Gettin’ Aesthetically Pleasing Up in Here
It’s that time again, big changes and updates just keep on a-rollin’ around here. So, get ready for some big news! First, I have started to use the program GIMP to perform enhancements on the featured images of posts. GIMP is a free (and awesome!) alternative to Adobe Photoshop. This is why I love it. It enables me to have nearly the same amount of power. It does everything I need it to (if you’re a hardcore web designer, photoshop may be more up your alley), so that is why I’m going to stick with it. I plan on doing an in depth review on it in the future. That is how much I like it. With GIMP, I’m going to try and get better at visual aspects of the site and images I post here. Visual imagery is extremely important to a website, if you didn’t know that already. Apparently, traffic for websites increases by around 94% with relevant images in your article. That is obviously a huuuuge increase, but that huge increase won’t go all that far if you don’t have good looking images, typography, and more. Hopefully with all of this information, I can make the site a much more aesthetically appealing place for you all (and myself, included).
Stats, Some Optimization, and A New Vision
That little tidbit is the perfect intro to my next announcement…In the first month of this website’s existence, I attracted 122 views. To break it down a little bit:
- Most Views in a Day: 18
- Longest Streak (Days) With Views: 7
- Longest Streak (Days) Without Views: 7
- Average Views Per Day: 4.07
As you can see, my performance has been relatively mediocre. I will say things have gotten better with some SEO optimization by Yoast. Since then, I have only had a handful of days without views. So, for the humongous part of the announcement. Does someone have a drum roll? *Makes drum noise*….I am going to be switching the theme for this website (and my other and future sites) over to Thesis! This has been a very tough decision for me since this theme does cost money – the bare minimum of which is 87 clams. I’ll be going with the premium package (at a whopping $197). “But Learning Guy,” you say. “You are trying to be frugal and save money! Why would you do such a hypocritical thing?” I grovel at your feet for forgiveness, but I want you to understand my reasoning.
My desire is to share my journey and my information with the world so that I can make it a more enjoyable and healthy place. To help people lead better and more fulfilling lives. So, the way I look at it, I’m paying for the new theme so that more people can find this information, making it possible for me to reach and help more people, and so I can find more like minded learners to join me on the journey to financial freedom! So, look for that update at some point over the next two weeks. So, without further ado, let’s move on to the topic at hand!
Doing Damage to That Winter Heating Bill
It’s January. Clouds swell with moisture in the freezing air. Winds gust and blow fluffy cumulus clouds down from Canada into the US, and freezing temperatures and howling wind follow closely behind the clouds nipping at their heels. The clouds gather ominously over rural and urban areas alike, readying to drop their horrible, frosty payloads over all of the unprepared denizens ignorantly going about their days (or sleeping blissfully in their beds) beneath.
No, I’m not being super dramatic. People, winter is a calamitous time of year, traffic accidents obliterate lives, injuries abound, weather hampers productivity and health. Although there is some fun to be had in this freezing season, I view the negatives to be more substantial than the positives, although this winter’s heating costs are projected to be lower than the last several years, so we have that to be thankful for. However, even though heating costs will be lower, we can lower them even more! You want to find items that have a high r-value. Items with a high r-value have better insulating properties. Let’s see some of the ways we can destroy our heating bill, and how much money/energy we are actually saving.
This is the first item That Learning Gal and I have applied to our apartment to assist in heat retention. As you may or may not be able to tell from the picture, the curtains are fairly heavy and thick, which increase the r-value. Seeing as how cloth is already a poor conductor of heat, this lends credence to the argument of insulating curtains. If you’re apartment living, they can be one of the most logical choices since you don’t have the capability of insulated or energy efficient windows.
As stated above, they’re pretty straight forward in that they prevent the cold air on the side of the windows from mixing with the warm air in the rest of the apartment.
Other advantages of insulating curtains, is they are also black-out, which means they prevent 99% of light from entering the apartment. Although this is more of a summer benefit, it can be a big one. Preventing light from entering your apartment in the summer can drastically reduce the heat, making things easier for your air conditioner, thus lowering your electricity bill. Since black-out curtains are thick, they can reduce noise from outside, so they can be especially nice if you live in a crowded or busy area.
We purchased our curtains on Amazon, Best Home Fashion Thermal Insulated Blackout Curtains, for $46.99. Although Amazon sells a large assortment of curtains, we decided on these due to the reviews and price. We’ll see how they affect our heating bill come February, but from everything I’ve read, I have a pretty good feeling about them!
Two last life pro tip regarding these curtains: one, ensure that all four sides of the windows are covered relatively tightly. If they are not, this leads to greater air exchange resulting in colder temperatures within the room, and two, if your apartment or house is heated by radiators or heaters near the floor, ensure the curtains are not touching them. Although you want your curtains to retain heat, you probably don’t want your apartment so hot that it can melt steel beams.
Plastic Windows (Shrink Wrap) or Putty
Insulating curtains are great to prevent cold air from entering your apartment, and That Learning Gal and I can already tell the curtains are working! However, if you have a draft or an air leak coming from the windows, the curtains won’t make that much of a difference. That’s why you need to find a tool to aid in preventing those darn drafts from swirling up in the first place. This is where “plastic windows” or shrink wrap or putty comes in handy. With putty, also known as rope caulk, you can easily block drafts by filling in any holes you might see. With plastic windows or shrink wrap, you cover the windows from side-to-side and top-to-bottom, then use a hair dryer or some other heating mechanism to blow hot air onto the wrap, causing it to shrink and seal off the windows from the apartment. This is great for blocking drafts, and I’ve also read arguments where you can completely take insulating curtains out of the picture and allow sunlight into the apartment (which counteracts the cold transferring in. However, I’m not so much convinced by this argument, so if you decide to go with the shrink wrap, I’d still keep a pair of insulating curtains hung to mitigate cold air mixing with your nice warm air inside your apartment or house. These items can be generally be bought at any big super center (Walmart Target) or home improvement store (Home Depot or Lowe’s).
Insulating styrofoam or rigid styrofoam can be used to insulate windows. You can place it up against the glass with an anchor, and it will do a damn fine job of preventing cold from crossing over into the room. Taking a cursory glance at Home Depot’s rigid foam, you can get varying r-values for varying prices. It just depends on how much you want to save! There are obviously a couple of drawbacks with this method though.
The first and most obvious being that the window will be blocked by a solid piece of styrofoam. This could be an eyesore to you, your neighbors and others. In my opinion, this would be an option of last resort. If you’re truly desperate to lower your heating bill, that is where styrofoam should come into play because insulating curtains should be able to do a decent job if you cover any drafts and get a tight covering around the edge of the windows.
However, it should also be noted that when using the styrofoam, you’re not going to have a perfect seal against the edges of the windows. Cold can still transfer in between the edges of the styrofoam to the toasty air in the room inside. So, even if you apply the styrofoam, you’ll still need to cold proof the edges around it, this could take on a couple of forms, but the most likely would be using the putty/caulk mentioned above since it can peal away easily with no residue or damage left behind.
Finally, we come to the last and most simple tool for sealing off cold air from getting into your apartment or house, the door sweep or door draft insulator. This item is used for sealing off any potential cracks, holes, or openings around the bottom of your door. You can simply place it on to prevent drafts or air from creeping in underneath the door. That’s it! Probably the most straight forward item in here.
There You Have It
Four different ways to try and insulate your apartment or house from the freezing elements outside. Winter is a harsh mistress, and there is nothing like socking it to her by showing her how powerless she is in the face of your dynamic frugalness! Sealing our apartment is the current frugal project on the list for That Learning Gal and I, so I will try to keep you all (and this post) continually updated on what we do regarding it. I hope you found some of this helpful. Feel free to leave a comment below. What do you do to seal your house or apartment off from the cold? Anything unique or interesting? Something I haven’t thought of, or do you have arguments against or for any of the above? Thanks for stopping by, and as always keep on learning my friends!
-That Learning Guy
P.S. The link to the curtains is an Amazon Affiliate Link. If you click and buy, I get a commission, so thank you very much if you decide to upgrade your dwelling for winter 🙂