Pretend to Be Warm
Last week we shared how we keep our electric bill at less than half the national average. But to be clear, our home’s furnace is fueled by natural gas. So today let’s look at how we keep our gas bill low, too. Even during last year’s winter, which was the coldest on record in our area!
We spend less on heat with a few simple, straightforward strategies:
- Set the thermostat back. We keep it at 65 degrees night & day; I know people who go much lower than we do. Before kids we set it back more at night, but below 65, they seem to wake up more. And sleep is one thing I’m willing to pay for.(Sorry world, I’m an ignorant Fahrenheit-user.)
Your gas bill will increase or decrease about 3% for every degree you change the temperature from 68 full time. So if you keep it at 72 around the clock, you’re paying 12% more. Comparing 65 to 72, we’re saving 21%. For our typical bills, that equals about a $20 difference. We save even more by employing these additional strategies:
- Winterize. Proper insulation makes a huge difference in maximizing your furnace’s efforts. You’ll feel cozier and spend less–insulation has a good return on investment. Caulking and weatherstripping can also help seal in warmth, reducing drafts and heating costs. Newer windows will also make your room feel cozier, but the ROI is dismal…essentially non-existent.
- Build a fire. We have a fireplace with a heat exchanger that helps warm our house. So we have found lots of free firewood, which Neil splits for exercise, and build fires to supplement the furnace’s efforts. You can read more about that in our firewood post, which describes different heating apparatus as well as how to get & split free wood.
- Space heaters are an accessible alternative to the fireplace. It costs less to heat a small space with one than it does to raise the temperature of the whole house via the furnace. Electric blankets are similarly efficient.
5. Wear clothes. Seems obvious, but we pile on the layers. My typical winter uniform includes a long-sleeved tee, a wool sweater, one of Neil’s fleece jackets, jeans, and wool socks or fleece slippers. Sexy, I know.
Neil also lives in wool. I truly feel sad for anyone with a wool allergy. It is so much warmer than cotton! Wool socks and sweaters are available in abundance at thrift stores. If you are just going to wear it around the house it doesn’t have to fit or look perfect. I’ve found some amazing pieces there, including one with a skier knit into it! And a pair of J.Crew wool harem pants that unfortunately were too many sizes too big to even stay on my body. It’s probably for the best as I never would have changed out of them, ever.
On kids—aside from not wanting to wake up every hour to put more blankets on them, I’m convinced that kids are highly adaptable. Mine are more used to our 65 house temp than I am. And whatever gene causes certain men to wear shorts till Christmas, my son has it. (Neil doesn’t.) And my daughter would wear nothing but a diaper underpants if we let her. (Yay! She’s potty trained! That’ll save us $30 a month.)
6. Cooking—We have a gas stove & oven. I don’t worry too much about cooking for optimum energy use except to avoid heating the place up during the summer. I do prefer the pressure cooker or slow cooker for long cook times so I can be lazy. And these appliances are much more efficient than the stove or oven.
I also try to bake as much as I can at once. For example, I might bake chicken and line the sides of the oven with potatoes followed by a loaf of bread. It’s not going to make us rich, but we prefer to conserve resources when it’s possible.
7. Our sun room. Some days, even if it’s cold, it gets hot in our sunroom and we open it for some “free heat.” My son likes to check the temperature in the sun room on sunny days, and once reported that there was only free cold that day. Of course we don’t want any of that!
8. Random–My other pretend to be warm strategies include drinking tea, dancing, or snuggling my kids. Filling a 1-liter bottle with water and microwaving for a few minutes makes a good foot warmer. Building a snow hut also gets the blood moving.
How do you pretend to be warm in the winter?