Tuesday, February 2, 2010

But Baby, it's cold... inside

I live in southern Indiana. I grew up in Kentucky, and then spent years in Tennessee and Texas. My husband grew up mainly in Georgia, and went with me to Texas. His resistance to cold winters has always been low. Any that I had dissipated when we moved into an apartment in Austin in August.

After years of preferring to have working AC over working heat (a friend of ours did go through at least one winter in Austin without working heat), I find myself on the other side of that coin, with thinner blood. Now, we confront the question of how to stay warm in the winter, and not break the bank.

One way not to break the bank is to embrace the chill, and do things like participate in the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge. (Can you tell I like this woman's blog?) Even the point of that, though, is to reduce your energy consumption, but not actually freeze off any of your buns.

So, how can you stay warm without a ridiculously high energy bill? Some tips I've heard of are:

- relocate within your home. Instead of heating all the rooms, move into the one or two or three that get the most use, and seal off the rest, thereby reducing the square footage you heat. (Haven't done)

- already baking? When you're finished with the oven, leave the door open, and let the residual heat out into your kitchen. If you are thinking about trying this, be very careful. As Cam pointed out, this is dangerous. The thought here is to let any heat escape after turning off the oven, as extra heat. I wouldn't do this for long, on a regular basis, or if I had little ones anywhere in the house. Being chilly and alive in one piece is far better than being toasty and well... toasted. (I have enjoyed the warmth when baking.)

- wear layers. You can put on extra socks, or a sweater to keep yourself warm. Great, until you shower! (Have done, and still do. I have warm, fuzzy socks that are I wear at home to keep the feet warm, as well as an around-the-house sweater.)

- layers on the bed. Multiple bed coverings will help keep you warm at night so you don't have to turn up the thermostat.  (Yup, plus, I love having that extra weight of the covers on me, too.)

- even more layers. When you are sitting down to read, watch TV, or do any sedentary activity, throw a blanket over your legs, or wrap an extra sweater around your shoulders. This will help to keep you warm when you aren't moving around. The Snuggie/Slanket concept is, well, not a bad idea. (I don't have either of those, just around the house blankets and sweaters that I snuggle into on the couch.)

- cover the floors. Unless you have heated floors or your ducts underneath the floors, hardwood floors and tiles tend to be on the cooler side. Carpets and area rugs help to insulate the floors, and keep your feel warm. (I love hardwood floors, but understand the value of an area rug! All of my apartments have been carpeted, and I have noticed a chill when walking from the carpeted living room to the tiled kitchen)

- cover the windows/walls. One thing I've learned since moving north of the Ohio River is that you can put plastic over your windows for insulation; it's called shrink wrapping your windows. At work, they had people come up and do that. Heavy drapes on the windows will help block drafts and prevent heat from escaping. And why do you think that people used to hang tapestries on castle walls? Sure, they were pretty, but they also helped reduce echoes, and hold in heat. (We haven't even hung our pictures in our apartment yet, so I haven't done this at home.)

- filling in the gaps. Of course, if you have gaps around window or door seals, then cold air will come in, and warm air will escape. You have a couple of options here. If it is just that air comes in and out under your door, you can buy or make a draft stopper. If there are gaps in the door and window seals, and you rent, let the management company know, and they will do what they do to fix it. If you own, you may need to look into replacing them all together. As a renter, I am not sure how to do that, or what all is involved. Sorry. A temporary fix could be to wrap your windows in plastic, as mentioned above. (We have some draft stoppers that are used sporadically.)

These are just a few things that can be done quickly and at a relatively low cost to you. If you are so inclined, and own your home, you can always look into using solar energy, geothermal energy, wood stoves [but not fireplaces!], radiant heat or other alternate fuels/heating sources to heat your home.

How do these sound to you; anything worth trying? Do you have any tips that I have overlooked? 


Cam said...

Shrink wrap all the way!

I know it's weird and I even thought it was a little ghetto when I first moved up here. But it works and is an especially good choice for apartments. Make sure that the plastic is pulled tight. There was always that one window that Melissa and I couldn't get tight enough and we'd get to spend all winter watching it ebb and flow with the wind.

I always wear socks and keep an extra blanket on the couch.

Get a humidifier.

Be wary of leaving your oven open. That's incredibly dangerous.

Finally, what's better than snuggling up on the couch with someone you love?

swiggett said...

Thanks, Cam. Your point about leaving the oven open being dangerous is a good one. I've edited the post to give some warning about that.

v said...

Ooh, here's an area where I have some experience. :D My biggest success has been with the first item on your list: relocating within the home and selectively heating only the areas where time is spent.

Another thing we do is kind of along the lines of the baking idea, but I try to plan my hot water consumption around the times when running the hot water heater (which hopefully leaks some heat into the apartment) is most useful, such as at night when it's colder and I'm home more. That didn't work too well in the crappy house where we lived before this, because everything was spread out and the place was poorly insulated, but in the apartment, everything is more packed together and it seems to be more effective (the tank is in a closet very close to the main living space, so the heat bleeds out into the "right" spots).

This is my third winter without running the central heat and my heating bills are approximately what they were in the winter in Florida, so I think it's a pretty good thing!