Thursday, July 1, 2010

Solar Flair

Yesterday was the Monthly Payday, meaning last night was Bill Paying Night. meaning I wrote out this HUGE check to the stupid power company, on account of we live in unbearably hot, humid Virginia (or "hell" as a friend of mine put it the other day).

Coincidentally yesterday, I was reading another blog, The Simple Dollar, and while I disagree a lot with the author (pretty much everyday, but it's an interesting blog irregardless), one of their readers sent in this way to cut air conditioning bills.

Today I tried it, and I'm so impressed I have to pass it on. You can find the original write-up here for more in-depth detail, but my personal adventure is below.

First - we have a total of four windows on the west side of our house. Almost all of our interior summer heat comes from these four windows. Today I went to wal*art (hate to give them any free publicity) and purchased the thinnest, least expensive tension curtain rods ($2.57 each) to fit our window width, four emergency solar blankets from the camping department (they're about the size of a pack of playing cards, but unfold to approximately 4'x6', and cost $2.98 each), plus a 99 cent pack of hinged plastic hair clips.

Total cost: $23.19.

Arriving home at 3 p.m. (peak afternoon sun heating time), I moved the first window curtain, raised the mini blinds and set the tension rod at the correct width. Then I unfolded the first solar blanket (pretty much just a large sheet of mylar as near as I can tell), folded it over the tension rod, securing it with two of the plastic hair clips. Then I snapped the rod into place over the window, lowered the mini blinds, and released the curtain.

Within 5 minutes, the temperature in the room had noticeably cooled off, and within 20 minutes, it was 20 minutes cooler. Placing my hand back in the window, behind the solar blanket next to the window pane, it was almost hot enough to burn my hand. All that heat had been coming in the window, and I was paying to cool it.

The solar blanket is barely visible behind the shades.

But there it is.

With the curtain down, it's invisible.

Outside, it looks shiny, but, really, it's hotter than Hades out there, and no one is walking around looking at my windows. Or offering to pay my a/c bill so I can have more attractive windows.

We're about halfway through the next utility bill, and I'll let you know if there's a noticeable difference. We've already cut the a/c off today, because suddenly it's comfortable in here.


  1. What a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I have been gluesticking tin foil to windows where the sun blares in and reflect it back. You know what? Although it's darker in those areas, it's much cooler without much effort. Also, in fall when I welcome the sunshine, I peel, and wash windows and it's back to lightness once again!

  3. That is a very good idea but if you could prevent the sun from striking your windows in the first place you would be even cooler. We bit the (expensive) bullet and bought solar shade cloth for our west facing windows, the biggest in the house. I sewed a hem across the top and bottom and added grommet holes and hung it outside on the windows. The living room is nice and cool even on scorching hot days. The nice thing about this cloth is that light comes in and the stuff will last for years because it is weather proof. When autumn comes we roll it up and store it away till next summer.
    Note be sure to buy marine grade grommets so they will not rust.