How Low Can You Go? Taking the No Heat Challenge
Last fall, The Non-Consumer Advocate turned me on to the No-Heat Challenge. The dare was to keep your heat off until November 1. Fine for her, I thought, she lives in Portland. I made it to the first snowfall, which for us was the second weekend in October. No way I'm sitting in an unheated house through a snowstorm, I thought. No one would do that.
But this week, the New York Times has a story on people who live here in my frigid climate and do not heat their homes. At all. One guy, an artist who lives in his working loft in New York City, has not heated his living space in over thirty years.
I am stunned. I spent my early childhood in Arizona, and when we moved to Buffalo I took my mother's admonitions that I would freeze to death in that weather literally. The idea that people — people with jobs and homes and professional lives and the means to make other choices — choose to live without heat is totally new to me.
The combination of the recession and increasing awareness of global warning has a lot of people looking to cool things down in their own homes this winter. I'd bet most of us aren't ready to give up home heating altogether, but here are a few tricks we can learn from the hardcore heat resisters.
Try turning back the thermostat two degrees from your normal setting. Still comfortable? Try turning it down two more. When you hit your personal "too cold" threshold, you can notch back up a bit. You might be surprised how cool you're comfortable keeping your house.
Get a programmable thermostat
These inexpensive devices let you automatically set the heat lower at night and during the day when you're away at work or school. Using one lets you save your heating dollars for the times when you're home and awake, so you get the most bang for the bucks your furnace burns.
Wearing a t-shirt indoors while it's sub-zero outside is a luxury whose time has passed. Wear long underwear, warm clothes, wool socks, and sweaters. Don't be afraid to wear a hat indoors, or fingerless gloves. With the right layers, your body heat can do a lot of the work your furnace has been doing, for free.
Add a layer to the house, too
If you haven't insulated your walls yet, now is the time to consider it. We had insulation blown into the walls of our century old house last winter, and our heating bills dropped immediately.
Seal the gaps
It's tedious, but putting plastic over your windows and any drafts in the walls will help keep your home cozy and your heating bills low.
Do you have a spare bedroom you don't need to be heating all winter? A workshop that could just be warmed with a space heater once in awhile? My house has a huge hallway with two staircases that people walk through but don't spend time in. There's no reason to heat it as warmly as we do the rest of the house.
What adjustments have you made to your home heating strategies this winter? Are you just cranking up the heat as usual, or have you been looking for ways to cut back? Share your tips in the comments.