Condo Blues




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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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Sunday, January 31, 2010

9 New Habits to Keep You Warm During Winter

Welcome Weather Channel Viewers!

Today Weekend Vew on The Weather Channel interviewed me about how we keep warm when we have our thermostat set at 58 degrees (F) for their 58 Degree Challenge segment.




I find that the best way to stay warm when the temperatures dips is to find and fix air leaks and drafts in your home. This also goes for renters and apartment dwellers.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tooltalk: Let’s Compare Screwdrivers!

Here’s a treat for you - a guest post by none other than my Dad! The man who can fix anything that’s broken, explained even the most complicated technical thing in a way I understood to my former little girl self, and encouraged me that I can do anything I put my mind to and if I can’t do it like everyone else – find another way to do it. Take it away Dad!

OK! Here's a tip for you. I know that you don't like wimpy power tools, but sometimes wimpy is good.

Let's say that you are going to replace that pesky light switch in the hallway that keep blinking on and off. You grab your trusty screwdriver and remove the switch cover. No biggy here. Next to start to remove the screws holding the switch in place. These suckers are 1½ inches long. Looks like carpal tunnel in the making! After removing the wires from the old switch and placing them onto the new one, it's installation time. Wow! The new switch has those pesky 1½ long screw too! There goes the other wrist!

You could use your trusty MEGA TORQUE cordless screw gun from Dewalt, Black & Decker, Ryobi or the likes, but with its gut wrenching torque it would either rip the switch box out of the wall or spin you around like a off center ferris wheel. Not fun!!!

Maybe Dad is referring to my super duper mega drill and screw gun nicknamed Mommy’s Little Helper? - Lisa.

Why not do what I do? Latch onto one of these small, I carry it in my pocket most of the time, screwdrivers. I like the Bosch SPS10-2 because it turns faster, alway like more speed, and comes with 2 batteries and a charger. Charge one while using the other. The downside of this tool is that it does not come with the screwdriver tips, but has a nice tool bag.
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At $10 less there is the Ryobi HP41LK. Good tool with a torque limiting clutch for the trigger happy. It comes with a tool bag and bit set. No inter-changeable battery. When its dead it's Miller Time.

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Last on the list is the Black and Decker L4000. It comes with bits and a wall hanging kit. It also has a cute little screw holder that extends out from the front for the all thumbs crowd. No tool bag or changeable battery. Maybe Miller is going for a monopoly?

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These tools are great for those little jobs, like light switches, cabinet knobs, shelves mounted on drywall and the like. They are light weight, easy to handle and fit into the flashlight holder of most tool belts.

Check them out!


Hey FTC this one’s for you: All opinions in this post are purely my father’s at the time of this writing. He nor I got any compensation or product from the companies mentioned in this post.

Further disclosure: Yes, this post was really written by my father. As you can see, we share the same sense of humor because, duh, we are related.

Even further 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. As for me, I'm going to borrow these tools for free from my Dad.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Keep in the Heat: How to Easily Insulate Outlets and Light Switches

In my effort to keep my natural gas use and heating bills low I sealed all the gaps and air leaks around my windows and I put door sweeps on the outside doors. In certain areas of the house I felt a little chill. I found the culprit when I put my hand up to an outlet on an outside wall and it was cold – another air leak.



Looks like I’m not the only who has air leaking into their home from outlets and switches on outside walls. Val, Mike and Brax asked me:

“We noticed the other day there was actually frost forming on one of our electrical outlets, accompanied by a very heavy freezing cold breeze blowing out of the outlet holes! My first concern is that condensation/moisture and electricity don't typically go well together, besides the fact that it was like an AC blowing in our house. This outlet is on an exterior wall, of course. How do you fix this? Right now we just have those child proof plugs in the outlet holes!”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

13 Ways to Lower Your Electricity and Natural Gas Bills

Welcome 10 TV viewers!

Today 10 TV News interviewed me and did a little house tour about how I slashed my home energy bills by 32%. My 1500 sq. ft. house now uses an average of 15 Kwh of electricity a day.




 Save this post to your Pinterest Boards! Share it with your friends!

My interview was just one more way to show how real people with real budgets can save energy with some new habits, a few basic home improvements, and a little touch of humor.

If you’re visiting Condo Blues for the first time and like more information about how I keep my gas and electric use and bills low, please check out the following posts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wood Crate Craft Storage

I wanted my spare bedroom to be a sewing/craft/guest room when we moved in. Unfortunately it quickly turned into a place where old furniture came to die.

Fortunately I used that to my advantage. Free and repurposed craft storage? Yes please!

My craft table is an antique enamel top table. It was the kitchen table my mom used to eat at when she was a little girl. It is a dream to cut fabric on because it’s slippy when I need it to be. Slap a bath towel on it and it makes a good impromptu ironing board for small projects.

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Now to store all of those bits and bobs and stash waiting for creative reuse. Using the old “if you can’t build out build up” and a bunch of wood fruit crates a former tenant abandoned in the basement of our old rental (clearly they were insane to leave these gems behind) I stacked them on the table to use as shelving.