I don’t really handle the cold well. You’re probably wondering why I moved to Scotland, and there are times at the moment when so am I. At the same time we’re trying to keep our oil usage low both for planet- and money-saving reasons, so we can’t just let rip with the heating. Our electricity company have sent us a handy little thermometer with temperatures ranging from Reduce heat, but stay warm (24-27° C or 75-80° F) to Danger of hypothermia take action now! (9-12° C or 48-54° F). We’ve been so far hovering between these two extremes with the bedroom at about 15° C and the kitchen (where the Rayburn keeps things nice and warm) nearer 20°. 18 degrees I can just about handle, if I’m dressed for it, although it still means blue fingers and chilblained toes. And with the cold comes damp – streaming condensation on the windows, and anything left unattended in a quiet corner likely to sprout mildew or grow a beard of mould.
So we decided to do what we could, and – following the advice of Huttonian, former owner of the Coldest House in Christendom (TM) – we decided clingfilm was the answer. OK, not exactly clingfilm (although it can also be used) but a clear plastic wrap that you tape over the windows on the inside to create instant, cheap (eight quid so far for three sets of windows) if not 100% effective double glazing.
It was actually pretty easy, although the 18-point detailed instructions the film came with managed to strike a healthy level of fear in our hearts before we began. Not only that, but the pack we bought contained that substance beloved of all Blue Peter viewers, double sided sticky tape (up until now, I wasn’t entirely certain it existed). As the other half found when he left me going solo on the last set of windows last night, if you take care the process is difficult, but not impossible, to screw up and is also forgiving enough so that when you do screw up, a bit, maybe, the magical application of a hairdryer (or a little fan heater. One glance at us would be enough to see that we don’t actually own a hairdryer. I mean, come on) makes it okay again as the film shrinks into place.
As for the results, so far the main effect is that there’s much less condensation on the windows we’ve done. We’re not exactly wandering around in t-shirt and shorts, but the house seems to hold the heat better than it did before when the heating is off. And you can’t really see the film once it’s on – I was going to take before and after shots until I realised that the after shots looked just like the before ones, except you could see through the windows better because we’d cleaned them. The only real downside is that I look back now at the two really quite miserable winters we spent in a similarly cold rented house in London, and wonder why we didn’t think to do it there as well. I think it’s just that it’s hard to believe that something as simple as clingfilm and double-sided sticky tape could actually make a difference. But now that we’ve started down the DIY insulation road, what’s next? Knit-your-own hotwater tank lagging?