Insulating electrical boxes

It’s winter.  Put your hand up to an electrical outlet or light switch in an exterior wall.  Do you feel some cold air coming in?  If so, there is a quick and easy solution.  Pick up a pack of foam outlet and switch covers from a home store and put them behind the plates.  No more air infiltration.  If your electrical boxes are set behind the drywall, it is really that easy.  If you have remodel boxes that sit just proud of the drywall like the one shown above, I find it helps to trim the foam down to size so the plate can fit snugly against the wall.

I put the foam onto the receptacle, press on it to make an imprint of the box on the foam, and then cut around that imprint line.  I leave about an extra millimeter or two around the line to make sure it’s a snug fit and no air can get through.  The edges can be tucked into the box.  If you haven’t turned the power off to the circuit, just be careful not to touch the sides of the receptacle so you don’t get a shock.

Once the plate is back on, it looks just the same as it did before, but no cold air comes through.  It’s a simple and inexpensive way to save a little on heating costs.


Spending, Saving, and Proceeding

There’s been a fair bit of the spending lately but I’m happy to report that we’re going to be saving on our energy bill, saving (gaining) space in our small ~840 sq. ft house, and be ready for new projects; that is, after we finish the pesky final touches on our just completed ones— let’s not get bogged down in the painful details of holes in the walls and replacing all the new electrical outlets with tamper proof ones (no, we’re not insane, Kelly has to do it to pass inspection).  So in the last two weeks we wrapped up the high efficiency gas fireplace/tankless gas water heater project, 80% of the siding caulking (after finishing the siding and soffit projects), majorly rearranged the living room, and finished the bathroom window tiling (which means the shower “wall of plastic sheeting” is gone— I love you Kelly for getting ‘er done!). 

This two year old 58 gallon/6 year electric water heater was decommissioned as soon as the tankless was installed.  I was super stoked when we got rid of it because the lady from Freecycle who took it was only stopping by to pick up some chairs and when i heard she was taking them to the Yakama Nation I offered the heater and a TV to her and she took them too (on a subsequent trip).  Tribe members in White Swan, WA suffered much loss during a major wind storm there this past winter that was made even worse by a consequent fire that consumed multiple homes.

The old water heater supposedly cost us $520 a year!  I guess that doesn’t seem so bad for hot showers :-)

Here’s the new tankless water heater: a Rinnai.  Estimated annual operational cost of $225— less than half the cost of operating our old one!  I suppose if I take two hour showers as has been suggested to me then the savings would go up in steam.

What a beautiful machine.  So small yet so powerful.  It sits on the outside of the house and basically gives us a pantry that’s twice as big— say 25 sq. ft extra!  (Sorry for all of the exclamations but recounting our gains is making me giddy.)

A project wouldn’t be complete without a hole in the wall now would it?  At least not in our house!

The guys from Handy’s Heating (from a fur piece north of us) were great.  We paid a pretty penny for their labor but they knew what they were doing and got the job done fast. I ordered pizza both days they were here (about three months separated their visits while we worked out the plumbing and electrical).  I enjoyed getting to know them and I think they appreciated a little bit of hospitality.  I worked in construction for a few summers growing up and I just want to say I always appreciated working hard for somebody and having them show their appreciation with hospitality and not just cold hard cash (which doesn’t hurt either).  I gave them a tip which was nowhere near 10% but if I was in their shoes I would have appreciated any tip— so that’s what I did and I think they left knowing we really appreciated doing business with them.

That’s it for now.  The 500 pound guerrilla in the room has me wondering whether my potential painter is in fact going to be our painter.  Finger’s crossed because I’m ready to slow down on the projects and get out in the woods and chase my quarry— elk (and tend to some professional business that really needs to take precedence over projects… not hunting though!)