My house came equipped with a whole house attic fan.
It's a wonderful thing in the summertime because in the evening you can open the windows, turn on the fan and pump all of the hot air out of the house and attic in a very short amount of time. It allowed me to get by without air conditioning for many years when I was still out at work during the heat of the day.
However, during the winter time, it's sort of like having a big, barely covered hole in my otherwise well insulated ceiling!
So each winter I try to come up with some sort of contraption to keep the drafts out and the heat in. Over the years I've had a whole pile of grandiose and elegant plans, including wooden frames holding bats of insulation, and hand made quilted covers, but I fear that laziness generally wins out and I end up just covering the thing with a layer or two of plastic and bubble wrap in an attempt to keep it a bit warmer in here.
But a few years ago I saw an advertisement for a cover that was made with a foil backed radiant heat barrier. They came either with magnets or Velcro and seemed like a nifty solution to the problem. The only thing was they cost $30-$100 and I sure as heck wasn't gonna spend that amount of money for some bubble wrap, tin foil and magnets or Velcro!
I attempted to make my own version using cut up hunks of advertising magnets that come with the phone book.
Alas, they weren't strong enough, so even with only a very light layer of insulation I ended up having to tape the thing in place to keep it from falling down.
So earlier this year I was looking through my sewing scrap drawer for something to repair a Velcro watchband and discovered that I still had a bunch of sticky backed Velcro leftover from the plastic cover I made for my old single pane sliding glass door (which leaked cold air like crazy) before I had it replaced a few years back.
I also had a bunch of space blankets and old quilts and stuff that I bought years ago when I had a bright idea that I would make insulated window covers for the whole house - a project that I gave up on after 3 days of cursing, 6 broken needles and a somewhat ugly falling out with my sewing machine netted me only one window covering.
Anyhow... since an arctic blast is supped to arrive tomorrow night giving us high temperatures in the teens for the rest of the week (that's HIGH temperatures around -10C for those of you who don't speak Farenheit) and lows of about -15F (that's -26C) I figured perhaps it was time to come up with a better solution.
So here's what I did.
I took an old blanket and cut 4 squares to the size of my fan opening. I loosely tacked them together to make a thick insulated pad.
Then I cut a piece of Mylar space blanket about 6 inches bigger than the pad and folded the corners securely around my pad.
I read online that for radiant heat barriers (like space blankets) to work effectively, you want one side of the blanket to be facing open air so that the heat doesn't conduct through it... so the space blanket side will face down.
Since I wanted something more sturdy to attach my Velcro to, I cut a piece of thick plastic sheeting to the size of the pad/fan and secured it all with plastic packing tape.
Then came the interesting part.
I wanted to make sure that my Velcro would attach firmly to the edge of the fan opening, so I had to find a way to remove 17 years worth of tape stickum from the surface before attempting to attach the Velcro tape.
This was the most difficult part of the entire project. I tried everything I could think of... rubbing alcohol, finger nail polish remover... nothing worked. I looked online and several places suggested using oil to remove it - but I figured if I did that I'd end up with a greasy mess and I'd never get the Velcro tape to stick.
Finally I tried good old fashioned soap & water with a make-shift plastic scrubber (made from one of those mesh bags that produce comes in) and a LOT of elbow grease.
I ended up with a very wet arm and a sore neck from working over my head, but after a few hours I finally got all of the gunk off! I think it was worth the effort because the Velcro tape stuck very nicely and I don't think it will come loose.
OK... so then I attached the other half of the Velcro to the plastic... which worked fantastically, except that I didn't have enough Velcro tape... Oh NOOOO!
Long story, but I had more of the "loop" side than I did of the "hook" side. But... I did have some regular Velcro leftover from the window shade project... only problem was that it wasn't the sticky backed variety so I had to figure out how to attach it to my plastic.
This, my friends, is easier said than done.
I tried every kind of glue that I could find... including epoxy, all purpose cement, super glue, hot glue gun... even good old Elmer's. But nothing worked. Finally in desperation I tried some double sided foam mounting tape and... success!
So here's my finished product with the Velcro finally stuck in place. I ran out of double sided tape, so I had to cut some foam mounting squares in half and piece them in place, but it worked just fine.
And here it is installed.
I have to admit that it looks a tad bit droopier and more space-station-esque than I had imagined it.
But the house definitely feels warmer and less drafty, so hopefully it will serve its purpose.
I think if I were to do it over again I might try to find something lighter for the insulation... maybe a hunk of foam, or a bunch of bubble wrap or something like that. I might also try to attach it to the Mylar and plastic coverings so it wouldn't have such a tendency to droop.
Although, given the struggle I had finding anything that would stick to the plastic this may be as good as it gets.
But it seems to be functional, and hey, the price was right, so I'm happy!
Maybe some day I'll get around to touching up the paint where it got damaged over the years... but I'm not gonna hold my breath for that one.
So what have you been doing to get ready for winter?