Rural Housewife or Tech Entrepreneur? You Decide

It might have been -13°F last night, but it was warm in here.

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It’s no secret that our house is in need of repair and updating, but there’s only so much money to go around.  When it was time to take down the dry rotting curtains and broken traverse rods, I wanted to find a way to insulate the 2 picture windows in my living room without breaking the bank.

South-East corner of the houseThe windows are a single pane, sheet glass with an aluminum storm window over them. That means they turn our living room into a green house in the summer and still allow a ton of heat out in the winter.  While I know new windows would pay for themselves over time, there just isn’t money in the budget to replace these two whoppers while trying to keep up with the rest of the repairs needed around here (like the $450 drain line for the kitchen sink).

The solution I decided on was a take on the Ikea panel curtain system, Kvartal, and beef them up with a product called Reflectix.

If you’ve never seen Reflextix before, it’s essentially a double layer of bubble wrap with a reflective, metallic surface.  The idea is that it helps reflect the heat to keep it where you want it to stay.

While they’re not the most attractive thing to hang in our living room, we lovingly call our panels the “Blast Shield” since we feel their effect most during the summer months. Without the Reflectix bouncing the sun’s heat back through the glass, our house gets unbearably hot.

It’s been harder to talk about the effect of the insulation during the winter months because it has been relatively mild… that is until this morning.

A Polar Vortex is blanketing Michigan in sub-zero temperatures and dangerous wind chills. Last night’s low was 29 degrees below normal for this time of year and the curtains proved they were working last night by keeping enough heat off the glass to allow them to develop a thick layer of frost – on the inside.

As far as installing the insulating curtains, it’s essentially the same process as drawn in the directions that came Kvartal tracks and mounting brackets, except instead of putting in a decorative fabric panel into the top and bottom rail unit, I used 24″ wide Reflectix.

The only special step required was to take a pin and pop a couple of rows of bubbles on the Reflectix so that I could fit it into the top and bottom rail.  With the air still in the bubbles the material was just too thick.

After a couple of years on the job, the biggest issue I’ve had with the system, besides being less than attractive, are the small, plastic, tabs that allow the panels open and close together.  They were no match for the Robinson Brothers Destruction Company and they broke off within a year of installation.

kvartal with reflectixThe other issue I have is the end caps on the 3 rail units.  It’s fairly easy to pull the curtains back hard enough for them to pop off and have one of the panel glides pop out of the end.

The Reflectix, on the other hand, is in great shape. It’s hard to tell that they’ve been handled twice a day, every day, for a little more than 2 years. I’d even go so far as to say that they’ve exceeded my expectations.  For a product that’s meant to be hidden away inside a wall, they sure can take a beating.

Overall, this was an affordable project and while it’s probably not as effective at saving money on our energy bills as getting new windows would be, I’m happy with the results. Plus, when we draw the fabric across on it’s own track, you can’t see the metallic bubble wrap while you’re in the living room.

Written by Karlie

January 7th, 2014 at 3:05 pm

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