Sunday, September 12, 2010
The Climate Changer
This little bit of low-tech technology will enable you to save on heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer. It will increase your comfort level whenever you are sitting around at home, for almost no cost. You will cut down significantly on your carbon footprint because you will run your heat and your air conditioning much less. You will sleep better winter and summer. And the cost to make one is about $5 and 1 hour of your time. Interested? Read on!
Step 1: Purchase supplies. For each Climate Changer, you need a quarter-yard of cotton fabric. Most fabric stores sell what they call "Fat Quarters," which are perfect for this. The fabric should be quilting cotton or calico, in whatever print you like--make a different color for each member of your family. If you cannot buy "Fat Quarters, get a half yard, which you can then cut in half across the width to make your own "fat quarter" (otherwise, you will have a piece of fabric that is too long and skinny.) I found Fat Quarters on sale at Jo-Ann's for $1.00 each, rather than the usual $1.99. (Don't buy fabric that has any metallic elements in the design.) (I tried wool felt and it didn't work well--damp and smelly. Get cotton cloth.)
The only other supply you need (other than thread and a working sewing machine) is flax seeds. If possible, buy these in bulk. I got mine at Sprouts, which sells ordinary whole brown flax seeds for $1.19 a pound. For each Climate Changer, you need 3-1/2 pounds of flax seeds. Do not buy ground flax seeds. Many people will tell you that they use rice or cherry stones or field corn. Whatever. For best results, get flax seeds. That's what the professionally made ones use, and that's what I use. The exact amount is important. Get 3-1/2 pounds. It seems like too much, but trust me. I'm an expert.
If you make smaller ones, or ones with fancy channels or shapes, they don't hold the heat effectively. I made a special shoulder one once and it only stayed warm for 5 or 10 minutes. The density of this size and shape works just right.
So: 1/4 yard of fabric at $1.00 = $1.00
3 1/2 pounds of flax seeds at $1.19 a lb = $4.16
Okay, it more than $5. I spent $5.16. You might spend as much $10. Money well spent.
The exact size and weight matters. Yes, size matters! I have made smaller ones and larger ones and the size I am explaining now is perfect. Seriously.
Step 2: Wash, dry, and iron the fabric before you start.
Step 3: Fold the fabric in half with right sides together and cut a rectangle as follows:
Measuring from the fold, cut a piece 8" wide (unfolded size would be 16") and 15" long.
Step 4: Pin around the cut edges and sew using a 1/2" seam, leaving one short end open.
Sew again close to the first line of stitching, in the seam allowance.
Clip the corners to make a smoother corner when you're done, and turn the bag right-side out.
Step 5: Iron it flat, folding the seam allowance in at the opening and ironing it neatly.
Step 6: Stand the bag up in a box or other container and using a cup measure, pour 3-1/2 pounds of flax seeds into it. Pin the top shut.
Notice the neatly ironed seam allowance above.
Yup, 3-1/2 pounds, and there should be room to spare at the top. This is important because otherwise, you will have a hard time sewing it shut, and it won't work as well either.
Step 7: Back to the sewing machine, you want to top-stitch across the entire top, 1/8" from the edge. Add a second line of stitching to be double-sure that no seeds will escape. Trim loose threads and you're done.
Now, how to use this thing of wonder? Well, if you want to warm up, heat it in the microwave for 3-1/2 minutes. It will hold its heat for about 2 hours. If you re-warm it, adjust the time. If you are nervous about over-heating it, start with 2 minutes and add more time as you get the feel for it.
I know, people are going to tell you that it will catch on fire, that the seeds will pop, that it's dangerous and so on. My family and I have been using these for many years, with no ill effects and no fires. Don't get it wet, and don't put it into a damp microwave. Don't use it on little babies or people who are too old to be able to protect themselves. Wrap it in a towel if it makes you feel better. (I don't.) After maybe a year of daily use, you might find that you have burned a hole in it. That means its time to throw it away and start over. If you over-heat it, yes, it's possible that it will burn. Same as anything else you put in the microwave. Use a bit of common sense and this is perfectly safe.
During the day, rest your feet on the warm Climate Changer. When your feet are warm, your whole body feels better. Rest it on your lap under an afghan while you watch tv. It will hold heat longer if it's kept under covers.
On cold nights, warm up your Climate Changer a little before bedtime. Stick it in your bed under the covers while you wash your face and brush your teeth. Crawl into bed. Ahhh, doesn't that feel nice? Now curl up with it, or put it at your feet and enjoy blissful warmth while your ambient temperature is kept at a money-saving level.
But wait, there's more!
During the summer, you can keep cool without even spending the few cents that running the microwave costs. Store your Climate Changer in the freezer during the day. In the evening, pull it out and again, stick it in your bed just before you turn in. The coolness will be enough to let you get to sleep on even the steamiest of nights. Rest your head on it, drape it over the back of your neck, or lay it on your stomach.
By warming or cooling yourself rather than the entire room, you can save money and the planet. Now don't you feel clever?