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Too much gas!

January 3, 2010

Not the digestive kind…

A few days ago Sue & I received our first gas bill. The gas man came out to turn on the gas on November 24, 2009. The billing range was from that date up through December 21. We knew this building would be a challenge to heat & cool. We figured that that last week in November was quite unseasonably warm and we really only ran the heaters during our big party. We figured the two gas heating units both set around 50 degrees (they are the only gas-consuming devices at the building right now) shouldn’t use much gas. What we HADN’T figured was opening up a gas bill in the amount of $447.38 for those 27 days.


So we had to go into attack mode this weekend and see what we could do to stop the little bit of heat we had from escaping. The temperature for the last few days has not gone above freezing – the gas bill would only get higher.  We chose three areas to focus on:

  1. Filling the cracks & openings at the sliding dock door – there’s about a 2″ gap along the top plus multiple places we can see daylight through it. The dock area is where one of the heaters is running – because the hot water heater is down there and we don’t want it to freeze.
  2. Put clear plastic sheeting over the windows. While the plastic will have to come down when we start working on the windows, the three bucks (for plastic) per window should save more than that from the utility bill.
  3. There are two 12″ diameter vent shafts poking through the roof into the center of the second floor. Sometimes I find leaves on the floor below them. They’re like giant exhaust pipes for the building, and the second gas heater is their engine.

So Saturday we headed there to measure and quantify what we needed and then off to the nearby Lowes.

The Dock Door Project: There are remnants of a previous interior sliding door’s frame that we decided would make a perfect mounting/connecting surface for a large “slab” of rigid insulation – basically making a second door that could easily be lifted into and out of place by one person. Only problem is, that the opening is 9′-8″ tall by 6′-8″ wide. So we had to scab together several 4×8 sheets of insulation, then we laid out 1×3 wood strips in a grid on one side, then a duplicate grid on the other side, and sandwiched them all together with 3-1/2″ long screws. Throw in a bunch of construction adhesive too. Worked pretty well – the fitting to the opening was a hassle because of all the old bits of rusty metal & nails attached to the wood. In the end we got a pretty good fit and we eliminated at least 90% of the drafts coming through the dock door.

Plastic Curtains: I knew stapling plastic over the windows was going to be a pain in the butt – I’ve been on a ladder close to these gigantic windows many times – not easy to work with due to their sheer size. Some of them had wood framing already attached to the metal window frame – apparently a previous owner had the same idea for eliminating drafts. One of our long term ideas is to make a permanent “interior storm windows” out of wood & glass that can be opened so that we can still open the original metal windows for fresh air. We inventoried the windows that had wood on the frame suitable for stapling plastic: only 11 out of the 32 windows on the second floor. Oh well. We debated about attaching our own new wood strips to the 21 un-stripped windows, but we didn’t like the idea of a) spending even more money on wood framing for 21 windows that are 9′-8″ tall be 5′-3″ wide, and b) drilling even more holes in the metal frames. So our decision: in addition to the stapled plastic sheeting for 11 windows, we’re going to make a quick wood frame that will FRICTION fit in front of the window for the other 21 windows; covered with the same plastic. It’s the same amount of wood, just removable, reusable, without holes in metal; because who knows when we’ll eventually get to making those permanent wood & glass frames. But for this weekend, all we time for was stapling the plastic to the 11 windows with wood strips. The temporary friction frames will have to come later.

Exhaust Pipes: The plan for these guys was simplest of all and took the least time & money: bag over the head. That would stop the airflow. But it would be great if I could add some insulation inside… Wait! Previous owner left us about 500 cubic feet of packing peanuts somewhere. Once I remembered where they were in the building, I just made some “pillows” with plastic trash bags, which I would stuff inside. Up the ladder and through the scuttle – and what did I find on the roof?! Our skating rink! That pesky pond was now totally frozen. Well, at least water doesn’t leak through when it’s solid.

Our roof rink; with metal shafts at far left - "pre-bagged"...

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Nancy permalink
    February 7, 2010 8:12 pm

    I had better step my search for ice skates while I am attending misc. yard sales – looks like a great cross training opportunity on your roof rink!

    • spruchnicki permalink
      February 7, 2010 9:55 pm

      We offer affordable ‘Wilmington Gym’ memberships if you’d like to mix up your workout!


  1. A Gas Rollercoaster « B. A. B.

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