Like me, some of my women friends live alone in an older house – you know, those neat old places with the drafty windows and doors that don’t close quite as tight as they should. Even the most “unhandy” person can do a few simple tasks that will save heat. While it’s true that fuel prices have come down, there’s no sense in wasting precious heat. Senior citizens, especially those whose income doesn’t vary from year to year, will benefit from reduced heating costs.
There are many things that can be done easily and inexpensively and every little bit helps.
There’s a simple rule to follow, which I learned many years ago when I worked at L. C. Andrew, where we had an annual energy saving workshop for our customers. The rule to remember is, if you can feel a cold draft, warm air is escaping. A container (room or house) will hold only so much air. That cold air coming in is pushing the warm air out.
Each fall, as soon as it’s cold enough to require an extra sweater, I start with the windows, where much of the cold air seeps in. Pull down the storm panels and lock the windows. Feel around all the edges, especially near the lock. If you can feel cool air, then take that gray ropey looking stuff called rope caulking and push it down all the way round the window, and extra at the lock mechanism. Check under the window sill and if that is drafty, put some there, too. It peels right off when it’s not needed. Stock up on a few packages of this in May when it’s usually on a bargain table at the hardware store.
In the winter, when the sun is out, open your blinds, shades and curtains, but as soon as the sun goes down, close them all. If the drapes or curtains (insulated, I hope) don’t quite come together, use a few snap clothespins to keep them tight.
If by chance you don’t have storm windows, or even if you do, get some of that clear plastic, which comes in handy packages at the hardware store, and follow the directions. It might not look like a Martha Stewart window treatment, but you’ll be a lot warmer. Put this plastic on after you have done the caulking. Check all the windows and make sure they’re as tight as you can get them, and close the doors to the rooms you don’t often use. No door? Hang a blanket or quilt over the opening and call it a creative idea.
Check under the kitchen sink, if it’s on an outside wall. Take either some pipe wrap insulation (hardware store again) or some old cloth and wrap all the pipes and leave these cupboard doors open at night if you turn the heat down, so this area will be warmed.
Ask the hardware clerk about felt weather-stripping for your exterior doors – it’s inexpensive and very easy to use.
Last year, when one of my brothers noticed I have a long climb up wooden stairs to get to my second-floor apartment, he cut a stack of asphalt shingles and stapled one to every step for a non-slip walk. The black shingles attract the sun, ice melts quickly and the grip is better than you’d imagine.
Take advantage of things that produce heat. Use your oven to make a casserole or heat leftovers – set the temperature low and warm up the kitchen. Save the microwave for summer. Don’t pile stuff on top of the refrigerator and keep that appliance away from the wall a few inches. There’s heat coming out and it will run more efficiently if it’s clutter free.
I am not a handyman (or woman) and certainly know that insulation in the ceiling is the way to save most, but these are just a few things that work for me. I guess it’s my Scot heritage, but I hate waste and I do like to be comfy.
Kay Soldier welcomes reader ideas for column topics of interest to seniors. She can be reached by email at email@example.com, or write to 114 Tandberg Trail, Windham, ME 04062.