winterize my house in the green mountains
December 18, 2009 6:48 AM   Subscribe

need help winterizing house! the house is not horribly inslated, but it has a lot of windows and very very high ceilings. my aim is to insulate the windows as much as possible, and whatever else. what I'm looking for is materials, brand names, and methods.

heat is from Rinnai propane heater and a wood stove.

I saw AskMe discussions on this, sorry.. but I want really to get as specific as possible. my landlord lives out of state and just says "take care of it, send receipt to comp rent" about everything, and I've always just passed this kind of stuff off to landlords.

right now the Rinnai is on 'low' and the wood stove is loaded and burning, but the Rinnai is still huffing loudly to get heat into the place (cha ching$-- bad news.)

last year I lived in a summer-house all winter, also with a Rinnai heater, and it was $300+ a month.

I live in Vermont, at a high elevation. The temperature right at this moment is 1F / -17c. I've lived in Vermont all my life-- I can take the cold; it's my wallet that has a problem with it.
posted by herbplarfegan to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
1. You really need to install ceiling fans, but this is hard to do and, depending on your skill level, might require a contractor so that they don't spin off their mounts. But they'll push the heat down into the living space.

2. Cover the windows. Go to a hardware store and get someone experienced there to help you choose plastic coverings for the windows. There are several kinds, and having someone go through the options with you is essential, because then you can talk about what kinds of window frames you have, what the walls around them are like, etc. Take pictures of the windows with your digital camera and bring them to the store with you.

Curtains are also fabulous for insulation. The best kind have an insulative layer. I bought several of these from Gaiam for my house and just put them up across the sliding glass doors that were especially leaky. Made a huge difference to close them at night, and prevent the house from getting too cold over night.

3. Put snakes at the bases of doors (tubes filled with beans and insulation) and use throw rugs over patches of floor that get cold. These are typically above uninsulated areas, like over the foundation (rather than over the basement).
posted by Capri at 7:07 AM on December 18, 2009

I don’t know brand names, but if you walk into the nearest Home Depot, big box hardware store, or your nearest mom & pop store, this time of year they’ll have end displays featuring pretty much everything you need. This will include:

Heat shrink plastic wrap kits for covering drafty windows. It’s kind of a pain to install but it does cut down on drafts and makes the entire window feel warmer. You’ll need a hair dryer or heat gun.

Removable clay-like weather stripping that you can use to fill gaps around windows. Easy to install, you just tuck it into corners everywhere you feel a draft. Requires no tools except maybe a butter knife to jam it into some smaller cracks. This stuff probably gave us the biggest bang for the buck. You can also buy removable silicone caulk but you’ll need a caulk gun and in my experience this is more difficult to install and remove. The advantage is it’s clear so it’s less noticeable if that matters to you.

Stick-on weatherstripping for sealing around doors. This is rubber/foam strips that you put around the door jam to better seal the cracks between the door and the frame. It can be a pain to get it installed correctly but when you do it makes a big difference.

Expanding foam in a can. This is more to be used at time of construction but if there are large gaps behind the window trim and you can feel a draft, you might be able to spray some inside to seal any gaps. Keep this shit off your skin and clothing, it can be hard to remove.

Pipe insulation. This is foam stuff you can cover your hot water pipes with in order to cut down on heat loss. If your basement or crawl space is cold and there are exposed pipes, this can help.

All of this stuff is designed for the consumer to install and you can do it with minimal tools. You should have a scraper, a screw driver, some rubbing alcohol (to clean surfaces before sticking things on), and maybe a hair dryer.

Before you go to the store, get a rough estimate of your window sizes, how many you have, and the total sq. feet of glass in the house. Try to figure out how many linier feet of gaps you need to fill for the windows and doors. You don’t want to buy too much and you don’t want to have to return to buy more.

If you really want to insulate and there are some windows you don't need, you could probably buy some styrofoam insulating bats and cut them to fit over some windows.

Do you have a fan or two to move the heat from the wood stove around? If there are any rooms you’re not using, hang a thick blanket over the door jam and turn off any radiators in that room.
posted by bondcliff at 7:11 AM on December 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

The heat shrink film helps a lot but styrofoam really will make a difference if you don't mind blocking the light, the view, and the aesthetics. A friend in Alaska did this with his daughters' bedroom, now that they aren't living at home, so you could do it to some windows, especially in rooms you don't use.
posted by 6550 at 7:27 AM on December 18, 2009

Oh, and get some rope caulk (I like the Ace hardware brand). It's cold enough that you'll feel any drafts. Places to check are windows and around the frame, maybe where the floor meets the wall, door frames (not that you can caulk the doors themselves up). Anywhere there's a small gap or crack that you can feel cold air coming through is a heat loss.
posted by 6550 at 7:29 AM on December 18, 2009

Also, especially as you're planning on tightening up the house, make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector.
posted by bondcliff at 7:45 AM on December 18, 2009

An interesting method of window sealing that I've personally been thinking about.

Also, I've been hearing great things about using bubblewrap to seal windows.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:11 AM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you do go for the shrink wrap option for the windows you may want to minimise draughts and thereby maximise insulation by using lengths of blue 3M masking tape to seal off the cracks and gaps in the window frames. Don't be tempted to use cheaper masking tape. When spring comes the cheap stuff is a real hassle to remove.
posted by Dr.Pill at 9:24 AM on December 18, 2009

FrostKing is the brand I've seen most often for the shrink-film. If you've got a lot of windows (or non-stnadard dimensions), go for the Extra Large window size, which will cover 5 standard size windows (or fewer larger windows). Especially for bigger windows, it's easier if you have two people to do the installation. Instructions are on the package.

FrostKing also makes the finger caulk that someone mentioned above, if you've got really big gaps.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:00 AM on December 18, 2009

The finger caulk mentioned aboe - rolls of caulk that you unwind and push in with your fingers into cracks is surprisingly effective. Cheap too.

Another thing is curtains. If you can get some heavy curtains, it works well to keep drafts out at night. You can easily make curtains out of blanket fleece, you don't even need to hem them.
posted by Melsky at 7:42 AM on December 20, 2009

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