Longtime readers might recall that for years James and I went without using air conditioning. We didn’t want to block what little light we had with a bulky window unit. And we didn’t want to buy the bulky air conditioner in the first place. More than anything, we didn’t want to contribute to the energy suck that is the American obsession with ice cold rooms in the summertime. We were A/C free when we slept in a tiny loft, when we moved to a fourth-floor apartment, when we had a newborn in the summertime, and even when we had to plunge our feet into ice buckets to try to get a modicum of relief from the oppressive city heat that doesn’t go away even after the sun sets.
Two summers ago though, when temperatures were climbing past 100 in this attic apartment, we broke down and bought an air conditioner. We do our best to keep our A/C use infrequent and moderate. We set the thermostat to 78 and turn it off when we’re not home. (Helpfully, ours syncs with an app that lets us turn it on remotely when we’re on our way home.) We use fans to help move the cool air around. I’ve sealed up the unit itself with silicone caulk and now, I’ve finally sealed up the rest of the apartment, too.
On Sunday night when we returned from Connecticut, James hoisted the air conditioner into the window. Last night, I sewed up a draft guard to block the 1-inch gap between the base of our apartment door and the floor. Now instead of cooling the inferno that is the landing outside our door, we’re staying cool inside.
There is nothing revolutionary about this project. For anyone who grew up in an old house in New England, these kinds of draft guards (or draft snakes, or draft blockers, or whatever term you’d prefer) were ubiquitous, except they often had duck heads or snake heads or an abundance of paisleys. You do you, of course, but I opted for a simple canvas draft guard, cut from one end of an old drop cloth.
If you have a sewing machine this project will take about three minutes, start to finish. If not, sewing this up by hand, like I did, will take a bit longer than that, but it’s still a project that can be easily finished while watching a show in the evening after work.
+ An old canvas drop cloth or similar heavy-duty cloth
+ Safety pins
+ Beans, rice, lentils, dried lavender, etc. for filling
+ Toilet paper roll cut in half or large funnel
+ Cut a 5-inch wide strip from your drop cloth.
+ Fold the fabric strip in half and pin together with safety pins, spacing the pins about 5-inches apart as needed. You’ll be turning the tube inside out after sewing, so be sure that whatever side of fabric you’d like to ultimately face outward is facing inward while sewing. (As an example, the paint smears you see above aren’t visible once the tube is turned inside out.)
+ Sew a seam along the length of the fabric and along one end, leaving one end of tube open.
+ Carefully use your thumbs to turn the tube inside out so that the seam is on the inside along with any remnants of past painting projects.
+ Once the tube is right-side out, you can fill it with whatever non-perishable you’d like: dried beans, rice, lentils, and dried flowers if you’d like it to smell good. I had made a mixture of all of the above for my kids to play with last year, and it had been sitting in a jar in my kitchen cabinet unused, so in it went.
+ Use a toilet paper roll cut in half as makeshift scoop and funnel.
+ Once filled, roll the end of your tube and sew or safety pin it shut. I used a large safety pin because it was easy and because if my draft guard gets dirty, I can unpin it, empty, wash, and fill again.
The finished draft guard is practically unnoticeable and I swear in just one night it’s made a demonstrable difference in how well our A/C is able to cool our apartment.
+ If you don’t happen to have a stash of toddler-fondled dried rice or beans on hand, you can reach out to your local Buy Nothing group. (Forgive me my proselytizing, but it’s just so great.) Before I realized that I had enough to fill my tube, I put out a call and had a neighbor quickly chime in to say she had past-their-prime beans to spare!
+ If you lack the skills or desire to make your own, there are lots of places to commission a draft guard to be made for you. Fortress Co. on Etsy has lots of lovely fabric options.
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