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Magic Marmots or, It’s Still Winter

Enough with the dueling ground hogs. And wishful thinking as well.

It’s still winter. It’s the beginning of February and climate change notwithstanding, in Upstate New York, it’s still in the ‘damn cold’ range. Versus last weekend, when it was in the single digits during the day (without wind chill factor) and in the minus numbers at night and was in the ‘miserably cold’ range. We still have at least 6 weeks of cold weather to get through before it even starts to approach the ‘getting warmer’ stage.

Spring is going to arrive, on it’s own timetable. But not now. Not next week. And maybe not even next month. Aunt Toby does have a vivid memory of 6″ of wet sloppy snow on May 11, 1973, which arrived after all the trees had leafed out. The snow pulled the trees down all over town. So much for spring.

But I digress. Winter is still with us. And Aunt Toby wants to ask you something really personal.

Are you feeling cold?

Something I want you to do is to go to a window and put your hand on the glass. Right, you had to open the curtains first, right? (oh, no? You say you don’t have curtains on your windows? Oh, my dear, we HAVE to talk) And how does that glass feel?

It’s cold, right? And in the back of your head, there is a small whiny voice saying, “But, these are double paned/thermo-paned/storms and screens/ windows. Why am I feeling cold here?”

You are feeling cold because –Aunt Toby does not give a fig (or an orange or an apple or any other fruit) about how much money gets paid for socalled ‘high efficiency windows” – glass transmits the cold. Now, with an airspace between the panes, it transmits a whole lot less than one pane alone. And if it’s a nice tight seal all around the panes and a nice tight seal all around the frame, etc., it’s better still. But it still is transmitting cold into that room, lowering the temperature, making your heating system work harder and making you feel cold. Now that may make YOUR personal heating system work harder and induce you to do things like have hot drinks and soup etc.

But it’s still cold. Aunt Toby has one thing to say to you: Make sure that when the sun goes down, those windows are covered. Here are a few ideas:

— Make another air space between the inside pane of glass and you. Aunt Toby LOVES the hardware store ‘shrink the plastic film onto the window frame’ kits. Want to understand just how much air exchange you are getting? Put those babies on your windows. If the plastic bows into the room like a sail, let us say that you are sharing a whole lot of heat with the great outdoors. Put these shrink films on the windows and even if you already have thermo-paned, or double paned windows, you will increase their efficiency hugely. And again, you have put another dead air space between the air in the room and that extremely chilly glass. They will pay back what they cost in one winter, so they are worth it.

— Let’s say you do that and you still feel cold. Well, if you check around the edge of the frame (carefully put a lit candle alongside (but not touching) the frame – all around and in front (right where, if it’s a double hung, the two halves come together and the lock is). If the flame dances around, you’ve got a leak – you can cut that off with rope caulk and if the room is warm enough, you can use silicone caulk around the frame where it meets the wall. If you are renting, then go with the rope caulk – you can rip that up and throw it out in the spring. No harm done and it works.

— Let’s say you don’t have curtains. This is a topic that Aunt Toby would perhaps like to sit down with you and a nice hot cup of tea at some time in the future and discuss the issue of personal privacy. Curtains perform all sorts of functions, but in this case, we’re going to talk about, again, keeping that cold glass from transmitting the cold into the room. Even if you have put those shrink the film things on the windows, closing the curtains creates another dead air layer. If the curtains are lined, so much the better. But let’s say you are (as Manolo of shoe blogging fame would say) ‘the poverty-stricken student’ renting. You do not have the nice lined curtains. If the windows have some sort of curtain rod at the top, you can use this to drape old sheets, blankets, bed spreads (what ever happened to all of those old Indian print bedspreads?), etc. over the rods and create the same effect. Scrounge whatever you can find to seal off those windows at night. During the day, however, if the windows are on sides where you get sun, then let the sun come in and warm the windows and warm the room (the greenhouse effect). But once the sun goes down, then it’s time to cover up those windows. Actually, the same technique can be used to keep a room cool during the summer – cover up the windows during the hottest part of the day.
But again…keep ’em covered.
And let’s stop elevating Eastern marmots (the official name of the humble Marmota monax) to the level of the Oracle at Delphi. It annoys the little buggers tremendously.

(photo courtesy of tcd123usa)

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One Comment

  1. lsaspacey says:

    Thanks for mentioning rope caulk. I rent and my living room french doors (my only “windows”) are extremely drafty. One year, I did the shrink film but whenever we had those rare warm days (which we have a lot in a Richmond VA winter) I would have to lose out on the warmth because the film was temporarily permanent for the winter. I’ll try rope caulk now. Thanks.

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