Posts tagged "insulation"

What can I reuse or recycle to make a draft excluder?

Ok, put your hand up if you’re cold.

I’m guessing everyone in the northern hemisphere is waving at their computers right now. It’s pretty brr.

On my frugal/cooking/growing blog The Really Good Life, I’ve written about the five frugal ways I’ll be keeping warm this winter – but one thing I missed off is the list is draught excluders (aka draft dodgers).

I used to have a black fun fur one – which matched our black real fur cats – but it was in the days when the cats were more territorial … and amorous. I’ll let you finish that lovely story yourself. Last year, after we’d just moved into our new house, there were so many draughts and bits of bad insulation that draft excluders seemed pointless so I didn’t bother. This year though, game on!

So what have you made them from? Recycle This regular BookstoreBabe made some from her daughter’s old heavy patterned tights and rag-bag stuffing – but warned that they stretch! I’ve also heard of people making them from old woolly jumper sleeves or trouser legs – just sew up the ends and stuff.

I imagine the duvets from the other day would do the job too without any sewing or cutting need – just tied into a roll. And don’t forget, it’s not won’t be sitting on it, so it doesn’t need to be stuffed with soft filling like a cushion or pillow – you can use newspaper, carrier bags or stuff like polystyrene foam peanuts — anything to provide a bit of bulk.

Have you made your own? What did you use? Send pics/links if you’ve got them!

Five fantastic reuses for expanded Polystyrene foam packaging

foam_packaging.jpgExpanded polystyrene, the moulded white shapes you get as protective packaging when you buy electronics or large toys etc, is a pain to recycle – it can be recycled now but not many places collect it.

Unlike its foam ‘peanuts’ counterpart which can be reused as multi-purpose packaging again and again, the moulded stuff only really fits around the item you got it with — but there are still some fantastic ways to reuse it.

1. Crocks in plant pots

Chunks of expanded polystyrene foam make great crocks for plant pots – particularly large tubs filled with shallow rooted plants. The light foam fills the space rather than heavy soil, making it easier to move around and it helps with drainage too.

Those worried about plastic chemical leaching may want to avoid using it when growing fruit or veg in containers though.

2. Use it to make artwork or to mount pictures on walls

Waste expanded polystyrene can be used to make fun artwork – it can be used as a core for sculptures or models.

Flatter sections can be used like poster board/foam core to mount pictures, photos or posters on walls – the resulting picture is rigid (so won’t curl) but light.

Deeper pieces of the foam can be used to make blocky canvas-style wall art – mount your picture so that it run around the edges, covering the foam sides. If you haven’t got a single piece of polystyrene that’s big enough, make a strong frame from lengths of it instead.

3. Floating bath pillow or bath toys for kids

Pick a reasonably smooth piece of expanded polystyrene and cover it with a quick drying fabric – thin cotton or an old swim suit perhaps – to use it as a floating pillow in the bath.

Or cover smaller, interesting shapes with fun fabric to make floating toys for kids.

4. Use it to make costumes

As it’s light, bulky and reasonably easy to modify, it’s perfect for turning into Halloween or fancy dress costumes where you want to be bulkier – or more robotic/mechanical – than you currently are.

5. Use it for insulation

The air trapped between the individual polystyrene beads makes it an excellent insulator. Some people are worried about using it around the house in case of fires but it can be used in other ways:

  • Coldframe – moulded expanded polystyrene boxes are great as cold frames in the garden as they protect delicate seedlings from the cold earth. They’re commonly used for shipping refrigerated vegetables or chilled/frozen fish so ask at your local market to see if they have any spares. Then you just need an old window or some scrap clear plastic sheeting for the top.
  • Ponds – if you’re installing a pond, consider placing a layer of expanded polystyrene around the liner and the earth. It’ll stop the cold earth leaching away the water’s last bits of warmth in the winter. You can also float the foam on top of the water in winter to stop it freezing solid – and in the summer, frogs can use polystyrene floats as mock lily pads.
  • “Hay” oven – a hay oven allows you to save energy while slow cooking stews & casseroles. You start the casserole on the stove then cover it and put it into a well insulated box for several hours – the retained heat keeps it hot and cooking. As the name suggests, hay is a common insulator – but expanded polystyrene can perform a similar job.


Try to avoid buying items packed with expanded polystyrene in the first place. Support more environmentally conscious manufacturers who uses paper based alternatives instead. And if you do, tell the original company why you didn’t buy their product – it might inspire them to be greener in the future too.

How can I reuse or recycle foam water pipe lagging?

This is usually the other way around – we usually suggest things that can be used to insulate water pipes – but I saw some foam water pipe lagging on the road today while walking the dog. I imagine it had blown off a nearby skip or been taken off by kids (because reuse #1: they’re great for sword fights) but either way: yoink!

Given the rain of the last 24 hrs, they’re a bit wet but since they’re plasticky foam, I imagine they’ll dry fine. We’ll probably use them for actual pipe lagging as we’ve just had some new pipe work put in – but if we were already insulated, what else could we use them for?

How can I reuse or recycle lunch boxes?

We’ve had an email from Sarah C:

My kids always need new lunchboxes, what can I do with the old ones?

The hard plastic square ones I used to have when I was little were good kid-size storage boxes so maybe encourage them to use their previous year’s boxes as storage – for pens, letters & birthday cards, small toys – in their bedrooms. If they’re a bit scruffy, they can probably be recovered or painted, and you could make old fashioned suitcase straps & buckles if the plastic catch has broken.

Insulated cooler bags seem to be more common that those though now and from what I’ve read Googling around, they don’t seem to last as long as the hard plastic ones – not so easy to keep them clean. The material could be used to make coffee cup/beer can sleeves – or insulating pipes around the home where space is too tight for expanded foam.

Any other suggestions?

How can I reduce my energy usage/heating bills? Super tips!

winter-houseFollowing on in our few days of very seasonal heating & energy themed posts, I thought it would be worthwhile for us to share our super-greenie tips for reducing energy consumption (and bills!).

Whenever I read/hear mainstream media advice on cutting back on energy usage, it’s always the same basic stuff: put on a jumper, close your curtains and turn down your thermostat – very useful tips but when you’re already in your woollies, with your heavy lined curtains closed and your thermostat as low as it will go, they’re not that much help.

I’m presuming that most of the people that read this site – particularly the regulars (hi beloved regulars!) – will already be doing more than the basics — so what are your green+ tips for reducing your heating and electric bills?

Have you installed solar panels or some other expensive-but-more-sustainable heating alternative? Have you installed fake ceilings or partitioned rooms to make them easier to heat?

Have you insulated somewhere out of the ordinary? Ceilings? Floors? Walls? Did you insulate with something different to normal (and/or recycled)?

Have you modified your windows to make them less of an energy leak? The other day Lizzy mentioned using cling film to make secondary glazing – any other secondary glazing tips? Anyone gone for triple-glaze or the equivalent? Did it make a difference?

What about smaller, less-expensive things too? Wrist warmers, snuggy slippers, hooded scarves for around the house? A strategically positioned cat or loved one to stop your feet getting cold? Cutting down drafts between rooms with curtains/draft excluders?

What else?