Hold Off On Heating with These 10 Warming Ways

It’s October.  In Nebraska.  We will see Halloween before we smell the crackling logs on our wood stove.  Because it is such a big deal for many to finally crank on the heat, we’ve implemented 10 strategies for keeping warm just a wee bit longer – sans heating unit.

Open the shades.  Right now we are under construction, and the drapes clash horribly with the freshly-sanded trim and the plastic-covered furniture.  Since we have no window coverings during this time of transition, we reap the benefits of sunkissed warmth spreading through our home during the 10am – 5 pm hours.  Free heat feels so good.

Put an end to line drying.  We enjoy hanging our clothes out on the line when it is warm.  Now that frost has fallen, we reverse our thinking to utilize the heat our dryer produces.  Since our dryer wasn’t vented outside our home, we use a lint receptacle to “catch” the lint.  These kits are under $15 at a hardware store, and in addition to the benefit of having the dryer heat in our home, the added moisture is nice during the winter months.  (Be sure to keep this system in check with weekly cleanings and adequate water to the trap.  Families with allergies will need to be especially diligent.)

Dress in layers.  I am still seeing kids walk to school in shorts, despite the 35 degree mornings. This is ridiculous to me, as clothing is the cheapest way to stay warm in this season of transition.  Once the first frost appears, I rid my kids' drawers of shorts and sleeveless tops, packing them up into plastic tubs for winter storage.  They are free to choose from any of their winter clothing, and I encourage them to dress in a t-shirt under their warmer clothes for added warmth.  They don’t complain about the cold when they are properly dressed (including socks and indoor shoes.)

Make your bed.  We also switch our sheets to flannel for the winter.  We supplement each bed with a wool blanket and an extra quilt or two.  In the upstairs room (where it is coldest) the adults have an electric blanket set on low for the really cold nights.  It’s amazing how peaceful you can sleep with a chill to the air and your body comfortably warm.

Top it off.  My ultra-sexy nightwear consists of sweats or long underwear with wool socks.  I also wear a stocking cap on the colder nights.  It keeps me feeling snug, and I have less bed head in the morning.  (Plus, hubby thinks it’s cute!)

Spice things up.  Cold sandwiches take a sabbatical for the winter at my house.  We bust out the chili recipes, crockpot fare, and make all our evening meals a bit zestier than normal.  Most of it is purely psychological – but it does help keep a warmth about the dinner table.  (Another perk is the economics of spicy meals.  Many of them are dirt cheap.)

Keep hydrated.  Our hot cocoa bill is higher than normal during the winter.  We replace our chocolate milk with hot chocolate (Ovaltine works well for a vitamin-packed alternative.)  I enjoy herbal teas and decaf coffees in the evenings. Hot apple cider kept simmering on the stove not only taste delish, but keeps your home smelling yummy. Replacing your cold drinks with hot ones can keep you toasty any time of day.

Snuggle.  I’ll admit to letting my kids jump in bed with us a bit more in the winter time.  The toddlers are like radiant heaters that require no electricity.  Just toss a 3-year-old in the mix, for an instant 10-degree warm up.  (Cuddles are the cheapest form of heat I know.)

Use a space heater (wisely.)  I’m not a huge fan of the small electric heaters.  They are good for some things, but quite dangerous in other situations.  Use your head on this one, and under no circumstances should you leave one running overnight, in a child’s room unattended, or when you are not in the home.  If nothing else, I like one running in the bathroom first thing in the morning.  (It takes the edge off that cold seat, if you know what I mean.)

Go to Grandma’s.  Now I’m not saying that my house is too cold.  Many wouldn’t be comfortable in anything as chilly as 55 in October.  On days when I’m not particularly enthusiastic about watching TV in a cooler-than-average home (or once a week), I’ll head next door to my mother’s house.  She’s glad to see us, and she has cable.  (It’s also 10 degrees warmer by default.  If she’s already paying for gas, why not?)

Call me cheap or stingy, but I don’t see any reason to crank up the heat yet this year.  With 35-degree nights turning into almost 70-degree days, starting up my wood stove would leave us baked by mid-afternoon.  These tips help us in the month or two between seasons, keep our annual heating bill low, and help us to appreciate that roaring fire when it finally gets burning each year.

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Guest's picture

A couple more that I use (I'm cheap too):

Small dogs on the foot of the bed. They put out a lot of heat--sometimes it's a three-dog night.

Grandma house shoes--the kind that have high tops that keep ankles warm. Warm ankles and shoulders can make a big difference. I like the grandma house shoes with a sole that can be worn outside.

Guest's picture

Even better; small dogs *in* the bed and under the covers. Our one dog simply insists on burrowing and in the winter, he's a welcome source of heat. Between him, the flannel sheets (started using those years ago) and the feather comforter, we're never cold at night, no matter the temp. I keep the thermostat between 60 and 62 through the day and overnight. It's a bit tough in the mornings but the bathroom has a heater in the ceiling. Sometimes I'll bump it up to 65 for a few hours after we get home from work but before bed.

Linsey Knerl's picture

are Crocs (actually generic Dollar Store kind) with one pair wool socks or two pairs regular socks underneath.  I wear these in the house and boots outside.  (We have muddy farm, so no mixing up the two.)

I have too many kids to fit any dogs in (and my dog is over 100 pounds.)  But I know many dog lovers who do the same as you!


Carrie Kirby's picture

The hubs turned the heat on one night this week because a freeze was forecast, and I turned it off the next day. We were just "discussing" whether it was going to go on again or not before Nov. 1 (me: no). I just read your tips aloud, and now the hubs is off to put on a damn pair of socks. I'm already wearing sweats, slippers and a wool hat and drinking warm milk, so looks like I'm a believer in your plan! I also like to cuddle on the couch with my laptop to keep warm.

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Andrea Karim's picture

Ha! Beat me to the small dogs at the end of the bed trick! It's the only reason I put up with their morning sneezes (disguised as kisses, but I know better).

I've been holding off on the heat using some of these tricks, too. At my parents' house, which is like an icebox on the best of days, my mother has a heated mattress pad on the guest bed - I turn it on for about five minutes before jumping into bed, and that bit of heat is all I need to keep me cozy throughout the night.

And flannel longjohns are TOTALLY sexy. You just have to know how to work them (says the single, hairy-legged woman who lives with two dogs).

Guest's picture

Hot water bottles, with a cutesy cover (some look like stuffed animals, some are knitted, some are fuzzy) filled with not quite boiling water, are amazing when it gets cold outside, but it's not cold enough to justify the heater. They're cuddly, safe for kids (so long as the water isn't boiling), great toe warmers, what have you. A cheap, must have for late-fall/winter!

Guest's picture

I got one years ago, and love to throw it at the foot of the bed right before I go to sleep. I'm going to make a few more as Christmas gifts, because warm feet can't be beat!

Guest's picture

Although I can't do it unless my daughter is sequestered in her high chair, when I take dinner out of the oven, I leave the door open for a few minutes to let the heat into the room. It's just wasted if it's left in the oven to cool off, and feels so good rolling out around the kitchen.

The dog is smart enough to stay away. :)

Also, a few years ago we lived in Europe and fell in love with German Hausschuss (sp?) Wool clogs with cork bottoms. They really keep our feet toasty, and can go out to run the garbage out for a second. Since our place is on a concrete slab, floors can be chilly. Plus, they are actually more comfortable than bare feet, once you've broken them in. We even have summer house flip flops to replace them when it's warm.

Myscha Theriault's picture

The other thing I do, similar to number 8's comment, is that I bake more. Kind of fits in with your crock pot idea, Linsey. Toasty treats and such, and extra heat from the oven. Great tips!

Guest's picture

Nice photo and good post. I also use the oven trick mentioned above, as well as most of your other tips. No toddlers in my house anymore, but my house faces south so all of those blinds get opened every morning. Makes a big difference. I also use ceiling fans to push back down the warm air and move it around.

Guest's picture

OOHHHH! Please don't trade your clothesline for your dryer -

visit http://www.laundrylist.org for all the reasons why...


Linsey Knerl's picture

Thanks for the link.  It's a great site.  I do have to take issue with drying outdoors in our area.  Impossible during the cold winter months (not enough sunlight, too cold of a climate.)  But we have tried line drying indoors.  It only works in our basement, where the wood stove is located.... but it leaves all our clothes smelling like bacon. (LOL)

I also find that the heat captured in our home is adequate to justify running the dryer.  It prevents us from having to run the humidifiers in every room, the extra space heaters, and it keeps me caught up on laundry (which is absolutely necessary with 4 kids.)  The energy savings is about even.

I am totally with you on the rest of the year, though.

Linsey Knerl

Andrea Karim's picture

Linsey, you say 'bacon-scented clothing' like that's a BAD thing. Don't you know that bacon is the one scent that drives men wild? And by 'drive men wild', I mean, 'causes them to gnaw on your sleeve'?

Guest's picture

We implement most of the suggestions. I also started making insulated drapes for the big windows in the house. That way you can open the drapes to get the sun heat and close them to trap it in and prevent cold from rolling in.
The big patio door in our downstairs area had a pair of drapes from Target. I had some $1 a yard wool that was too coarse to use for clothing so I lined the drapes with it. It makes a huge difference in keeping the lower level warm at night.
I have a pair of thermal running pants, they are for jogging outside in the winter. I wear those and I found this pair of crazy looking fake fur slippers that look like boots, they are really warm. Really warm clothes make a big difference in how much cold you can tolerate.
We also use the oven more in the winter for the residual heat.

Guest's picture

Great tips,but living in a large city apartment makes things a bit different. There are a good number of elderly in our building, plus by law - once the temperature hits a certain temperature, the heat comes on.

I wish it was cooler in the winter time. I think a lot of the heat is wasted because the temp gets to near 90. I have to crack open the windows just so I don't sweat. Talk about wasting energy...Perhaps its time to move away from Metropolis ;)

Guest's picture

I enjoyed your post. I wear a hat too, starting in October and until March or April. I also wear two layers on my legs, not just my upper body during the cool seasons. (light adidas track pants that I buy at Target as a base layer, and my regular pants over that).

You've got a woodstove, so that's different, but since I have central heating, what I do is just set it for 52 degrees at night, 60 in the morning until everyone leaves the house (11am), then 52 degrees until 6:30 pm, which is the earliest anyone will get home on most days.

I do this all winter long and this makes more sense to me than arbitrarily waiting to use heat at all.

I agree that 55 degrees in the house is not too cold, you just have to dress properly for it. Down vest and a hat is a good one. And having blankets available on the couch is vital.

On my bed, I actually use two large sleeping bags zipped together. They are washable ones from wiggys.com, and they are warmer, and much lighter in weight, than any blankets or compforters I have ever used, and when they are zipped together there are *zero* drafts on my feet. Which used to be a nemesis of mine.

Regarding drying clothes, I hang a line inside, as I regard our central heating as a huge house-sized "dryer" for clothes. (I got rid of my gas-fired dryer two summers ago, so I line dry everything now). Your dryer strategy does make sense though if it's vented inside. I hope you have CO detectors in the house if it's a gas-fired dryer, though.

Linsey Knerl's picture


You bring up a VERY important point.  We have an electric dryer, so no worries there.  We do use Carbon Monoxide and smoke/fire detectors, however, because of the dangers associated with having our wood stove/chimney.  We also have a separate pellet/corn stove in our main living area that we use for supplemental heat on the coldest days.  This has been known to malfunction on a very, very rare occasion.  The detectors are so important (especially with very young kids in the house.)

Thanks for the reminder!


Guest's picture

I'm working on a wool Christmas tree skirt right now. It keeps my legs toasty and my hands busy - stops the late night snacking! :) They make great gifts, too.

Great tips, we keep our house at 55-60 degrees with central oil heat.

Guest's picture

Hey, we're practically neighbours. I love your posts.

My routine is baking in the morning and canning in the evenings-I try to look at the forecast for the week and plan accordingly though it can change suddenly. I bake bread a few times a week anyway. The canner throws off wonderful steam and works great as a humidifier. This is the time of year to start making steamed puddings for Christmas (so it can soak in brandy for a couple months) which take a good four hours of steaming to cook. Does wonders for a cold house. Making a large batch of tamales works too.

I can't stand it much below 60 (chronic anemia and rheumatoid arthritis) but everyone else can. I keep following our three year old around with a sweater asking if he's cold but he insists he's not. He's not shy about complaining so I figure we're good.

Guest's picture

Re: the tree year old and the sweater, I agree he is probably fine. But be aware that young children don't always have the body awareness to know when they are cold. In the house, where it's 55-60 degrees, that's fine, but outside they can get in trouble and are at greater risk for hypothermia than adults when hiking etc outdoors.

One thing to do with small children is , rather than asking him if he is cold, just gently feel his hands. If his hands feel relatively warm, his body temperature is good. If they feel cold, it means his body is pulling blood into his body core to keep it warm and putting on another layer might be in order. Eventually kids will get cold enough to realize they are cold, but it takes them longer to realize it than adults. Besides the issue of their body awareness, due to their larger surface area relative to body mass, they cool off a lot faster than an adult does in the same temperature and weather conditions. Which is why outdoor clothing is super important for them (they should be dressed much better than an adult) if you are bringing them into a situation where there is no shelter or heat nearby.

Guest's picture

Just a note. Keeping the oven closed or open after cooking doesn't really matter. The heat will all still dissipate into your house. With the door open, it will just be quicker.

I also use a sleeping bad (0 degree rated), and find it much warmer than my comforter.

Guest's picture

I just wanted to cheer on my fellow sleeping-bag user "over- the cubicle wall!

PS if you haven't tried it, it's totally worth it to get a matching bag and zip them together for extra roominess!

Guest's picture
Cali Guy

Reminds me of when I used to live in freezing Northern Europe. Brrrrr!

These days I live in California, so we don't have these problems so much (although it will get chilly over night soon).

We live in an condo complex, so no outdoor line drying for us on the 16th floor! However you do benefit from heat from the apartments below and the side of us!

Our only heating source is air con, unsurprisingly given that we're in a condo, which is definitely less efficient on the environment and my pocket than traditional stoves.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to live in a small house - so that we can line dry, have a wooden stove, bake, etc. However it's just the two of us and we would have to move 100's of miles away to find a house that is as cheap to rent as our apartment - and then I'd be to far away from my work.

Great tips anyhow!

Guest's picture

This was such a nice, heartwarming post, I already feel warmer just from reading it. Good job, and thank you!

Guest's picture

with an electric mattress pad. Heat rises and that make the heat come to you instead of warming the blanket.

Guest's picture

I tried this with my electric dryer and have concluded this is a bad idea -- I was cleaning up lint all over my house and possessions for years after I stopped this practice. Plus you risk mold growth as this raises your home's relative humidity.

In any case DO NOT DO THIS WITH A GAS DRYER!!!! You run a chance of venting carbon monoxide into your house.

Guest's picture

Great to read all these tips, i too have small dogs, two, and one large one. They dont sleep in my bed due to space and smells and my clothes dont smell of bacon either but i do like to save energy and money. I always walk the dogs after work a good brisk walk warms me up, when i get home afterwards i change into pj`s and dressing gown and woolley socks straight away, i also take off my make up, when i do go to bed later i have less to do and less time to get cold ustairs. Ive introduced red cushions, and ornaments into my lounge for winter and i light candles to give a warmer feeling and look to the room. I have a tiny house so my cooking warms all downstairs area for a while,eating a hot meal warms us furhter,later on then only if its 1 degree or less do we think about putting the heating on. i have reduced our electric and gas bills from £130 a month to £140 for 3 months by moving house and living with thought.

Guest's picture

Know what the heat comes from, and keep that/those happening!

Guest's picture

Dowm comforters work great to keep you warm too. Our bedroom has been around 42-45 degrees this past week & with the down comforters we were completely warm. I got 4 queen size ones last year for $15 apiece at Goody's , which was going out of business. Regular price they were around $100 each.I also had a friend ,who got burned from an electric blanket , which caught on fire & it wasn't an old one.I can't use an electric blanket or I feel sick, totally drained in morning. It has something to do with the electromagnetic field. I also wear a hat in bed. lisa

Guest's picture
Chuck Moreland

I only use the electric blanket to warm the bed for a while before I jump in because I absolutely HATE getting into a cold bed. I turn the blanket off after I'm in as I too can't take the interference in my own electromagnetic fields. Oh, I forgot to mention I sleep with the window wide open at night, irregardless of temperature or inclimate weather. Twenty plus years in Alaska didn't change my habits. My poor wife should be the one telling her secrets about adapting to cold temperatures. I'll see if I can get her involved. You all are fun to follow. Life is good hot or cold, the alternative is just more of the same, hot or cold. Ha!