This post is an extract from my upcoming book, Shoestring Sustainability.
Heating your house can get expensive (unless you have a wood fire with free firewood). All forms of heating (except passive solar) impact the environment through the use of fossil fuel, emissions and smoke, production materials and transportation of the appliance. So it benefits the environment and your budget to use less heating. The following tips will help you to either go without your heater or minimise its use, depending how cold your climate is, how well your house is designed, and the needs of your family.
If it’s cold and sunny, let as much sunshine into the house during the day as possible. In late afternoon, make sure all doors and windows are pulled shut. Draw curtains at night.
Plug cracks in the house with rags, newspaper, papier mache, felt or even sticky tape (not over paintwork) to stop draughts. I once fixed a gappy old wooden door with long strips of green felt, glued inside the frame. Push door snakes up to the bottom to stop wind rushing in underneath. They are easy to make (if you don’t sew, cut the arms off an old jumper or long-sleeve top, stuff it with rags, and tie both ends together – you might need two for each door). Tape bubble wrap to windows to keep the heat in.
We rug up warmly inside in winter, and have spare rugs on the couch for extra warmth. Look for rugs and blankets at the op shop. Ug boots or slippers keep your feet warm on cold mornings. Thick socks and a hot water bottle or wheat bag help at night time. I find laying my thick dressing gown over my blankets really helps on a chilly night. Try lying extra jackets or towels on the bed if you have no spare rugs. Sleeping bags are warmer than normal doonas, and you can usually unzip them to use them like a blanket. Wear more layers of clothing to bed! A clean jumper worn over your pjs helps keep your chest warm.
If you always feel cold no matter what, try doing more exercise. Get your blood pumping. This really helps with cold hands and feet.
Doing some baking or a roast on a cold day can help to heat up the house, as well as cooking up some yummy food. Eat something with chilli in it to stimulate your circulation. Drink steaming hot tea or a bowl of warm soup. Spices like cinnamon, ginger and black pepper are warming, which is why chai tea and mulled wine are so wonderful in winter. You can even make a chilli tea! Hot potatoes can be used to warm the hands if you hold them whole, as well as eaten. Washing dishes by hand is quite lovely with warm water on a cold day.
In the old days, they used to use newspaper as a lining to stay warm. You can lay it in on the mattress, between blankets, or inside your boots to help trap warm air.
Another old-fashioned trick is a warm rock or brick slipped into the bed before getting in. Heat it in the oven, on top of a wood-fired stove, or in a hearth until you can touch your hand to it briefly. Don’t overheat, or you’ll burn a hole in something. You might need to sit it out of the fire to let the surface cool down. The centre will stay hot for hours. Wrap it if it’s ashy, and push it under the covers, moving it a few times before getting into bed. Be careful using this with small children.
If you have to use heating, turn it down and use it for as little time as practical. Heat the smallest area you can – hang thick curtains or close doors to shut off hallways and unused rooms.
Enjoy snuggling up and staying toasty warm this winter.