Sunday, August 1, 2010

Home Improvement

This is really about a home improvement project.  They call me Ms. Fix It (usually with a sarcastic laugh).  My friends and family know that I am an energy efficiency militant in my home.  I try to keep my thoughts to myself in the homes of others, sometimes successfully.

It all started twelve years ago, when my home needed a new air conditioning system, I bought a 14 SEER unit which was the most energy efficient one available at the time.  It was installed with a programmable digital thermostat that has four different temperature settings for each of the seven days of the week (weekdays: 76 degrees at 10:00pm, 77 at 5:30 am, 79 at 7:30 am, 77 at 5:30 pm).  It truly is "set it and forget it."  The system came with a big price tag, but this was mainly due to the fact that my A/C went out the Friday of Memorial Day weekend when the heat indices were in the triple digits.  I had to pay OT rates to get them to install it the next day because of the pugs.  Pugs are very susceptible to heat stroke.  My electric bills immediately went from $150/month in the summer to $70, so I have long since recouped the investment through lower electric bills.

After the hurricanes in 2004, I purchased those metal storm shutters.  Let me tell you is scary going through a hurricane with no plywood on your windows.  What is even worse you ask?  After the hurricanes, having no power for a week each time, and realizing that it was a really, really bad idea to have taken every screen off every window and taken them to be rescreened about a week before.  You absolutely cannot have unscreened windows open any time in Florida, but especially when you've had as much rain as we get with a hurricane.  Note to self:  get screens redone in the winter time.  The point of this is that the front of my house faces dead west.  So in the summer, my house looks like there's a hurricane coming.  I put the metal shutters up and it keeps the tremendous afternoon heat out of the house.

The water heater - it is off except for about an hour every other night.  Since the heater is in the garage and in the summer it's about 100 degrees in there, the water stays warm enough to shower with for 2 days. Appliances - all I can say is Energy Star.  Flooring - it's all about thermal mass, so I went with tile everywhere except in the bedrooms. It's a little hard on the back if you stand on it for hours, but it stays nice and cool. Alsley like to lay pancake style on it when he comes in from outside because it cools him off in a jiffy. I'm also a fan of power strips to turn off the stereo, tv, dvd etc. in one fell swoop.  I do use them and flip the strips off when I'm done using whatever is plugged into them.  I unplug coffee makers and anything else that draws even the slightest bit of power when it's not in use.

Some people think it's obsessive and crazy - maybe, but check out my June/July electric bill. 

Now how crazy does it seem?  This is in Florida where the a/c is on 24 x 7.

A couple people have asked if I live in a 1 bedroom condo.  No.  I live in a small 3 bedroom, 2 bath house - not a McMansion by any stretch of the imagination, but not a 1 bedroom condo either.

Now for the latest home improvement project that also will make a difference in keeping the heat out:  a skylight shade.  Skylights are great if you live somewhere like Seattle or Portland and have a lot of gray days - in Florida, they are insane!  The heat that comes through them from the blazing sunshine is incredible and when you have black granite countertops, they act like mirrors and reflect that heat, brightness and glare out into the kitchen, living and dining room.  I have priced skylight shades in the home improvement centers and the shades alone are over $100 and then there's the cost to have them installed.  Well, I found the most amazing product at the local quilt shop

it's called Insul-Bright and it is the most amazing stuff.  It is a heavy batting that has mylar fibers (that reflect heat) embedded in one side.  The whole package was $5.50.  I used about 3/4 yard of Kona cotton - about $2 worth.   Hemmed the sides of the fabric enclosing the batting with the mylar facing out (up toward the glass when it was installed).  I added two strips of fabric to make a rod pocket on each end of the shade. Purchased two of the cheapest spring tension rods I could find at Wal-Mart

Geez - I just noticed in this picture that my ironing board cover is already starting to look gross.  I quilted two horizontal lines in the shade, inserted the tension rods into the rod pockets and stuck it up in the skylight - worked like a charm. It will keep most of the heat and glare out, but still lets in enough light.

Mom - if you are reading this blog post, don't read any further, okay?

It took some acrobatic skills to get the tension rod up into the highest side of the skylight because it's about 14-15 feet up and all I have is a small step ladder.  I'm tall, but not that tall, so here's where the "Home Improvement" skills come in (think *argh argh argh*).  I dragged my big heavy slate coffee table

into the kitchen.  Put a non-slip throw rug pad on the top of it.  Put the step ladder on top of the table and climbed up onto the top step.  I kept thinking that if my kids find me dead on the floor next to this set up that they'll just throw my body out in the woods for the animals to devour so they won't have to bear the humiliation of having everyone know what a dumb@ss I am - lol.  Well, I survived unscathed yet again.  This is as close to "living on the edge" as I, so sad.

I celebrated my feat with a grilled nutella and banana sandwich - mmm!  It's really delicious and was inspired by Bobby Flay's recipe found here.  It's heavenly!


  1. Oh. My. Goodness. I'm in AWE of your electric bill. The skylight shade is a fabulous idea - my hubby used Insul-Brite for the garage, he put some up at the top where the door met to block out the cold. He'd converted the garage to a work shop and it was cold in there! It really, really helped.
    I'm so glad you posted AFTER you got on that stepladder - my heart was in my mouth when I saw what you did, lol!

  2. You are a crazy girl! :) You are definitely a blessed child of God! LOL