lamps in there! Wonder whats hiding beyond the wall.

 

Anyway, for now I will block off the attic access with 2 layers of the 4ml plastic going straight up, then use the rigid foam insulation with the extra R19 in the closet on top to form a ceiling then another layer of plastic. Debating on sealing the walls with plastic to stop any breezes, then the rigid insulation with reflective coating Its got a lot of light from a window in there. My dad was looking at the studs and there used to be a door to the outside which means there used to be a large balcony out there, and where there is now a wall there was a door to the hall way. Its interesting how you can see that stuff by looking at the framing.

 

 

oh! What about capturing the heat from the dryer for extra heat? Its electric. Isn't there some kinda indoor vent kit? Its not like we run the dryer all day, couple loads a week. Shouldn't put to much humidity in the air.


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#9 of 21 Old 09-21-2013, 08:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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#10 of 21 Old 09-23-2013, 08:25 AM
 
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What state are you in? It sounds like what the landlord is doing is illegal even if you signed a lease. You cannot make a signed contract contrary to the law. I understand not wanting to rock the boat etc though. 

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#11 of 21 Old 09-29-2013, 07:34 PM
 
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I just recently saw a great idea of putting bubble wrap over windows that don't need to looks nice. I think I'm going to do that on my sons room since we have a big roll, we could even take it down in the spring and still use the bubble wrap for its original purpose. 


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#12 of 21 Old 09-29-2013, 07:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just recently saw a great idea of putting bubble wrap over windows that don't need to looks nice. I think I'm going to do that on my sons room since we have a big roll, we could even take it down in the spring and still use the bubble wrap for its original purpose. 

We put Reflectix over the windows inside today and noticed an immediate difference. Need to buy more for upstairs and that area I need to seal off and the rest of the Windows. It blocks out all the light but a single lamp lit up the living room do to covering 2 large Windows that was reflecting off the Reflectix.

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#13 of 21 Old 09-29-2013, 08:08 PM
 
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I remember, as a kid, there was a drafty wall of windows in our house and my mother would always hang a huge quilt in front of them during the cold months. I think that would be a reasonable alternative to spending money on thermal curtains. I'm sure old quilts can probably be found at thrift stores too. 

Doors can let in big drafts around the door jambs too, not just by the floor. And in some old places I've lived, the outlets on the exterior walls let in a breeze. There are door jamb kits and little outlet insulation foam pieces that can be installed, that are pretty affordable from what I remember. Are there any home weatherization giveaways from your local power company? Pretty much everywhere I've lived with serious winters has some sort of giveaway where they give things like these to people paying for electric/gas bills to help save energy. There are also programs in lots of places to help cover costs of weatherization or winter bills, and often families with kids (and the elderly) are a priority.

I've also found it helps to hang out in the warm rooms during the day, cook time consuming food on the stove or in the oven on the coldest of days (family's got to eat anyway, might as well indirectly heat the main rooms in the process), and in the night turn the heat as low as tolerable and make the beds as warm and comfortable as possible. One thing that I've heard about but never tried is putting hot water in bottles (like Nalgenes) and putting them under the covers at the foot of the bed.

Good luck with your weatherizing! Old homes are great. What they lack in insulation they make up for in character. :) 

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#14 of 21 Old 10-01-2013, 06:58 PM
 
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I've also found it helps to hang out in the warm rooms during the day, cook time consuming food on the stove or in the oven on the coldest of days (family's got to eat anyway, might as well indirectly heat the main rooms in the process), and in the night turn the heat as low as tolerable and make the beds as warm and comfortable as possible. One thing that I've heard about but never tried is putting hot water in bottles (like Nalgenes) and putting them under the covers at the foot of the bed.

Good luck with your weatherizing! Old homes are great. What they lack in insulation they make up for in character. :) 

 

I put warm doggies under my covers. :) 


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We start fighting over who gets to sleep with the cats when it turns really chilly here.  :wink


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#16 of 21 Old 10-02-2013, 09:07 AM
 
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oh! What about capturing the heat from the dryer for extra heat? Its electric. Isn't there some kinda indoor vent kit? Its not like we run the dryer all day, couple loads a week. Shouldn't put to much humidity in the air.

It puts a ton of humidity both into the air and worse: into the walls where it can affect insulation values and possibly lead to mold because that humidity will condense inside as soon as it reaches the dew point.  It can damage insulation permanently.  

 

A humid house also *feels* colder.  We get days like this in the pacific northwest that are 36º and pouring rain and it is miserable--far worse than the 10º cold snaps we get.  I know 2 loads a week doesn't sound like much, and because it isn't that often it's not going to help heat the house that much, either.  Don't risk the damage this kind of set-up can do.

 

My sister in her freezing cold cabin sits on the couch under an electric blanket.  I like cozy-warm beds with a feather bed underneath me.  Putting shrink-wrapped window inserts in the windows can help at those weak points.  I also wonder how much cold air is creeping back through the dryer vent when not in use!  Make sure to keep the dryer door closed and if you have a door to shut it behind, even better.


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#17 of 21 Old 10-02-2013, 10:10 AM
 
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sk8boarder15 & justmama - Hmm, perhaps the cats on the bed are why I've never tried the water bottle idea. But I might just have to try it to get them to stay by our feet! :innocent

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#18 of 21 Old 10-02-2013, 10:38 AM
 
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It puts a ton of humidity both into the air and worse: into the walls where it can affect insulation values and possibly lead to mold because that humidity will condense inside as soon as it reaches the dew point.  It can damage insulation permanently.  

 

A humid house also *feels* colder.  We get days like this in the pacific northwest that are 36º and pouring rain and it is miserable--far worse than the 10º cold snaps we get.  I know 2 loads a week doesn't sound like much, and because it isn't that often it's not going to help heat the house that much, either.  Don't risk the damage this kind of set-up can do.

 

My sister in her freezing cold cabin sits on the couch under an electric blanket.  I like cozy-warm beds with a feather bed underneath me.  Putting shrink-wrapped window inserts in the windows can help at those weak points.  I also wonder how much cold air is creeping back through the dryer vent when not in use!  Make sure to keep the dryer door closed and if you have a door to shut it behind, even better.

 

So how come a humid house feels warmer in the summer and cold in the winter? Thoughts? (An honest question, not trying to be snarky.) 


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#19 of 21 Old 10-02-2013, 11:04 AM
 
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Here is a link to the answer.  Moisture in the air affects the ability for insulators to keep us warm, which is why cotton and fabrics that absorb moisture readily are not as warm as materials like wool that do not.  Humid heat prevents the body from evaporating and therefore cooling as efficiently.  I wonder what it would look like if you measured it as an unclothed person in a windless place, at both hot/humid and cold/humid consitions: does the humidity at a cold temperature cool bodies and skin faster?  Also, remember that humidity is relative: cold air cannot hold as much water as vapor than higher heat can. What is more important than relative humidity to our comfort zone is the dew point.  The closer the dew point is to the ambient temperature, the more humid the air *feels*.  In our area, the difference between dew point and ambient temperatures drops dramatically during our rainy season.

 

Here is a link to a nice explanation of dew point vs. relative humidity.

 

What I'm thinking, beyond clothing insulating value, is that moist air at very low temperatures can wick away body heat faster in the same way that water transfers heat from a body faster than air.  But I'd have to look that up.

 

ETA:  Think this way: when it's warm, your body needs to cool itself, but if the air is humid, then you can't because sweat won't evaporate and you feel hot.  When it's cold, you do not need to cool yourself, (though you still give off moisture) and when the air is damp and cold, the damp can get into your clothes and onto your skin and make you feel colder.  The same effect can happen when you wear clothing that does not wick your natural moisture away from your skin (especially when wearing waterproof layers and also being very active--like skiing).  It gets wet and feels cold.

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#20 of 21 Old 10-02-2013, 11:21 AM
 
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That makes sense! Thanks for sharing the information. I live in the Midwest so we never have a problem with humidity in the winter being too high... the opposite usually. 


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#21 of 21 Old 10-02-2013, 11:34 AM
 
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Glad I managed to make it make sense!

 

We are humid here in the fall and winter.  I imagine in the Midwest, venting a dryer might not cause people in the house to feel cold (remember that people are still keeping indoor temps in the 55-10,000,000 degree range :p but that extra moisture ventures into the wall to some extent, depending on which side the vapor barrier is (if it's there).  If there is no vapor barrier, like in an older home, the moisture is going to condense in the insulation, and over time will degrade it's insulating value, not to mention encourage mold.  Older homes also do not have a venting system to expel moist air that naturally accumulates from people just living and breathing, not to mention showers, dishes and cooking.


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