How to Stay Warm in the Winter While Saving on Your Heating Bill

400px-Lincoln_stoveIn the Buddha Compound we like to keep the thermostat around 62F in the winter. I have gotten so used to this that when I step into a building that is blasting their heating I feel like my body is being sapped dry of all water. I seems ridiculous to me that many people feel that they need to keep their homes and businesses at tropical temperatures. Lowering the temperature reduces your heating bill, makes the outdoors feel that much less cold, and might even encourage you to act in a healthier way.

Now for those all important tips!

Move. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT tip for keeping warm, and for general health. I start my morning with a sun salutation (one or two sets on each side), 5 pushups (I have weakling arms), and 15 squats (but my thighs are beasts). I often start my yoga with a sweater and wool socks, but by the end of it all I am down to my T-shirt. This helps put me in the right frame of body and mind to continue to move throughout the day. I try to take frequent breaks while I’m standing at my computer to do some cleaning, go for a walk, do some quick yoga/exercises, get working on a new product, check on the garden, or play with the cats (the program FocusBooster helps to remind me every 20 minutes, though sometimes I forget to open it). Standing instead of sitting also helps keep the blood flowing and encourage movement. My hero, Katy Bowman, has a lot of information on her blog about frequent movement vs. exercise if you would like to read more on the very interesting subject.

Layer Your Clothes. Long underwear and leggings are your new best friends. Thick socks and slippers keep your toes warm, and we all know that if the toes are happy, everybody’s happy. Don’t even be afraid to walk around the house with a hat on. I give you my permission to look foolishly warm. If you can find/afford it, buy wool or silk (I’ve found backcountry.com and sierratradingpost.com to be good sites for deals). If you can only buy a couple items in those materials, buy the ones that will be right next to your skin as they will be the most effective that way.

Take a Foot Bath. As we established above, if the toes are happy, everybody’s happy. Not to mention foot baths just make you feel SO NICE. Coincidentally, I just started carrying a new set of bath salts in my shop, called Chill Pill Bath Salts. My absolutely unbiased opinion is that they make you feel like a million dollars. My fiance agrees (he, as well, has a totally unbiased opinion). Also, having a small tub that your feet with fit into nicely is helpful for this (I have been known to use my crockpot’s stoneware as I didn’t have any other large enough container for my feet…no regrets).

Hot Water Bottle/Rice Pack. My newest warmth love is this: a reused plastic olive oil bottle filled with steaming hot water, with the top wrapped in a small plastic baggie (just in case it drips) and the entire thing covered with a thick sock. I put this under the covers at night to keep my feet warm and boy does it work! It stays warm most of the night. This can also be used during the day to warm yourself while your sitting watching TV, at the computer, working on your latest crochet project, or getting around to that book you absolutely were going to read two months ago. If you are adverse to a bottle filled with water in your bed and have a microwave, rice packs are great alternatives.

Nightcap. Not alcohol. Well, I guess some alcohol would help warm you. But I’m talking about an actual night cap, as in a hat you wear to bed. They used to be all the rage, and I’m suggesting we bring them back. If you have a thin, soft beanie-like hat, try that. You want something that isn’t constricting but won’t fall off your head. Contain that heat!

Run a Humidifier. According to this article from the Home Energy Pros, “The humidity of the air inside the home determines how much heat the air in the home can hold. The higher the humidity at a given temperature, the more heat the air can hold. Therefore, humidity is a very important comfort factor since it determines how fast sweat will evaporate from the skin.” Makes sense to me. A glass full of hot air isn’t going to feel as hot as a glass full of hot water. Keeping the humidity of your home between 45% and 55% will help you stay warmer and help keep you from become dehydrated. This is the humidifier I use and am quite happy with. Having many houseplants in your home can also help regulate the humidity (and if you choose the right plants, they can help filter the air).

Adjust Your Water Heater and Install a Water-Saving Shower Head. It’s inevitable that you or someone else in your household will tend to take just a little bit longer showers in the winter, with the water just a little bit hotter. If you haven’t done so already, lower your water heater’s temperature down to around 125F. There’s no need to keep the water in the tank hotter than that. Switch your shower head from a 2.5WPM to a 1.5WPM model. For a 10 minute shower, this saves you 10 gallons for each shower!

Go Outside. It’s no secret we tend to stay inside more in the winter. But this often leads to unfortunate health effects, like a decrease Vitamin D levels, less exercise, and less exposure to healthy doses of a variety of beneficial bacteria in the air (often making us more prone to sickness). But getting outside also has another benefit: it makes walking back into your house feel that much warmer. Additionally, smart and regular uses of cold therapy (exposing your body to brief and intense cold temperatures) may have other health benefits, like enhanced anti-oxidative defense, increased immune system defense, and increased metabolic rate. Regularly finishing your shower with a blast of ice cold water would do the same trick for this. Also, listen to Katy Bowman as she destroys your excuses to not go outside.

Take Advantage of Solar Gain. Open those blinds on the windows that are on the side of your house/apartment that faces the sun. That’s free heat!

Insulate. You hear it in every article on saving your energy bill and it starts to get boring, but that’s because it’s important. If you are lucky enough to own your house, you can go crazy with insulating everything: your attic, the windows, the sides and bottom of the doors, your garage door. If, like me, you rent you still have options. Attack your doors and windows, and there are plenty of supplies at any home improvement store to help you do so cheaply. Fill a sock or sewed cloth tube with pillow fluff (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term for it), sew it shut, and use it on any doors leading to the outside that aren’t opened often (or just at night).

Cook. Remember how you never wanted to cook in the summer? Use that to your advantage now. Soup is always a good idea in the winter, and will warm you from the inside out. Cooking with a lot of spices will make you sweat. If you use the oven, leave it cracked afterwards. Drink lots of hot tea.

Light a Candle. This offers very little heat gain, but watching a small flame flicker helps me get into the “warm and tucked in” feeling, and your mental state is not insignificant in the Lowering Your Energy Bill game.

Go to Bed Earlier. This is saving directed at your energy bill, not specifically your heating cost, but it’s savings nonetheless. If you go to bed earlier, not only will be more “in tune” with the natural rhythm of the shorter days and the longer nights, but you won’t be using any lights or electronics for those extra hours. There are plenty of other benefits to going to bed earlier that I’m sure you are aware of, so I won’t go into them. While you could go to bed when the sun goes down, this may not be practical. Try to shoot for around 8 hours before the sun rises.

Use “Micro Heaters”. Paul Wheaton, of permaculture fame, wrote a popular article on using “micro heaters” (heating pads, heated keyboards, and radiant heaters) in the part of the house he is most of the time (at his computer) and keeping the thermostat at 50F!

For more ideas, my other hero, Mr. Money Mustache, wrote an article on “how to destroy your energy bill.”

Good luck, stay warm, and let me know if you have any other tips to suggest!

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