Layering up for Warmth

Two weeks ago this column was used to announce the second year of Project HEAT (Home Energy Awareness Training). Part of that column included data from evaluation forms filled out by Whanganui residents following free home energy audits. Of the feedback provided, the following statement stood out for me.

It made me think about how to keep the heat in versus keep heating a cold home.”

One might call this a light bulb moment (compact fluorescent or LED, of course), because it appears that this client suddenly shifted their thinking about the thermal performance of their home. But this ‘new’ way of thinking may not be so unfamiliar to all of us. Let me give an example.

Like many local residents, Dani and I enjoy spending a winter Saturday afternoon at Cook’s Garden watching the Butcher’s Boys play. Like most Wanganui rugby supporters, as the temperature drops, the first thing we think of is adding a layer of clothing rather than getting something to eat.

I’m sorry if this is not a very exciting example, but here is my point. If we think about the human body as a home, we can consider clothing to be insulation, draught-proofing, and water resistance. In reference to the quote above, we naturally act to “keep the heat in” by adding layers rather than only adding more ‘fuel’, ie food.

But for some reason many of people think differently about their homes. Decades of cheap energy may have allowed most of us to grow complacent about simply pressing a button or turning a knob to warm up our homes instead of thinking about energy efficiency. Fair enough, but times have changed.

Power prices are up. Gas prices are up. Petrol prices are up. Even fire wood prices are up.

As our glorious Whanganui autumn tips toward winter, it may be a good time to think about ‘adding a layer’ to our homes. While ceiling insulation is a clear choice, it requires capitol investment that some may find difficult. On the other hand, Project HEAT offers many low-cost/high performance ideas for renters and owners alike. Many of these ideas focus on windows and doors, which can account for as much or more heat loss than ceilings.

Which brings me to feedback from a different client “Excellent explanations re: heat loss and cheap, effective solutions. How to fit a window blanket.”     Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 5.39.34 PM

Picking words from this quote, window blankets are a cheap and effective solution to heat loss.

The recipe for a window blanket is simple:

two battens cut to width of window;

old wool blanket or equivalent;

three or four screws.

Mix ingredients, add to single-paned windows, and keep on low heat until spring.

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Like a homemade birthday cake, window blankets can also be decorated. Last winter I had the pleasure of working with amazing local artist Sue Cooke and art educator extraodinaire Andrea Gardner on a children’s holiday programme in coordination with The Paradise Project and funded by Horizons Regional Council.

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As you can see from the photos, the children expressed their creativity using a window blanket for their bedroom as a ‘blank canvas.’ Ka pai!

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Sidebar: DIY Window Blanket Workshop

Sunday, 4th May, 3-5 pm.

Duncan Pavilion, Castlecliff Beach.

Please bring: straight wooden battens in the range of 2cm x 6cm or 4.5cm x 4.5 cm; wool blanket or non-cotton fabric.

Tools and screws provided free.

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