"we're going to die here, aren't we?"

How to Stay Warm and Save Money this Winter

If you’re like me, every Winter you scour the Internet for magical tips to stay warm and save money on energy bills.  Nine times out of ten, those lists are useless.  I’m here to help.

By Robert Graves

In this article, I’ll share my real life experiences in renting in poverty, though these suggestions are easily translatable to home owners.  There are of course more permanent solutions when you actually own the home, such as updating insulation and replacing old windows.

Shut the Back Door

There is a term in increases and deficits called “shutting the back/front door”.  By shutting the back door, we are stopping our heat from leaving.  This is an important first step as it minimizes the amount of heat you need and lowers your energy costs.

Windows and doors are obvious points of heat loss, so start here.  If you have drafty windows, get a set of heavy curtains.  You can also add a draft guard on the bottom of your doors and windows, as applicable.

Not every can afford a thermal imaging camera, but there is an easy trick you can do.  Try moving your hand along the edges of your doors and windows.  Mark spots where you feel drafts and cold spots.  Use weather stripping to close these gaps.  If there isn’t enough space, try wood glue or spray foam like Great Stuff. This should go without saying, but don’t glue yourself inside your house.

Something often overlooked are power outlets.  These little holes are still holes, and you can lose large amounts of heat from them.  The solution?  Baby protector outlet covers.  Insulated cover plates can also help, but use foam board behind them if you cant find them.  Never use cloth insulation, and take care to keep any materials away from the live wires.  Stay fire safe!

Bundle Up

There are a few small ways to help insulate your place. If your space has hardwoods, these can be very cold in the winter.  Using rugs to cover your floors will help in both heat retention and heat illusion, that is your feet wont be cold and you wont be inclined to crank up the heat.

Tapestries are like rugs for your walls.  They aren’t for everyone, but using them in a confined space like your bedroom will help you stay warm at night while you sleep.  And speaking of which, add heavier blankets to your bed.   Your body temperature changes when you sleep,  keep all the warmth close by!

Its also time to break out the heavy socks, warm slippers, and a nice hoodie.  If you’re wearing heavier clothes, you’re less likely to crank on the heat.  Your body’s temperature center is on the back of your neck, so a scarf will help you feel warm.  Keeping your extremities warm with wool socks or fingerless gloves will help as well.

Apply Heat

Now that we’ve got the back door closed, we can start adding heat without wasting it.   Hopefully you have already prepped your HVAC system for winter, but if you haven’t we can do it now.  Step one: change your damn filter.  According to my HVAC guys, its better to buy the cheap filters and replace them every 30 days.  Why?  Your HVAC can only heat as much air as it gets.  It wants that air, so its going to work very hard to get it, even if it has to burn down your checking account.


                                  for comparison

To this end, make sure you keep your vents open!  HVAC systems work on circulation – if the air intake/output is not equal, you are losing money.

While we’re cleaning and prepping, make sure to clean your windows.  Let that warm sun in to heat up the interior of your house.  Newer windows will block more sun than older ones.  Dark materials and objects in the sunlight will help increase the desired greenhouse effect. Get the best of both worlds with dark colored curtains.

Clean your ceiling fans!  I’m almost positive they are dirty, but its also time to switch them to winter mode.  Yes, that is a thing.  Your ceiling fans should be on low while spinning in a clockwise direction.  This will ensure any heat in the room gets distributed evenly.  Remember, hot air rises!

HVAC systems are expensive to run themselves.  Thats why its important to use localized or “zoned” heating.

You want to heat the room that you’re in, not the whole house.  And you never want to keep these side heaters running.  Purchase electric heaters that include thermostats, or purchase individual timers and thermostats to ensure these heaters don’t run constantly.  Remember that these thermostats are often inaccurate and adjust them accordingly.  The heater I run in my room at night is around 10 degrees off.

If you’re sitting on the couch, why not get an electric throw blanket?  You’re wasting energy heating your house to the high 70s when a heated blanket will do the same thing for pennies.

Put an electric blanket on your bed.  I use one with adjustable dual zone heating, so my significant other can turn hers down while I heat mine up.  Combined with my small bedroom heater, we stay very comfortable.

Adding a humidifier to your bedroom system will help you when the air dries out, but even further humid air heats and retains heat energy much better than dry air.  Using a humidifier in tandem with a small heater will increase the effects of both.

Have a fireplace?  You’ve probably heard that fireplaces are inefficient heaters.  They act as an air pump, pulling cold air from the house, heating it, and pumping it out the chimney.  You can maximize the effect of your fireplace by using a reflective plate or parabola behind the fire.  These plates will help to reflect heat and light energy back into the room.

Eat Right

This step is an oldie but a goodie.  Chances are you have an oven.  Chances are you have to eat.  Why not fold your oven into your heating plan?  Slow cooking in your over big meals like a pot roast or stew will add heat energy into your home.  Typically these temperatures are low for an oven but high for a human.  “Low” on a crock pot translates to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Ovens that vent this excess heat will help warm up your place as well as increase the delicious smell factor.

Of course, you can warm yourself up in the morning by drinking hot chocolate or coffee.  Reheat your body at lunch with a bowl of soup.  Warm food is great for warming the body.

Use Your Imagination

There are a few other fringe things you can do to stay warm this winter.  Get creative!  Get a treadmill and heat your house up with your body stank.  Adopt some dogs and cats and sleep in a pile.  Build your own induction heater out of empty coke cans.  Put a jacuzzi in your attic? Barrel fire in your living room.

fire crotch

                                   or whatever

Thats all I’ve got.  Hopefully this list helps you stay warm while saving a few bucks.

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