Saturday, February 27, 2010

Five Unusual Ways to Keep Warm in a Cold House

Welcome Weather Channel viewers! This morning I did another 58 Degree Challenge interview on The Weather Channel. I talked about how my family stays toasty warm in snowy Ohio with our daytime thermostat set at 58 degrees (F). Here are five ways we stay warm in a cold house.

1. Dress in layers. Sweaters are good but fleece layered over another long sleeved shirt is my favorite. I must have ice water running through my veins because I get cold more easily than Husband. I sometimes wear long underwear under my clothes too. Not only at home but sometimes in cold office buildings. Because like I said before, I get cold easily.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to Frame a Tin Ceiling Tile the Easy Way

I framed two tin ceiling tiles from the 200 year old church where Husband and I were married. I gave them to Husband as a token of my love.

The frame ceiling tiles hang above the banister in our living room

The tiles were removed to repair a leak in the ceiling in the church parlor. Do you believe that a man on the repair crew wanted to throw these gems away?! Fortunately there was an antiquer among the volunteers working on the project who knew how valuable these sweet babies are and convinced them to not to toss them aside – whew!

I’ll take two please. Thank you.

I cleaned the tiles with a mild soap and water solution and removed the chips of paint before it had a chance to flake all over the carpet. I didn’t want to take any chances of Blitzkrieg sniffing out and possibly eating paint flakes. Bad, bad, bad.

Building the frame was simple. I went to an art supply store and bought canvas stretcher bars in the dimensions of the tin tiles. I assembled the frame, glued it together with wood glue instead of the stapling it together as you would if you stretched canvas over the bars in order to paint a picture. I filled the corner channels with wood filler for an even finish.

Once it was dry, I painted the frames red to play off of the red and white curtains that hang in the living room and in front of the kitchen patio door.

Some people buy t-shirts as souvenirs when they go on vacation. Husband and I buy curtains at Ikea.

I bent the rough edges of the tiles back on themselves with a pair of needle nose pliers. I drilled pilot holes in the tiles and screwed them to the wooden frame with leftover screws from my toolbox.


I screwed in two large eyes into the top of each frame so I could hang the tiles back to back in from hooks I screwed into a ceiling joist.

A discreet loop of wire keeps the tiles standing back to back standing at attention over the stairwell banister.


Husband loved his gift! It has extra special meaning because his parents were married in the same church. Awwww….

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If you are joining us from Trash to Treasure Tuesday,DIY Day, Today's Creative Blog, Penny Pinching Party, The Girl Creative, Toot Your Horn Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Show and Tell - welcome!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Expensive Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Can Sill You Save Money

Welcome Columbus Dispatch readers! Today The Columbus Dispatch wrote an article about me "Energy Audit First Step to Cutting Utility Bills" in today's paper about how I save money by reducing my use of electricity and natural gas use.

One way I saved electricity is to change the energy hogging incandescent light bulbs in my house to a combination of electricity sipping halogen, compact florescent (CFL), and energy saving incandescent light bulbs.

CFLs come in (from left to right) soft light, bright white, and daylight varieties just like incandescent light bulbs

According to Energy Star, lighting accounts for up to 20% of the average home’s electric bill. That being the case, if you switch at least 25% of the incandescent light bulbs you use most often in your home to energy efficient light bulbs you can slice a serious chunk off of the amount of electricity you currently use to light your home.

You can further reduce your electricity use by opening the curtains and using natural light to light rooms as much as possible. You can even try using the One Person One Light Rule: turn on only one light for every person that is in the room. This isn’t always practical but it might make you think a little bit more about turning on all of the lights in a room when only one or two will do the job just as well.

Lazy environmentalism. Just the way I like it.

For giggles, I counted the number of light bulbs in my house so I could calculate my current household percentage of energy efficient light bulbs before The Great Light Bulb Switch Out I made during my 20% Energy Reduction Challenge in 2008.

I have 58 light bulbs in my house.

Before the Great Light Bulb Switch Out, twenty five of those light bulbs were some form of energy efficient light bulb: a combination of fluorescent, compact florescent, halogen, and Verilux Full Spectrum incandescent light bulbs. The Verilux light bulbs are the most expensive light bulb I have in my house. They are supposed to use less energy than a traditional incandescent light bulb and show colors more accurately than standard incandescent light bulbs. They are also supposed to help combat the winter blues during gray Ohio winter days because they emit full spectrum light. More importantly, I got them on sale, which is why I decided to give them a try.

Now that I have the numbers, was my percentage of  light bulbs in my home were energy efficient?

25 energy efficient light bulbs divided by 58 total household light bulbs = 43% of the light bulbs in my house were energy efficient.


And yet 43% of energy efficient lighting goodness wasn’t reflected on my not-yet-lower electric bill.

I wanted immediate energy saving results. I decided that I did not want to wait until each incandescent light bulb burned out to replace it with a CLF, although you can certainly do so, actually, I recommend it. A couple of times since I made the switch, I’ve walked into a room, flipped the lights and all of the light bulbs have burnt out at the same time, leaving me fumbling in the dark. Because, you guessed it, I switched all of the light bulbs in that room over at the same time in that room instead of waiting until each bulb burned out on its own before I replaced it with a CFL. Don’t be me.

I made the financial hit a little less by buying one three pack of CFLs every time I go grocery shopping. It took a little longer to do the switchover, but at least I didn’t have to shell out the money for 33 new CFLs all at once, which was around $200.

I bought the majority of the new CFLs at Aldi and Dollar General because they were less expensive than buying so many CFLs at the home improvement store. I picked up some store brand bulbs at Meijer too. The cheaper CFLs are working and lasting just as long as some of the more expensive name brand CFLs we have in the house before we made the Great Switch.

Yes, the Sylvania CLF light bulbs I bought at Aldi and Dollar General are still a little more expensive than energy hogging incandescent light bulbs, but it works out in the end because the CFL light bulbs last approximately 10 years. Traditional incandescent light bulbs last approximately three years. So not only am I saving electricity, I won’t have to buy or change another light bulb until 2014. Nice!

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This is a revised version of my original April 8, 2008 Condo Blues post Why a Switch to Expensive Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Will Save Me Money

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using the Amazon link in this post, I earn a small commission (really small) which will help me with my goal of making Condo Blues a self hosted blog at no additional cost to you.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Do You Fight Dry Winter Air In Your Home?

During the winter, furnaces keep our houses warm but they also dry out the air. If you find ways to add moisture to the dry heated air in your home during the winter, it makes you feel warmer because moist humid air feels warmer than dry air, reduces static electricity, and if you’re me keeps your skin from drying out and itching and driving you crazy.

I keep the thermostat set at 58 degrees during the day but the heater still drys out the air in my home.

To add moisture to the air, I have

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Eat Healthy and Save Money: Make Granola Cereal

I am not a big cereal eater. As a kid I was more interested in the toy buried in the box of Technicolor surgery cereal than actually eating the cereal.

Later, I discovered the dried fruit and nut cluster colon blow type cereals. Those I liked. Especially when I topped them off with milk and popped them in microwave for a minute or so – just like warm oatmeal. Nom.

Since husband and I are trying to watch the sugar intake, it’s downright disappointing and almost impossible to find a cereal that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it. When we do the price is more than I want to pay for food that makes me hungry a couple of hours after I eat it.

And then there is the packaging. The box is easily recyclable but the wax paper bag that holds the cereal is not.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Make Insulated Roman Shades

My bedroom has a pitched ceiling and is cold during the winter because, as all you sciencey people know, heat rises. I’m trying to keep my energy use and bill as low as I can. I didn’t want to use a space heater in that room if I could help it because Blitzkrieg likes to cuddle up to heat sources. While I like that all of the girl dogs find Blitzkrieg smoking hot at the dog park, I didn’t want him literally smoking hot because he decided that his tail and Mr. Space Header should be close friends.

The bedroom is on the south side of my house. I tried opening the curtains to let in the winter sun shine in, basically using passive solar heat instead of a space heater to warm up the room.  It worked OK, but the room wasn’t as warm as it could be. I did some research. Build it Solar had the answer to my problem:

“Adding some form of insulating thermal shade to the window will greatly reduce night heat loss. While windows are very good collectors, they do lose a lot of heat at night, so some form of insulating shade is very important to reduce night losses.”

The Color of Money easily took care of the same problem with a pair of thermal backed curtains. However I already had a pair of unlined curtains that I liked for that room

I decided to make a thermal window shade. Some people call them window quilts. My thermal window shades are the same concept except I didn’t make a quilt pattern on mine. I wanted mine to look like an insulated roman shade.


I made them from materials in my sewing stash – so the price was right. Free! The construction was simple.

1. I measured the length and width of the window and added an extra inch to the measurements for a seam allowance. I added an extra four inches to the length so I could make a little flap over rod pocket hoochie bobber to hide the tension rod I used to hang it in the window.

2. I cut out the exterior and interior liner fabric liner according to my measurements.
  • I used white fleece fabric for the back part of the shade. This is the fabric faces out toward the window.
  •  I used a remnant of purple microfiber upholstery weight fabric for the front of the shade that faces into the room. Side note: What do you think of the wall color? Some days I like it, others I don’t. What do you think?
  •  I used 3 layers of leftover terrycloth for the thermal lining instead of the traditional batting because I was trying to use up my fabric stash. You could use thermal batting too.
3. To make sure that the shades hung straight. I sewed a pocket in the bottom of the shade. I cut an el cheapo curtain rod to size and slide it in the bottom pocket for weight A wooden dowel rod would work too but this is what I had left over from my Early Need Something Cheap Because It’s My First Apartment Dweller Decorating Style so that’s what I used.

I pulled the rod out of the pocket for this photo

4. I didn’t buy ring tape and string or a roman shade kit so I could open my shade like well, a roman shade. When I first made my insulated window shade I didn’t think I’d open it to let in the winter sun and heat. Also the sting and loop kit thingy I bought looked like a pain to install so I returned it.

  • Instead I used a couple of plastic clips from the temporary paper Redi Shades we bought to cover the windows when we first moved in and stayed on the windows longer than I care to admit. I recycled the paper shades long ago but kept the plastic clips thinking I could do something with them.
I pulled back the curtains so you can get a good look at the clips

No one really sees this because the curtains hide the sides of the shades and the clips. Besides visitors don’t come in my bedroom anyway, so I’m keeping the semi-ghetto clip system.

Don’t tell my neighbor the interior designer this OK? He thinks I have a good design sense. If he saw my plastic clips he’d kick my butt 8 ways to Sunday, I’m sure.

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This post is part of Metamorphosis Monday, The Persimmon Perch, Market Yourself Monday, Trash to Treasure TuesdayDIY Day, Today's Creative Blog, Penny Pinching Party. The Girl Creative, Toot Your Horn Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Show and Tell.