How to Stay Warm This Winter Without Turning Up the Heat

By Janey Osterlind on 14 December 2010 (Updated 9 December 2011) 11 comments

According to the Farmers' Almanac, the average temperature at the North Pole is -30°F, while the average temperature at the South Pole is -60°F. While both of those sound like miserably cold places to spend the winter, I would argue that my small, Midwestern city is also bone-chilling this time of year. So how is a young twentysomething on a budget to stay warm this winter without cranking up her heat? Here are my top five ways to beat the chill. (See also: 10 Frugal Ways to Keep Your Home Warm This Winter)

Space Heater

Space heaters are a good way to heat a small area of your home or office, and they can lower your overall energy bill if you turn down the thermostat in conjunction with using one. A space heater is my method of choice for staying warm at work. Knowing that my office is warm and toasty makes the long trek from our parking lot (OK, three blocks — but still a frigid expedition in the winter months!) more bearable. Some space heaters use natural gas or propane, but the majority are electric. If considering a natural gas or propane heater, check out the EPA's Introduction to Indoor Air Quality.

A great website to visit if you’re trying to choose a space heater that will lower your heating bill while maximizing comfort is the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (Missouri is my home state). The site has information about choosing the right space heater, determining the cost to operate it, efficiency, and safety. When you’re ready to buy, visit Consumer Reports' Buying Guide to compare various models.

Warmer Clothing

I’ll admit, part of my reason for wanting a space heater at work has to do with my clothing choices. Giving up skirts and short sleeves entirely for four to six months just seems unreasonable to me. However, I could cut down on heating costs at work and at home simply by buying a warmer winter wardrobe. Many experts agree that Gore-Tex® is warm, waterproof, and one of the best “fabrics” (in quotations because it is actually a membrane that is laminated to other textiles) for outdoor gear. If your office generally frowns upon wearing full al fresco attire indoors, though, other warm options are fleece and wool apparel. The important thing to note when considering warmer attire is whether it could be too warm — if a sweater makes you perspire, some fabrics, such as cotton, are terrible at absorption. The result is that you’ll end up both wet and cold, a pretty awful combination.

Snuggie

What option do you have for staying warm and keeping your hands free to answer the phone? The Snuggie®, of course! I personally don’t own one, and I’m honestly more amused by the commercials than intrigued by the product, but I couldn’t resist adding this one to the list. And although I don’t have one, my 80-pound Boxer does. Yes, they make Snuggies® for dogs. He seems to enjoy his, although I haven’t asked him if it keeps him warm.

Gas Fireplace

You might think that firing up your wood-burning fireplace is a good way to cut down on your heating bills while staying warm. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wood-burning fireplaces are one of the least efficient heat sources you can use. Gas-burning fireplaces, however, can be fairly energy efficient. A vented gas fireplace like the one I have in my house can have an energy star rating as high as 77%. I especially enjoy flipping the switch on mine in the evening in order to thaw out after my usual after-dinner run.

Programmable Thermostat

I don’t have one of these, but I sure wish that I did. According to EnergyStar.gov, the average household spends $2,200 per year on energy bills — nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling expenses. Homeowners could save about 15% on those costs just by correctly setting and maintaining their thermostat temperature. The Energy Star website above also has guidelines for temperature settings at night and when you’ll be gone for several hours. Typically, you should adjust your temperature by 5 to 8°F (higher or lower, depending on the season) during these times in order to save energy.

Do you agree with my list? What other methods do you use to beat the chill in the wintertime?

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Guest's picture

Great tips!! We also use extra blankets at night, and turn down our thermostat. Open up south facing windows when its sunny out, it helps heat the house. Close drapes and blinds during "dark" hours, or cloudy days. This will trap heat inside of your house.

Guest's picture
Sarah

Bake lots of goodies and drink plenty of warm beverages!

Guest's picture
Guest

A big one is the programmable thermostat. They are relatively inexpensive (under $50 for a basic one) and easy to install and you will get your money back fast. When I lived in an apartment I installed one (put the complexes in a safe place to reinstall before leaving).

Also - Keep the thermostat as cool as you can stand (every degree above 68 will cost you 7-10 percent more on your bill.)

Watch-out for leaky windows doors. Put heavy curtains on your windows and look at sealing them well - inexpensive. Seal your doors too.

And oil-filled space heaters are a safe alternative, especially those with animals and/or kids. We turn ours on in the bedroom at night (with the ceiling fan turned for winter mode to help circulate the heat) and allow the rest of the house to be cooler.

Guest's picture

Cuddle with a loved one! Free heat!

Andrea Karim's picture

Long underwear! It's my trick to dressing appropriately for the office while staying warm.

Keeping someone else in bed is also a good way to stay warm at night - be it partner or Boxer. :)

Janey Osterlind's picture

All great tips - thanks for sharing! I may have to steal the long underwear idea while I'm on location for work (which means no space heater) and I do use my Boxer to keep my feet warm while laying on the couch. :)

Guest's picture
Guest

Excellent suggestions. I would also like to add that there is a psychological component involved. Sometimes we can be comfortable with lower temperatures than we might think. One of my friends kept telling me this, and at first I didn't believe it, but I experimented and it's true. While I do wear layers of warm clothes at home (so consider that as part of the equation), I now am completely comfortable with the thermostat set at 60 degrees or even lower (unless I'm feeling under the weather). It didn't happen overnight. I kept turning down the thermostat one degree at a time to see what my limit was, and it turned out to be a lot lower than I would have predicted.

Guest's picture
mkibrick

I agree with Sarah that cooking using the oven is a great way to heat up a small home. But I guess that assumes another energy saving tip which is own a small home. another one we use is having party. With all the bodies over, the house starts to warm up pretty quick...of course we live in Southern California so our idea of cold is not really a big deal.

Guest's picture
Guest

I sometimes use a hot water bottle on my lap when using my computer at home. It really makes a difference. It is also toasty when watching TV or to warm up the bed. It is an instance of old technology really working well even today.

Guest's picture
Jo

Big blanket, 1 big slipper and a hot cup of CoCo. You could also try an infrared heater, they're perfect if you live in a small place.

Guest's picture
Marie

When it comes to warm clothes for indoor wear I usually turn to Icebreaker merino gear (http://www.liveoutthere.com/buy/icebreaker.html)--it's great at wicking away moisture and keeping you warm. And, it doesn't stink! Which is a major bonus for laundry loathing individuals such as myself. I also like to heat up a beanbag and take it to bed with me--it gets everything toasty so I don't have to try and warm up before I can fall asleep!