The Boy in the Bubble

Because we don’t do enough weird stuff in/to our house (wait until I post about destroying our lawn)…

Because it is cold, already…

Because heat is expensive and our house is minimally insulated (but we improve it every year)…

Because we are naturally contrarian, and when people said, “Look, you can’t raise your kids in a bubble,” we said, “Oh yeah?”…

We’ve bubblewrapped our house.

Not all of it. Just the windows. Not even all of the windows, although we’re heading that way. I read on the internet that it was a way to improve the insulation value of our windows, and at $35 for a 350 square foot roll, it sounded cheaper than new windows. We can save it and re-use it next year. When I roll it up and stick it in the crawl space, it will insulate that space, keeping the house cooler in the summer. It feels a little weird, after I’ve been so aggressive about minimizing plastic in our home, to bring a giant roll of it in, but it really is helping. When we’ve worn it out, we can recycle it.

It was very easy to install. I just cut pieces to the right lengths, misted the window with water, and stuck the flat side to the window. Done.

It *is* one more thing for Silas to use to drive us crazy. When he wants to be naughty, he pulls down as much of the bubble wrap as he can reach. We gave him his own (really big!) piece to play with. We explained what it was for, and let him feel the cold window and the not-so-cold bubble wrap. We showed him how to fix it where it is coming off the window at the edges, by squirting a little water and pressing the wrap back up there. All of those things are helping, as is time and the gradual lessening of the novelty.

I was concerned that I would hate it, that it would be totally hideous. It turns out that it’s sort of pretty (weird, but pretty). It’s strange not being able to glance up and see who is coming up the road or whether it’s still snowing. When Silas goes outside by himself, I take down a couple panels so I can watch him. I’m getting used to it, though. The bubbles refract the light so that it seems even brighter in the living room, while also diffusing the glare that drives JC nuts this time of the year.

I might be a weirdo, but I’m a warm weirdo. I’ll take it.

Baby (without a baboon heart), basking in the prettily diffused light.
Don’t ask about the lasers in the jungle.

Update: Jason came over for dinner and asked about the R-value of the bubble wrap. He later did some math, and sent me the following fascinating report, which I am including in case anyone lands here while googling to figure out whether they, too, wish to bubblewrap their homes. Bubble wrap has an R value of roughly 2. Worth noting–Jason even calculates based on the current price of propane, which is how we do most of our heating. I’m both amused and lucky to have friends who will bother with this kind of calculation.

From Jason:

Well this is fascinating.  An R value of 1 (pane of glass) = 1 Btu heat transfer per hour per square foot per degree F temp differential.

Guessing you covered 80 square feet, at a 40 degree temp differential between inside and out, that is a 3200 Btu/hr loss.  You theoretically cut that in half, so now a 1600 Btu/hr loss.  Propane is 92,000 Btu/gallon; assuming furnace 80% efficient that’s 73,600 Btu/gal.  Thus, you save .0217 gal/hr propane.

Assuming propane $2.50/gal, that’s around $.05/hour.  Or $1.30 per day or $117 in 90 days.

With 12.7 lbs CO2 emitted per gallon of propane burned, that’s a carbon savings of .28 lbs/hr or 600 lbs in 3 months. 

Of course, the temp. diff. won’t always be 40 degrees, so this is a very very optimistic case.  And I am not an engineer.


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