How to Stay Warm This Winter Without Turning Up the Heat
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?