Ice crystals on Alaska houses

Insulation from the Stone Age to the fashion of today

Eons ago, mankind moved into caves for shelter from the elements. They started using hides and furs of the animals they ate to insulate themselves from the cold air. There was a long road of optimizing paved with trial and error and learning.

From ice crystals to dry skin

A couple of years ago, I was on the phone with someone in Europe. The person told me that they had just watched a documentary about Russia and that there was ice on the walls. “Icicles?” I asked. “No, just ice crystals up to the size of a woman’s pinky nail.” “On the inside or outside walls of the houses?” “Outside.” “That’s great” I responded.

#fashionover40 style blogger Nicole in tweet skirt, sweater cardigan and riding boots
Eddie Bauer tweed skirt with GNW tights, Moda International cardigan, Hermes collier de chien leather bangle, Hermes collier de chien bangle, black pearl necklace, Jeanne Pierre sweater, black pearl necklace and Sanchez riding boots (all own)

Why? The ice crystals can only grow on the little aerosols called ice nuclei when the wall’s temperature is below freezing. When the inside of the house is heated, ice crystals on the outside indicate good insulation. Areas with weak insulation conduct heat from inside to the outside. These “cold bridges” become visible as areas without ice crystals (see chess plant on the wall in the outfit photo) or at temperatures below -20F (-28.9oC) or so as areas with much smaller ice crystals than their better insulated surroundings. Even a 5 star energy house has some cold bridges as seen in the photos. These are the static pieces of the construction.

#fashionover50 midlife woman in work outfit with tweet skirt, sweater, cardigan for insulation from Alaska's cold winter in front of a house with ice crystals on the wall
Side view of above work outfit with Moda International cardigan, Eddie Bauer skirt, GNW tights, Hermes collier de chien bangle, and Sanchez riding boats (all own). See the cold bridges (darker areas of the wall) that indicate heat loss due to less insulation

Insulation gaps in Alaska fashion/dressing

When we dress, there will be cold bridges too. The most obvious ones are the gaps between the gloves and the sleeves. Of course, gloves and sleeves overlap. However, the motion permits cold, dry air to enter, i.e. the motion acts like a ventilation.

The other main gap – at least for people living in Alaska – are the eyes. They cover their faces with a mask when they are outside for an extended amount of time for snow machining, dog mushing, ski-joring, skiing, ice-fishing, you name it. However, the eyes are exposed to the air. At temperatures below -20F, ice often builds on the eye brows and lashes. Without mask ice will also grow on any facial hair, not only beards.

Thus, Alaskans living in the Interior, where it is the coldest and driest in Alaska, all suffer from dry skin. Their skin is especially dry along the wrists and, in the case of outdoor enthusiasts, around the eyes. At the end of the winter, some people’s skin even bleeds because it is so dry that it cracks.

#fashionover40 #Alaska Insulation for housing and fashion
Back view of work outfit with Moda International cardigan, Eddie Bauer tweed skirt, GNW tights, Hermes collier de chien bangle,  black pearl necklace and Sanchez riding boats (all own). In this outfit, insulation gaps are the areas between the boots and skirt as well as the hands, neck and face

Alaskans’ humor on problem solving

Since dry skin is a common problem, there is a Fairbanks running joke on how to solve the dry skin problem. Olay should fill the Hammie Pool with lotion for advertisement of their brand and the Fairbanksans would do the swimming for free. 😉

What to read more about styling a tweed skirt like, for instance, how to wear a tweed skirt with floral print? Do you get dry skin in winter? What do you do about it?

Photos: G. Kramm

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