|New York, Christmas Weekend, 2010|
I live in a relatively warm climate; fortunately heating isn't necessary here a large chunk of the time. Yes, most people here do use heating in the winter to make their homes more comfortable, but we generally don't. Usually my home stays around 58-60 degrees Farenheit before applying any of these following tricks. I realize that those of you in colder climates need to have some heating on to keep your homes habitable and pipes from freezing, but hopefully these tips will allow you to lower your thermostat and lower your bills, while still remaining relatively comfortable.
Keeping Heating Costs DownIt's winter! I've written before and I'll say it a million times- winter should feel like winter and summer should feel like summer. No need to freeze your toes off in the summer from strong air conditioning, nor swelter from the heating in the winter. We've got 4 seasons (well, most of us do, anyhow)- our living quarters should reflect that. The thermostat should definitely be set lower in the winter than it is in other months.
Dress for the weather. If you want to be able to walk around the house in a tank top and shorts in the dead of winter, sure, you'll be cold. By dressing more warmly, you can comfortably keep the temperature in the house lower. Winter is the perfect time to show off your sweater collection, wear sweatshirts, long sleeve undershirts, long underwear, and thermal socks. I've been known even to wear multiple layers on days that I was especially cold.
Wear slippers. Nothing makes you colder than cold floors (aside for maybe wet hair). Thick socks and or warm slippers keep your feet from touching the cool floors, making your body warmer.
Area rugs. Another way to keep your feet warm in the dead of winter is to lay down area rugs. This is much cheaper than wall to wall carpeting and can be rolled up when the seasons change.
Cook. Ever notice that when you're using the stove or the oven, your whole kitchen heats up? On days that are especially chilly, go on a marathon baking session. Use your pressure cooker. Boil a pot of water if you've got nothing to cook but just want to warm up the place. (If you live in a place that has dampness issues in the winter, use a dehumidifier if you warm the place with steam.) Yes, this won't heat the whole house, but its a convenient reason to get together as a family and get things done in the kitchen.
Hot food and drink. Remember those snowy days growing up when you'd go sledding down the huge hill, freeze your fingers off, and come home to a big mug of steamy hot cocoa? Remember how that warmed you up down to the tips of your toes? Warm drinks, from cocoa to tea to coffee all work wonders to make you feel warmer, even if the air inside is chilly. Soups and stews also have the same effect, so get out your pots and make split pea soup, succotash, hot borsht, chicken scrap soup, vegetable scrap soup, couscous soup, etc. For some reason, hot solid foods doesn't seem to have the same effect here.
No matter what you do- don't have ice cream! That'll just chill you to the bone and make you want to up your heat!
Shutters, window shades, and thick curtains all can help prevent cold air from coming through your windows.
There are also kits to insulate windows made from thin plastic that also keep the cold air out. I reckon that such an idea would also work with disposable plastic tablecloths and tape, but I haven't tried it myself.
Fireplaces. This is a fun activity, especially for kids, is romantic and homey, and really warms you up down to your very core! I really miss my fireplace we had growing up, but using them, especially with wood you gathered yourself, can warm up at least some rooms, and will make the room with the fireplace cozy and warm.
Space heaters. When the whole house shuts down for the night, instead of keeping the whole house at a temperature that is comfortable for sleeping, lower the temperature very low and instead put space heaters (on timers) in the bedrooms.
Hot packs. Hot water bottles, homemade bean bag hot packs, and electric blankets all warm you up really well. Hot water bottles are cheapest to use and they remain hot for hours. I like to keep one next to me while working at the computer, or keeping them under my covers to warm up my bed.
Snuggle up. Warm down comforters are a terrific investment, as are really warm pajamas. Adding another person under the blanket makes you even warmer because of radiating body heat. Winter is one time I'm glad to be a co-sleeping family, but even those that don't can join together on those really cold winter nights.
Hopefully these tips will help you lower your heating bills! But readers, I need your ideas as well! What do YOU do to keep the cost of heating to a minimum? What temperature do you set your thermostat at? And for those of you snowed in- how much snow do you currently have on the ground right now?