Monday, December 6, 2010

Simple Tasks Made Difficult

     In an effort to control the wild temperature variations in my apartment, I decided to look into some good old fashioned window insulation.  You know- the plastic film that you use a blow dryer on to create some sort of hermetic seal.   I did a little research and figured it would be a good, easy, cheap solution.
     Six hours later I had wrinkled plastic covering half my windows.  The package made it look so simple, but the universe made it so difficult.
     Error #1:  My math skills.  I measured my windows and they are each 6 feet high.  A few of them are 3 feet wide, a few of them are narrower.  There are 5 windows total.  According to the box, each plastic sheet was 62" by 34".  Apparently I didn't know the difference between 62" and 72".  Yes, as you can see, a 62" plastic sheet is not long enough to cover a 6' window.  Luckily, I had gotten the box for 9 windows, so I would have extra.  This is possibly to only thing I did right.
     In order to fix this problem, I "pieced" the plastic together, using half on the top, putting more tape down, and then doing the bottom half.  It worked better in theory than in execution.
     Error #2:  Bookcases in front of the windows.  The windows in the living room are shaped like those in a bay window, but with no bay-window seat.  In front of the two narrower windows are book cases approximately 3 feet tall packed full of books.  Very heavy books.  I've tried to move these book cases before and it can't really be done.  You have to take all of the books off and then move the book cases.  It takes a long time.  I decided instead to work around the bookcases.  This was painful.
     Error #3:  The sun goes down at 3pm.  Well, it's actually around 5, and starts getting dark around 4:30.  I really wanted to have all of this done before sun set so I didn't have to deal with finding plugs for lamps and hair dryers.  I failed.
     Error #4:  Cords on hairdryers are not 7 feet long.  It had not occurred to me until the moment I was standing at the window, hair dryer in hand, not even close to the top of the window.  Of course hair dryers don't have cords that are 7 feet long!  Why would they?  Well, for this.  Clearly I needed an extension cord, but that was easier said than done.  I'm pretty sure all my true extension cords were in storage.  I had surge protectors in my room that would have to suffice.  This involved unplugging my clocks and lamps, and disheveling my bed to get to it.
     Error #5: Tape is sticky, and I'm impatient.  The instructions state to wait 15 minutes after you apply the tape to put up the plastic.  Well, that's fine the first time around, but eventually, the sun starts going down and muscles start to hurt, so you just put tape up and apply plastic. And then, of course, the  tape doesn't stick.  Except that it sticks to you, and to the plastic, but not the wall, where it needs to be.  You end up with a ball of tape and plastic at the corner of the window and you hope you just melt the plastic to the window to create a seal.  (This does not work.)
     Error #6:  Two hands are better than one, four hands are better than two.  There's a decent amount of trial and error involved when figuring out just how to stick the plastic to the tape and then smooth it out and stick it to the other sides of the tape.  I imagine that if I were doing this with someone else, we would have attached, pulled down, and reattached the first one using a healthy amount of respectful debate.  Instead, if it stuck, it stayed.  Hence all the wrinkles.
     Error #7:  I have no step stool, nor am I 7 feet tall.  There was a lot of standing on chairs, tables, and windowsills.  It's actually amazing I didn't break anything.

     Error #8:  Trimming the plastic did not happen.  It was late, I was tired, I was in pain.  So I just put the blinds back up and left the excess plastic on the windows.  I started to trim it on one window, and it because obvious that it was going to take a level of precision, determination, and caring that I did not have.  It looks a little trashy, but it was a risk I already knew I was taking with the whole premise of the endeavor.  

I really hope that the plastic on my windows helps, and at the very least, doesn't hurt.  It wasn't a huge financial investment- the whole kit was $20, but it was an emotionally trying time for me.

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