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Insulating sliding glass doors. January 4, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Between our fuel oil bills and our electric service’s announcement that, since they’ve been deregulated, they plan to raise electric rates by 30% in 2010 (and of course this doesn’t address future increases), our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have been trying to find ways to keep from freezing to death while cutting down on our fuel and electric use. Our first step was to turn down the thermostat to 57 degrees F. and to bundle up accordingly. (Our goal is to get it down to 55, but we’re taking it one degree at a time.) Fortunately, unless the wind is blowing, our indoor thermometer typically shows 61 degrees anyway.

Our windows in the newer part of the house—the living room, home office, bathroom, and cat-free room—have storm windows, which is a big help. The previous owners had a plexiglass panel cut to the exact outside dimensions of the big multi-paned bedroom window and framed to fit, and it makes an enormous difference. We’ve added bubble-wrap “curtains” over the drafty part of most other windows, and bubble-wrap insulation over the inside of our lone window air conditioner (along with an a/c cover for the outside). And we were the lucky recipients of a set of insulated curtains for the home office windows this fall, which has made an enormous difference in the temperature of the room. This also allowed us to transfer the two salvageable curtains from the ancient home office sets to augment the equally ancient (but insulated) curtains over the big bedroom window, which has also upped the comfort level in that room considerably. The living room curtains aren’t officially “insulated,” but they have two layers of fabric with different patterns, so they act like insulated curtains.

Other steps we’ve taken are to put a styrofoam faucet protector over our one outside faucet and to put draft stoppers at the entrances to the outside doors, the mudroom door, and a drafty closet door. Draft stoppers may be low-tech, but they make an absolutely huge difference in terms of keeping cold air out and warm air in! If you can’t stand paying for commercial versions, you can always make your own by rolling up a section of bubble wrap and securing the ends with rubber bands. We have a little space heater in the bathroom so we can make it nice and toasty while we’re showering without having to heat the whole house, then we turn the heater off once we’re finished. And we don’t have to worry about warm air escaping up our chimney since we installed a woodburning stove and the pipe and insulation block the air flow.

All of which is to say that we’re managing pretty well, all things considered, and every room is adequately warm. But the one big thing we haven’t figured out how to insulate is the sliding glass door that leads from the kitchen to the deck. When we bought the house, we bought a big curtain rod to hold curtains for the deck door, planning to purchase huge insulated curtains to draw across the deck door at night. But we’ve never put it up (or bought the curtains) because our kitchen table sits in front of the deck door, and that’s where we like to sit to read the paper, watch the birds at our feeders, eat our meals, and generally enjoy the view of our property and the fields and mountains beyond. There’s not enough room between the deck door and the wall to draw curtains fully back from the glass, and we hate the thought of blocking our light and our view. We know there’s now a clear plastic film that adheres to glass to help conserve heat, but our mutual incompetence in terms of even the smallest technical task pretty much ensures that if we tried to apply it, it would wrinkle over the entire glass surface, not ideal if your goal is to let in as much light as possible and be able to see out.

The other day, Silence was discussing our dilemma with our friend Delilah. Ever-practical, she instantly had a suggestion, which she puts into practice on her greenhouse during the winter. She suggested duct-taping a big sheet of bubble wrap to the inside surface of the immovable glass door and a second sheet to the outside of the moving door. She told Silence this would let the moving door slide freely while insulating both doors.

Thanks, Delilah! But what about our view?! If you all have any suggestions, either for our deck door or for reducing heating bills without spending much money, please let us hear from you!

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Comments»

1. DaffodilPlanter - January 4, 2010

That bubble wrap over the sliding door sounds a bit too “through a glass darkly” when what you want is to see the garden face-to-face.

We have a similar issue, but it’s in a room that we can close off for the winter. Winning the lottery and investing in a fancy slider is my plan–I’ll let you know how that goes.

From another technically-challenged couple,

Happy New Year!

Ha!!! Winning the lottery is our current wealth-building strategy as well. I call it “the cheapest form of hope.” And we agree, we can’t face the loss of our view. Maybe the answer is really something more far-fetched, like a clear shower curtain. Weird, but potentially workable? And a very happy new year to the two of you!

2. nancybond - January 4, 2010

3M (and probably some other companies by now), make a see-through, plastic film kit that’s easy to install and makes a huge difference. Best of all, it’s crystal clear. The only drawback is that you can’t open whatever door or window you install it on, so if using your sliders is necessary, this wouldn’t be for you. I’ve used the 3M kits before and they’re a breeze to install. :) You can see them at this link, which you might also find has some other energy saving ideas.

http://www.lower-my-energybill.com/window-insulation-film.html

Thanks so much, Nancy! We didn’t realize you couldn’t open the door or window once you’d applied the plastic film. Back to the drawing board! But we’ll certainly check out the site and see what we can glean from it.

3. Barbee' - January 4, 2010

There is always a trade-off, isn’t there. Good luck and keep us posted.

Thanks, Barbee’!

4. Benjamin - January 5, 2010

55? FIFTY-FIVE????? Bon chance mon cherie.

I know, that’s pretty darn cold!

5. Daphne - January 6, 2010

My parents have over 10 sliding glass doors (14 comes to mind, but I can’t keep count). They live in the mountains of Colorado so it gets very cold. I noticed last time I went back they had insulating blinds. So they drop down from above. I haven’t a clue as to how insulating they are or how much they cost, but it does keep the room a lot warmer at night. They used to keep the house at 52F when I was growing up. Now they have solar heat and keep it a lot warmer.

Gulp, 52, Daphne! Yikes!!! Wish we could manage that. Actually, now that you remind me, our friends Cole and Bruce, who live in the Blue Ridge of scenic VA, have drop-down insulating shades over the huge windows in their marvelous architect-desined, one-of-a-kind home. I’d forgotten about that option, but it definitely works. Wow, I wish you’d post some photos of your parents’ home. It must be really something!

6. Insulated Sliding Doors - April 6, 2013

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7. Jessy Drastic (@jessydrastic) - January 7, 2014

My mother-in-law is DEAD SET on putting those foil “car window” shields up ALL over the sliding glass doors that go from the kitchen to our deck. Like, pinning and taping them up, covering up every inch. Now, I can understand at night, as it gets cold here (just outside of Boston,), but in the daytime, when the sun is shining right on the glass doors, she still insists on keeping them up.

I have tried to explain that the sun coming in is a good thing and will actually HEAT the kitchen more than blocking it off, but she doesn’t believe me. The poor lemon tree that lives inside of the doors is not getting any light unless I wait for MIL to leave and rip the foil shields down. Of course, as soon as she returns she puts them all back up.

Am I fighting a losing battle..? Probably. But if anyone can give me some assurance that I am right, I would love to hear it, as I am feeling rather defeated!

Er, Jessy, unless your mother-in-law lives with you, owns your house, and pays all your bills, why are you letting her dictate your life in this dreadful way? You are absolutely, 100% right about keeping the foil windshield protectors off your sliding glass doors until dark. You definitely want to let in light and heat while the sun shines. Your poor lemon tree! Your MIL has a great idea once the sun starts setting, so maybe you can mollify her by expressing your appreciation for her brilliant idea. But whatever the case, stand by your guns! No one should have to live in permanent darkness. It’s barbaric!


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