I need to explain what I have done to our apartment.
I have heard that the wind in China comes almost exclusively from the North. The wind comes down from the Artic, freezing to hellishly low temperatures over Siberia. The wind then picks up a lot of dust and dirt over Mongolia to give it flavor. It hits Beijing with a cold, dry Winter. But when that wind comes to Shanghai / Suzhou, it warms up just a bitâ€¦and picks up water.
From my perspective, Shanghai (and Suzhou region) is the coldest place I have ever lived. (I don’t remember how cold Chicago got) Sure, Beijing gets colder. But its dry. Shanghai gets cold. And damp. And dark. And miserable. Suzhou gets cold and damp, but not nearly as dark. I have a friend from Xinjiang (North-Western province), where it gets to -30 C during the Winter. He tells me he feels much colder in Shanghai.
New York actually gets colder and is probably wetter than Beijing, but Beijing, New York, and Chicago are all cities built with central heating in mindâ€¦and those cities were built by people who had enough common sense to install insulation into their homes. Apartments in South China (i.e. South of the YangZe river, which geographically speaking is middle China), do not usually have good insulation, unless you live in an expensive new place. And a lot of those new places are built with super high ceilings, so that rich people can feel that they have more space while they shiver because the warm air rises to the top of those ceilings. Only the newest apartments have dual-pane windows.
Now, about windowsâ€¦ In China, there are four, and only four generations of windows:
1. Wood with glass (or paper or plastic or whatever)
2. Steal with glass
3. Aluminum with glass
4. Dual-pane glass with extruded vinyl – plastic frames.
My apartment has Generation 3. And the thing about Generation 3 windows is that THEY SUCK. They do not insulate at all. Aluminum is a heat conductor, so it passes warmth to the outside. And there all sorts of open cracks for air to go through.
It used to be, back in the commie days, that you could only turn on heating after December 15th South of the YangZe (or so I heard). I imagine that as the cost of fuel oil increases, eventually someone in Beijing will mandate that everyplace gets retro-fitted with good insulation. On the other hand, Chinese people only turn on the â€œheatersâ€ on the coldest of days, in order to save money.
Notice how the word â€œheatersâ€ is in â€œQuotation Marksâ€. There are no heaters in the South. There are air conditioners. Basically, the Shanghai heater is the installed air-conditioner, turned on to reverse the flow of air, pumping in the hot air. These are not dedicated heaters and do not heat much, nor do they heat efficiently. And they are expensive to run.
So I decided to strategize the heating situation. I do not want our place to be too cold for Akiva. We canâ€™t move out to a newer apartment yet, so this is where we will be during the winter. So this weekend, I taped up the seems around all the North-facing windows (I will get the South ones later, but the North ones are more importantâ€¦and Akivaâ€™s room is on the North side.) Then I taped two layers of bubble-packaging plastic over the North-facing windows. The only window I did not tape and cover was the kitchen windowâ€¦you never know when you are going to burn some food and need to open that window quickly.
We also will buy some electric blankets for our bed, and an electric blanket to put down on the floor for Akivaâ€™s play area. And we are going to purchase some electric space heaters to put in Akivaâ€™s room and my office (I donâ€™t think we are supposed to use electric blankets for Akiva).
In truth, I donâ€™t know if the bubble-plastic and the tape-over-the seems will work. And there are some places that we probably canâ€™t do anything about. . But if these changes make our space a little warmer than last winter, I will be satisfied. – Jesse