Although our gas usage has decreased from this time last year, our energy bill has not. Rising gas prices have cancelled out any savings I was hoping for, but at least we're not paying MORE this year (yet) which is a relief.
Part of that is due to the insulation on the second floor, some credit goes to the weatherstripping and insulation around the windows, but I am still not satisfied. Our basement was far, FAR too warm last year from the steam heat pipes running hither and yon. Since we don't live in the basement, I selfishly wanted that heat for upstairs. So, I decided to insulate the pipes.
Before I could purchase insulation, I had to measure all of the exposed pipe to determine its diameter and the length of insulation I would need for each exposed run of pipe. I drew a little sketch of the exposed pipe in the basement and how long each run was.
Just that activity tired me out. Seven months pregnant and sharing things like lungs and other organs with the kidlet make me feel like I am living at high altitudes now. I still had more steps to accomplish, even though I was already exhausted.
On to figuring out the different diameters of pipe...how to determine that? My eyes blurry with fatigue, I grabbed a piece of string and a measuring tape. Then I wrapped the string around different pipes, figured out the amount of string that would wrap around the pipe once, and then I measured the string. In a daze, I guessed that let me off of the hook and went immediately to bed.
Day two and I'm at one of my absolutely favorite hardware stores in Chicago, Clark-Devon Hardware. (Also a favorite with Chicago Two-Flat.) Why is it my favorite? You can get anything there...anything. I swear to you. Need an ancient, obscure part for your steam radiator/1920's toilet/ancient wood storm windows? Yeah, they have it. And they know what to do with it, too.
So, I hit the counter, all ready with my drawings and calculations and excited to begin. The helpful hardware guru looks at my paper and asks, "Are you SURE that these pipes are 6.5 inches in diameter?!"
Um, no. That would be circumference. And my father, reading this, is now clutching at his heart in agony. "No, no, no!" Because I was supposed to be the math geek and now I'm standing in a hardware store, belly out to "yar", with a brain addled by mom-nesia. What is the calculation again? How can I calculate diameter from circumference? Where is my calculator? What is pi again? HAS ANYONE SEEN MY BRAIN?! Anyone? Bueller?
The guys behind the counter were very busy and I was on my own to figure it out. So, I borrowed a pen and paper, and got to work trying to salvage my dignity. Um...this wasn't working. Because the material that a pipe is made of is thicker than a circle on a page in a math book. So, while the INTERNAL diameter of a pipe may be 1.5 inches, this does not match up neatly with its EXTERNAL circumference using pi and my nifty calculations. Finally, I borrowed a twist tie and a folding ruler, and just headed into the plumbing aisle with my twist tie to figure out which pipe had the circumference I was using. Sometimes, you just gotta punt.
Installing the insulation wasn't as difficult as calculating the diameter of the pipe.
Fiberglass pipe insulation is made from inorganic glass fibers bonded with a thermosetting resin. It is jacketed with a high intensity white kraft paper bonded to a metallized polyester film reinforced with tri-directional fiberglass. It comes in larger sizes than the polyethylene or neoprene foam pipe sleeves in most big box hardware stores. (Those sizes are terrific for hot water pipes. Also handy for making lightsabers, apparently.)
You just measure, cut to fit with a straight edge, and wrap the fiberglass around the pipe. The jacket comes with an adhesive strip that seals everything up neatly.
Now, I'm actually hoping that the basement is colder than the first floor. I'm also anxious to see how much this works! Now, on to blanketing the hot water heater.
p.s. Please don't ask me about my personal circumference. I would need a MUCH bigger piece of string.