Archive for December, 2010

Use a doorway curtain to curb heating and cooling costs

28 Dec

Tension rod for door curtainEveryone’s home has leaky parts. Exterior doors are usually the main culprits, which you can usually improve with foam tape or added weatherproofing. Leaky windows can be greatly improved with shrinkable plastic film, too. Even with my best efforts, though, I have always found one especially drafty room in any house or apartment I’ve lived in. That one room may be the main source of your heating and cooling costs by letting warm air escape in the winter and cold air escape in the summer.

When all else fails, you can save a bundle on heating costs by cutting that leaky room off from the rest of the house with a simple removable curtain. We have this curtain across the doorway into our kitchen. This cuts the drafty back door off from the rest of the house, reducing our air conditioner usage in the summer as well as our heating costs in the winter. This way, we don’t have to keep the kitchen heated all the time in the winter.┬áThe curtain also contains cooking smells, which can be helpful in some circumstances (“we’re cleaning the oven”) and disappointing in others (“I want the house to smell like bacon”). A simple tieback lets you leave the curtain open when desired.

Curtain - openCurtain - closedCurtain tieback

This is a great way for renters to improve their heating and cooling without making any permanent changes. Any doorway can become a curtainway with a simple tension rod that can be installed or removed in seconds. For the curtain, I used a heavyweight upholstery cloth bought at a liquidation sale, since heavier fabric will move less under a draft and will provide more insulation. Use something you don’t mind looking at since you’ll be seeing your curtain every day. After all, any fabric will be preferable to an open doorway.


Customized moving dolly for transporting wine

22 Dec

Wine dolly - assembledMy father uses the crawlspace beneath his house as a wine cellar. The problem with the crawlspace is the crawling part. Between the rough edges, the dust, and the low clearance, the crawlspace leaves every visitor filthy and sore from waddling around in a painful squat. To make delivering and retrieving wine a bit easier, my father kept a creeper (the sort of low, wheeled platform that mechanics use to roll themselves underneath cars) in the crawlspace. You could kneel on it and scoot around, and it made lugging cases of wine a lot simpler. It cracked in half years ago from heavy use, with the obvious demand for a replacement just ignored.

This year, I decided a new solution was in order. For Christmas, I put together this customized moving dolly to replace the broken creeper (I gave it to my father yesterday, so it’s safe to reveal now). The base with the wheels is a moving dolly, which you can find at a hardware store. This one is rated to 1,000 pounds and feels sturdy enough to last for decades. By itself, though, the dolly is not an effective transporter of wine. The opening in the middle is too wide for cases or bottles. The center of gravity is also a bit trickier, since the dolly has a higher ground clearance and can be flipped by leaning too heavily on the front or rear edge.

Wine dolly - two partsTo help with both issues, I built the rig inside the dolly out of familiar-looking scrap wood from Ikea. The slats are spaced close together to prevent wine bottles from slipping through and are bowed downward, preventing wine from rolling off. The additional weight in the middle of the dolly also reduces the chance of tipping it by accident. The rig itself is not nearly as strong as the dolly, of course, but it is completely removable. I made no changes to the original dolly, so you can lift the rig out and use the dolly to move furniture if desired.

You could borrow this concept for all kinds of mobile storage or transportation functions. The whole setup cost less than a creeper would have and yet is more versatile. A dolly can save your back a lot of agony when you’re moving heavy objects. Come to think of it, my cases of cider are just crying out for some wheels.


Chalkboard drawing: “Haircut Bills”

02 Dec

Haircut BillsApparently the wife was thinking about haircuts and bills, both of which are sometimes expensive. My solution solved both problems.

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