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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

A quilter's thought about house insulation

I was going through my things again trying to get it into some semblance of order when I came across this. It's a book I started writing sometime about 1982. Never got it finished though. Anyway, I had told a friend that I had been writing about being frugal long before this current crisis started and here's one of the notebooks.

This is the pages where I planned the chapters. As you can see I had made a lot of notes.

At the time, I was living without utilities (no gas or lights) most of the time; because, I simply couldn't afford utilities on my limited budget. I would write things out in a notepad then go to the library to type it on an electric typewriter. That's what we used back then.

Here are a few of the drawings I had done to illustrate the book. This one is about using an inner tube to make hot water for a shower.  Of course you had to have a very private place to shower or else wash the clothes you had on at the same time as you showered.  Has anyone seen a tire inner tube lately?  Hmm... showing my age here aren't I?

This illustration I drew is about baking cakes or cornbread on the grill.

This illustration is about keeping cool when the temperature reaches 100 but you can't turn on the fan or air conditioner.

This illustration is for when you only have a couple of pieces of charcoal left but you still need to feed the kids.

This one is maximizing the amount of light you get from a lamp or a candle using aluminum foil covering cardboard.

This one is washing clothes when you can't turn on the washer.

This one is how you make one bag of ice last a week to keep your cold foods cold.

I spent a few minutes going down memory lane. I thought it might be interesting to share one of the chapters of the book. It's understanding the importance of insulation. I hope you find it as humorous as I intended for it to read. I updated it a little so it fits today's economy a little better.

A quilter's understanding of home insulation
(SPEW ALERT! Put down the coffee before reading)

Even though insulation is one of the most important (and boring) issues of the day, many people just don't know how it actually works. I certainly don't. I have read dozens of articles in how to books and searched numerous online sites about how to insulate and weatherstrip my home. I found that they are all full of terms I don't understand; like this, "when caulking your windows, be sure to put a one-eighth-inch bead of polyvinyl-butylacetate caulking between the jamb and the main soffitt, adjacent to the eave cornace, taking care not to dislodge the...."
Now 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 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 manufacturers to keep themselves employed when everyone else is getting layed off.
Well anyway, I end up standing outside the window looking for the eave cornace with caulk oozing onto my sandle clad feet. I finally give up, spear some caulk on the spiders, and go inside.
So I thought, as a public service, I would explain home insulation in layman's terms. Layman's terms is a secrete code for.... "words that any idiot can understand". I will use a handy question and answer format... that's where I make up the questions then answer them too. Sort of like talking to myself. Heck, it's a lot easier than answering real questions.
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? 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 will have all kinds of insight into insulation. It also works fairly well on the wall street crisis or the middle east crisis too.
Question: What type of insulation should I buy?
Answer: Definitely do not buy synthetic insulation which comes in all the pretty pastel colors. Synthetic pastel colors might work in a quilt but is not for good insulation. It's harsh and scratchy and leaves you covered with prickly little thingies that will never come off as long as you live. I suggest you buy insulation that is naturally soft and washable and can be dyed to match the colors of your home's decor. Cotton is always a good choice.
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: What about 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 equilivant of about 5000 yards of quilting fabric worth.
Question: How does the energy tax credit work?
Answer: As I read the law, if you sincerely believe in conserving energy, you can deduct all the money you spend on anything. Go back and do the drink test again... it will help you understand the tax credit much better.
Well 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 card and lay it on the work table of your quilting room. Can't find the table? In that case the bottom of a fabric crumbs drawer will do fine.


kathi said...

i LOVE IT!!! especially the washing the clothes illustration.. I can SEE that one working.. WOWW. and yes, a LOT of these things do/will apply to a lot of us VERY shortly.

now. REALLY write the book.

Lisa said...

You are so funny. I can't wait to show my mom your blog. She is a quilter too...and just got her first long arm. A Gammill, of course!

Joyful said...

I enjoyed the laugh and your trip down memory lane. I especially liked the illustration and idea for washing clothes ;-)