Our Philippine House Project – Window Screens and Kulambos
Of course we always planned to have screens on the windows and doors of our new house, but we procrastinated. Screens on casement windows are a bit complicated. The window sash open out, so exterior screens won’t work. Since the window handles and latches are on the inside the screens have to offer access to those. Some use sliding screens with a track top and bottom. Some have little screened doors which can open so you can reach the handles to open and close the windows. Another possibility are fully hinged screens which open in. See a discussion of the pluses and minuses of casement and sliding windows HERE. Anyway, we ended up moving in before any screens were installed. In Bob’s nine months at the job site he hardly ever saw a mosquito. This was a mystery as our property is surrounded by wet rice fields and pastures. Once we moved in we realized that our mosquitos were only active at night. They would hide in dark places in the house and come out to feed after dark.
The fact is that many Filipinos live without window screens, even fairly upscale families. We gradually learned the ropes. At first we’d leave our windows open all the time. That worked during the day, but after dark hordes of bugs would be attracted to the lights inside our house. They had to be swept up in the morning. We learned to close the windows before turning on the inside lights. Then, when we turn out our lights and go to bed, we reopen the windows. The cool breezes rush in. Almost no bugs come in, although flies can be a problem.
What about the mosquitos at night? We slept under a mosquito net called a kulambo. These nets, specially shaped to fit over beds, are available in several sizes and colors at the bedding department at SM City. They provide almost complete protection as long as the kulambo is tucked under the mattress. If a Filipino couple are on good terms they are said to be sleeping under the kulambo, but if the husband is bad he will be out of the kulambo!
So, will we install screens or not? Probably, but for now it’s interesting to try life without them. Previously we could have never conceived of not having screens but now we better understand why so many Philippine homes do not have them. I’ve read that screens cut down on air transfer by half, even when clean. When they are dirty they pass little air. They also block the vistas out the windows. Screens are expensive and inconvenient. Cleaning screens, especially ones as large as ours, is a real nuisance. On a nice day we open all our windows and feel like we are almost outside. We have in the Philippines in apartments with screens and we have had mosquitoes problems at least as bad as we have in our new home. One thing we do miss is being able to leave our windows open all the time. Without screens we have to close them at sunset or we do get an invasion of bugs. In our new house it is a bit difficult to leave windows open all the time because the house is in a windy location so a sudden tropical rainstorm can create havoc.
When we lived in Iloilo City we could leave or windows open unless there was a big storm. Here almost any rain will be blown into our house. For that reason, we have to close all our windows when we leave the house to go to town. We also generally close them at night for the same reason. A nighttime rain storm will get us out of bed to close windows — unless they are already closed. We also feel that having them closed somewhat improves our security as an intruder would have to break a window to gain access and that would likely wake us up.
As you can probably tell we are ambivalent about window screens. We decided to test screens in one of our bedrooms; to see how much good they did and how well they worked mechanically. We hired Iloilo Glass Company to make the screens. (See our previous post about Iloilo Glass: http://myphilippinelife.com/our-philippine-house-project-iloilo-glass-service/) We met with Iloilo Glass to figure out the best type of screen for our huge 5′ x 8′ windows. We ended us with a screen with a sturdy frame and four hinged screen sections. The hinges are stainless steel and the latches are magnetic. A single screen costs P8,000 or almost $200 (US). We installed the screen the only bedroom which has only one window. Here’s what it looks like:
We’ve lived with this screen for over six months. Really, we don’t see enough advantages to cause us to rush to have more installed, especially since it would cost almost P100,000 to do all the windows. Cleaning these screens is a bit of a problem as the screen panels are not removable. We may try screens with two sliding panels. They might work as well, cost less and be easier to clean. Stay tuned!