I’m going to admit something to you now.
My current house was THE coldest house I have ever lived in. I could hang meat in my closet, with no fear of spoilage. (I named it ‘The Closet of Death’) My floors, covered in tile, would cause frostbite to your toes. I had to cook all day on cold days just to defrost my fingers enough to be able to use them. My house, at its lowest temperature was 43 degrees. With the heater on, it was about 53.
So, it was a couple of weeks ago during a rare outbreak of extreme cold that Jason and I were sitting at work. We had several days of bitter weather that people in East Texas aren’t accustomed to. At all.
Our employees left, and our eyes met. Neither one of us had to say anything. We didn’t want to leave and face the polar region also known as Home. In fact, that night we stayed an extra hour at work. I played Spider Solitaire while he looked at news on the internet. It was then that we decided something had to be done. After all, if you don’t look forward to going home, what do you have to look forward to? I was pretty much willing, at that point, to fall asleep at my desk rather than return to our house.
On the way to our abode, Jason said, “Either we’re going to move, or…or…or…”
“Well, just pack anything important, go to your mom’s house, and I’ll see you in a few days.” (why could I envision my house going up in flames?)
We were a desperate people.
So, rather than commit arson or move into a storage building, we decided to insulate the attic. For whatever reason, it hadn’t ever been done since the house was moved here in ’93 or ’94. We’re talking NO insulation. Either you were looking at bare boards or maybe an inch of rock wool (old kind of insulation). We thought that anything at this point would help.
Let me describe to you how things were:
Obviously, you’ve gathered the home is frigid. We have a 2 story home. The stairwell is central to the house, and ends in a small ‘room’ with 4 entryways. One is a bathroom (with a door), one’s a bedroom (with a door), one goes into the kitchen (no door because some goober removed it), and the other goes into my den (no door). The thermostat is located in this little central room, and there are NO vents in this room. In the winter, when the heat is on, a 150 mph icy blast of air flows down the stairs, filling that room and gets sucked into the kitchen which is where the intake vent for the a/c is located. I am 100% serious when I tell you that the temperature of this air was whatever temperature the outside air was. So, on a 20 degree day, you can imagine how excited I was.
I was never really sure why this was, and I always assumed that whomever placed the thermostat in the little room had the mental capacity of a carrot since the room was forever the temperature of a glacier and therefore the heat would never turn off. I don’t know much about air conditioning and heating, but I mean…come on. SO, the poor outside unit would run and run until it literally froze itself and then I’d have to turn off the heat and wait until it thawed out (haha) until I could turn my heat back on. AND, regarding the polar tornadic wind barreling down the stairs, I thought, “Aha! I’ll just tack up some sheets and block the airflow.”
(please excuse me while I laugh…okay, that’s better)
Oh, me and my big IDEAS. No sheet was a match for the Category 5 winds which literally sucked the sheet I hung over the kitchen doorway completely into the kitchen. I think I cried a little when I realized I’d been defeated. What’s even better is that I devised this completely elaborate curtain ‘system’ which engulfed the exposed part of the stairwell. Jason built a ‘rack’ made from pipe and I hung curtains on it to ALSO try and block the air. Talk about defeat.
So after a week of 20 degree (and below) days, we’d had it and couldn’t/wouldn’t take any more. I had baked no less than 10 loaves of bread, 2 pumpkin rolls, and 5 pots of beans and a roast that week just to stay warm. Hell, I was too cold to eat! I’d carefully tended a fire all day, every day and still sat in my house wearing 3 shirts, a heavy coat, 3 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of socks, a wool scarf, and a toboggan (that’s a hat to you up North). And I was still cold.
So on a lovely Saturday, armed with 50 bags of cellulose and a commercial blower machine, I prepped myself for attic insulation. I wore a heavy duty dust mask, a headlight, and a lovely Tyvek suit. I’ve never done anything like that in my life, but at that point I didn’t care. Using our house phones as an intercom I was able to communicate with Jason (the blower feeder). It’s recommended for our area of the country to go with an R-value of 49 up to 60, for attics. I went a full R60 without shame. That meant putting in about 18 and a half inches of fluffy shredded paper all in my attic. After three and a half hours of contorting myself like a pretzel, nearly poking out my eyes with roofing nails, and gingerly trying to stay balanced on joists while dragging a 100 foot hose throughout the attic, I was done. It looked glorious.
That night, we were too tired to even think about results. The ol’ grey mare ain’t what she used to be; my back felt like it had been beaten with 87 hammers and I was coated from head to toe in paper fibers. We had planned the insulation in preparation for another front which rolled through on Monday. Monday night, Jason and I were sitting in front of the fire when he whispered, “Oh my God. Look at the curtains.” I turned my head and immediately saw that my ‘Arctic chill blocking’ curtains were perfectly still. All of them. Even the one in the kitchen doorway.
“Well, surely the heat isn’t on!” I said. Jason leapt out of his chair.
“No, no…the heat’s ON!” he cried. Our eyes grew wide.
“My God, it IS warm in here!” “I know!” “Warm? In our house? Is that possible?” “What happened to the Arctic air flow?” “I don’t know!”
Jason ran outside to grab his handheld infrared digital thermometer, which will tell you the temperature of whatever you are pointing at.
“Here! Here! See what it says!”
I pointed at the ceiling. I got choked trying to say, “It’s seventy one. SEVENTY ONE!”
Suddenly, it became a game. The floor was 68. The hearth was 95. The far wall was 63. The front of the chairs was 67. We ran around the entire house, delirious with joy. We couldn’t have been happier if we’d won the powerball lotto. “No more coats in the house!” we blubbered as we jumped up and down in our warm house.
I held the thermometer high above my head. “With God as my witness, this house will never be cold again!”