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If you own your own home, I would consider a pellet stove due to your situation. Auto feed, exhaust out the back of the appliance to outside air, no mess, fuel that can be bought cheap, a small space to heat, aged owners (sorry, but I doubt you are going to be making a rocket stove)...so with those parameters I would suggest a small pellet stove.
If you rent, my only suggestion may be to move where there is natural gas, and on a second floor with a elevator due to you age. The heat from apartments rising up underneath you will reduce your heating costs.
Of course insulating and changing the heat source is always good, but more information is needed. Windows? Floor plan? .....
I feel your pain. The only way I get through the night at the moment is with an electric blanket..cost 6pence (roughly 10 cents) per hour, according to the manufacturer! It's wonderful to get into a warm bed...if you get one with a timer, an hour or two will probably get you through the night.
I would advise sheeps wool insulation in the ceiling...make sure your windows are sealed a s mentioned by other responders. A rocket stove with cobb bench? Try to keep active during the day...as much as you can. Good luck x
ould you also be willing to describe your home, what area you live, and other details to help us know what kind of input/feedback
to offer you.
Take a look at Heated Clothing online. I have not yet invested in it, yet have issues staying warm, so have looked into it.
they make clothing and socks which increase body circulation/warnth. and this increases healing. I use the socks, gloves and shorts )to help warm my torso)
has numerous other ways to stay warm. Hundreds of projects from folks all over the world.
I personally live in one end ov a mobile home. the back bedroom, bathroom, entry/laundry area.
I built dead air space with 2x2 and Armafoil radiant barrier. then superinsulated the space. using free rigid foam insulation from a SIPS panel maker about thirty miles away.
You might also look into
mattress pad warmers they are electric and 12volt models for off=grid and sleeping in RV, truck vehicles, etc..
I have a lint trap on my clothes dryer that vents inside the room. This is only a safe practice if you have an electric dryer. A gas drier can fill your home with carbon monoxide.
In my living room I have several south facing windows. I have a set of summer blinds that are off white. My winter blinds are chocolate brown. These are mini blinds that can be tilted to face the track of the sun. On a sunny winter day particularly when there is snow cover the room will be 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer that the thermostat setting. I switch out the blinds twice a year in the spring and fall.
Angelika Maier wrote:If it is 5x the previous bill - my guess is that there is something wrong maybe with the billing or with the meter. I would first contact the supplier.
I lived in California during the "deregulation" debacle. In just a few months my power bill went from $8-$10 paying little attention to how much I used, to $80/month being as conservative as I could manage (was using about 1/3rd as much).
Last year I had the highest power bill I've ever had and it was between the heating and cooling seasons so it should have been lower than usual. When I called the power company to have them double check the meter, the representative told me it sounded to her like I had a water leak on a hot water line (causing the water heater to run continuously). She was 100% correct. It wasn't leaking enough for me to notice low water pressure, just enough to cause a huge bill.
The Dept. of Energy has a weatherization assistance program that is administered through regional organizations. Google weatherization program and your location to find the group closest to you. Get on their list. If you're disabled and on a fixed income you will likely qualify. They do an energy audit on your home, insulate, repair furnaces, replace leaky windows, doors etc. It's free if you qualify and it can make a tremendous difference in your heating and cooling costs. Many cities offer programs that do renovations and repairs either through grant funding or through low interest forgivable loans (no repayment if you remain in the property a certain # of years).
If you have an electric dryer, vent it inside. You can buy a filter for the end of the hose or use a sock to catch lint that makes it past the lint trap. You'll get free heat and add a bit of humidity to the air as you do your laundry. You mentioned not using the oven much. Use it and when dinner is done leave the oven door open so the warm air vents to the room (don't leave the oven on). As others have mentioned, opening blinds/curtains during the day to let the sun warm things up helps. Make sure you close them when the sun sets or you'll lose heat. I'm assuming you do not have a fireplace. That's the best free heat around.
If you have a few extra dollars you can try space heaters. Kerosene heaters work if you can stand the odor. Don't use them when you sleep though. A couple of those electric radiators on the low wattage setting use less power than one on the high. So far, I've had the best luck with one of those edenpure style heaters. They blow air about as warm as a hairdryer but mine has had very little impact on my power bill and will keep the room it is located in quite warm. I live in a small house though. If you have huge rooms and really high ceilings, your experience may differ. That style is really safe and I leave mine on overnight and sometimes even when I'm not home. I've never done that with any other style of space heater. As my grandmother got older and more cold natured, she bought an electric throw (electric blanket for covering up while on the sofa or chair) rather than raising the thermostat setting. I personally don't care for electric blankets b/c of EMF concerns and improper use (like piling other blankets on top) can cause fires.
Whatever route you take, I hope you find a cheaper way to stay warm
Alex Riddles wrote:My home is all electric also. I have done two things that are helping.
I have a lint trap on my clothes dryer that vents inside the room.
Hi. I live in Ontario Canada where the hydro rates have increased exponentially in rural areas in recent years. We have electric baseboard heaters in a 1600 sqft house built in 1974. I purchased programmable thermostats for the main living areas, the bedrooms we leave cold. For 5 hours a day the kitchen and living room are set at 18C, the rest of the time they are 14C. We tried diverting the dryer vent, but it drove humidity levels through the roof, allowing mould to grow in my children's bedrooms. It's January now and I'm running a dehumidifier constantly to extract moisture just under normal living conditions. My kids walk around wrapped in blankets. Our latest bill received yesterday was almost $700 for 30 days.
I will be making a change to our heating system before next winter, though at this point I'm not sure to what. We cannot do another winter like this.
Yes I'm venting, but, my point is, when somebody posts that they can't afford to heat their house, maybe saying wool blankets are warmest isn't the advice they're looking for. When this topic was raised to the provincial government, which it has a lot, their response was that maybe people struggling with high hydro rates should turn down their thermostats.
Bill Downes wrote:My kids walk around wrapped in blankets. Our latest bill received yesterday was almost $700 for 30 days.
Yeouch. That's right up there with what happened when Montana Power "deregulated". Used to be a lot of houses in MT with electric heat. Not anymore! winter heat bills went from $50 to over $600 overnight.
I've lived where I had minimal heat during Montana winters. We're talking just above freezing indoors, and closing on -40 outdoors. There are some tricks to dressing for it that aren't entirely obvious. Right now it is 55F degrees in my house, the heat has been off all day, and I'm warm enough that I haven't put on a hat, and I'm just sitting at the computer and I'm a bit cold-blooded. This is what I'm wearing -- it is extremely warm yet not excessively bulky:
cotton sleeveless undershirt
long underwear top: Russell brand microfibre warm underwear shirt (they come in two grades, you want the fabric that's got a definite microfibre texture on one side)
both layers tucked into bottoms (this is important to prevent heat from escaping)
long underwear bottom: 32degree-heat brand (from Costco) -- these are thin but work well as an extra layer
"Faded Glory" (Walmart) brand jacket -- microfibre outside, fleece inside (the black ones are ridiculously warm, and presently on sale for $12)
Wrangler fleece-lined jeans ($25 at Walmart). The regular blue-jeans are about twice as warm as the "carpenter" style.
Costco trail socks (wool blend)
Sheepskin indoor boots
Wear the microfibre long underwear INSIDE-OUT for best results.
A woolen watchcap also works wonders. Same with a down or fleece vest. A blanket is NOT a good way to cope with low temperature unless you're entirely still. Layers of the right kind of fabric, and close-fitting long underwear, works MUCH better.
I also have some Russell fleece long-underwear bottoms which are much warmer than any others, but TOO warm unless I'm outdoors and it's well below zero. Russell are about $10 per piece at Walmart.
I also have a set of these (bought from this vendor)
they aren't quite as warm as the Russell, but are warmer than ordinary long underwear. The fabric is sort of like thin sweats, not really fleece. The shirt is about normal sized but the pants run small. The price is certainly right and the vendor ships fast.
For sleeping, and mind you I was in a room that would be at freezing in the morning -- in this arrangement, if anything I was usually too warm.
Sleep in long underwear and put your PJs over that. WEAR SLEEP SOCKS (NOT regular socks)
DO NOT USE REGULAR SHEETS. They are nothing but cold in winter!
Sheepskin (real or synthetic) UNDER you. Some mattresses suck heat.
FLEECE sheets. They are pricey but worth it, because they hold heat and feel warm on your skin. If you can't get fleece sheets, use blankets without sheets.
DOWN comforter -- thicker the better, or 2-3 thin ones. They hold heat much better than blankets.
Wear a woolen watchcap, too.
For spot heating, consider electric floor mats (I have two of these, they get fairly hot for only using 50W) or piglet warmers which you can get from some online livestock supply houses. The heat thingee from inside a heated pet bed is great to put on the back of your chair with a towel over it to hold the heat and they only use about 20W. You can also put them in your bed to warm it up (this is important, getting into a cold bed can chill you for the whole night) but DON'T try to sleep on it. These are also excellent for spot-heating behind water pipes that are in danger of freezing. Same for ordinary heating pads -- get the kind that have several settings, and use them on the lowest setting (which can be as low as 15W).
Electric blankets are not very economical, most are 500W.
Anyway, that's what I do to stay comfortable in a cold house, and I have loads of experience at it.
I've spent a lot of nights sleeping in very cold rooms. I find a hot water bottle or an electric heating pad for my feet makes it possible to sleep in a very cold room under warm covers.
Paul suggested don't heat whole rooms, just heat under your feet when you're at a desk or table.
Judith Moran wrote:I learned from the people indigenous to the area and didn't wear cotton for 9 months of the year. But most Americans only wear cotton or polyester which is not sufficient to stay warm in winter.
Actually, dry cotton is warmer than dry wool (by about 3% so it's not a lot). The difference arises when wet. Wet cotton rapidly loses heat, but wet wool retains some warmth. If you live where you might fall through the ice, this is important. Elsewhere, not so much.
Whether polyester is warm depends entirely on how the fabric is made. Microfleece is warmer than the same thickness of sheep fleece, because it traps more air. Insulation is primarily a function of trapped air. Thinsulate is a wonderful thing.
It really helps if you can close off a smaller space to heat, either closing doors, or hanging blankets in open door passages. Blankets over the windows at night are great. My yurt is not ideal because there is too much height to heat up, and I don't have a way to block anything off right now. Think about heat sinks, too, like 5 gallon buckets of water or big rocks. Once they are warm they help stabilize the temperature. If you can create one small cosy space that is big enough to hang out in and heat just that, you can make forays into the rest of your house for whatever you need to do, like cook or whatever.
Warm base layer clothing is key. You don't have to spend a lot of money on silk or wool long underwear to get a cosy layer next to your skin. Go to the thrift store and get some lightweight men's cashmere sweaters for tops. You can get the ones someone accidentally shrunk for very little. Men's wool flannel suit pants make great longjohns, and are usually cheap also. Ugly colors are even cheaper, and who cares what your underwear looks like? Layer up-a couple loose sweaters is warmer than one tight one. It's all about airspace around your body to insulate. Vests make it easier to add a layer and still be able to move. Make or buy lightweight fingerless gloves, which you can wear inside, and still be able to do stuff. Keep the back of your neck warm with a scarf or hood, wear a hat too. Hot water bottles are the best invention ever! I sit with my feet on one, wrapped in a sleeping bag, sometimes I put one in my lap or at the small of my back in a chair. If you get three, you can have one at your feet and one on each side in bed. You can use jars or bottles too, as long as they really seal and can take hot water without breaking or melting. Down comforters are expensive, but again, at the thrift store, you can probably find cheap, acceptable substitutes, like sleeping bags, that you can layer up with wool blankets. Sleep in your base layer, stash your day clothes at the foot of the bed, under the covers, so they are warm when you go to put them on in the morning. Wear a hat to bed, or pull the covers over your head and make a little air channel.
Eat well, and drink enough water, even if it means going out in the cold to pee more often. Fats, meat, ginger, warming foods. Your metabolism warms you from the inside out. I always think it's such a gift in the dark short days of winter to have clear days, even if it's so cold. Light over warmth anytime, for me, but I am also pretty comfortable in a house heated between 40 and 50 degrees. Most of the time I'm way too hot in other people's houses.
Hope some of this is helpful--good luck! Spring is coming, too, and it's already much lighter!
I agree thinsulate is a great material for keeping warm. And so is down. And both expensive. And I've never had any luck finding those two in a thrift store.But I have with wool sweaters and blankets and the original poster is on a strict budget. Thus my suggestions for wool.
The original poster said she is wearing four layers. So something seems wrong with the design of her fabrics. This situation does not sound desirable to me.
The kids at my school wear just t-shirts of cotton or light synthetic fabrics during winter. Sometimes they even wear shorts, during winter. In my opinion we as a culture have become dependent on relying on piped in gas or burnt fuel to heat our buildings rather than keeping our bodies warm with appropriate fabrics. My 2 cents.
I will take a light silk layer of underwear and a thicker wool sweater every time in winter
I totally agree about wool being warmer than cotton....I rarely wear wool here because it is usually too warm for most of our winters. When we have a cold spell though I grab my wool sweater and some wool socks and hat and a wool blanket for the bed and feel the difference immediately
I had problems with my electric company doing estimated billing rather than reading the meter each month. They said their estimates were based on prior year's usage, but I had my bills for the prior couple of years and their "estimates" were widely out of line with the same months in prior years. I told them to stop doing estimates, to have someone come out and read the meter each month. I told them I was tired of them doing advance billing to finance their operation. I made it very clear that overcharging me was unacceptable. I was also able to document, from past bills, that they were consistently "estimating" my usage well above the actual electricity used.
In my case, the electric company ultimately determined that I had overpaid and that they owed me a large credit- I have been using electricity for over a year without having to pay a bill, because the amount they had overbilled me was that large.
Seriously, challenge them over this bill. Make them go through every detail and verify, completely, that they haven't made any errors in their billing. It can't hurt, and potentially it could be a huge help. It certainly was for me.
Sue Copher wrote:We are disabled and just received our bill from electric company that is over 5x what the previous bill was . Yes, it's Winter but we had thermostat at 66. In addition we turned it down to 62 after receiving this bill and we are wearing 4 sets of clothes and wool socks. We are looking for a way to heat without electricity without being gouged at 4-6000 or more for a catalytic heater/stove. All we are trying to do is heat an area estimated at 600 sq. ft. We are sleeping in a cold room with at least 4 blankets and that seems okay after getting warm. I have to sleep with gloves on in case my hands are outside of cover. I need help in advice and what we can buy that is reasonable because my husband has Parkinson's and can't build stuff anymore. Any ideas Anybody?? Sorry forgot to say we have all electric and we do have led bulbs in light fixtures and most cooking is done on stove top..not oven! Thanks!!
The advice about questioning the bill, and about energy audits or free weatherization programs, is probably going to make the biggest difference.
Do you know why the bill rose? If not, then that does sound like the first thing that needs to be addressed.
The hot water leak sounds plausible, the predatory utility company sounds plausible, rate hikes might be going on but if so, your neighbors will have the same problem.
Last time I had bills more than double my normal, it turned out someone had left the heat on in a camper trailer that was plugged into our house, for guests who never came.
Tracking down that sudden cost hike is the first step.
Heating without electricity, and without building things yourself, means finding a reputable installer for whatever new heater you get.
Sometimes there are assistance programs with this, too.
A few thousand is a fair price for an efficient off-grid heater installation, but that doesn't mean you can afford it, or need to pay that much yourselves.
Just the parts for an up-to-code chimney can cost $500 to $1000, if you don't already have one. DIY chimneys on cheap woodstoves sometimes lead to tragedy.
(House fires are depressing, the chimney is either built to withstand a chimney fire.... or it isn't. What the fire department can do after things start is not much, compared with good prevention.)
Heating with a "space heater" such as a gas fireplace, which is designed to be run with a window open, can also cause massive health problems like mold. You want a heater that will do the job, for your climate, within your means and ability to operate.
You want a good job with a discount, not a bodge job by someone with good intentions setting you up for worse trouble down the road.
Start calling local resources, the food bank may know who does this locally. The power company should have energy-savings and maybe even hardship assistance, unless they're the problem.
Some places have a Habitat for Humanity group, or senior centers, that do this or have contacts/flyers from those who do. If you attend a church, ask around at the church.
The guy who sells stoves might occasionally do someone a favor, but he can't do this all the time, especially if he's paying for the inventory and labor. You want to find the people who will pay him to make your dear old lives better.
Find someone who is in the business of caring. Social workers for Medicaid or SNAP programs or rent assistance often know this stuff - you might call anonymously, if you don't want them butting into your life, and just gather general info.
But however you do it, get some leads on heating assistance and/or weatherization assistance. (and/or legal aid for the weird bill, if you think it's a ripoff)
The DIY self-insulation and building weatherization steps do make a difference.
Stop air leaks, stop cold air flowing down cold windows from reaching your head or toes, and things get easier. Even with my heater doing great, if the cat opened a gap in the curtains over the headboard, my head or hands would get cold at night. Those drapes are flimsy cotton, lined with cotton, no fancy box-things to close off the top or closed-cell blinds to stop vertical flow. But I sure can tell when I have them tucked into the windowsill, and when the cat has created a gap. Any extra layers between you and cold windows, cold walls, may help more than you think. Especially if you target the coldest places first.
Also check for holes at the top - when drafts are coming in down low, it means hot air is escaping upward, sometimes through the attic hatch, windows open a crack at the top, or holes in the ceiling or ceiling trim. (For example, new recessed lights might involve punching a LOT of holes in the ceiling, which then leak heat into the attic, which makes the roof warmer, which melts snow on the roof, causing ice dams and less insulation ..... same with new shower or kitchen vent fans to prevent humidity and mold, if they don't close properly they can also cause substantial heat loss.
I also try to put closets on exterior walls, hang hooked rugs, doors on closets and pantries will help food last longer while reducing the space you are heating to the highest temps.
All of these things could save quite a bit on a power bill, but I don't know if they'd take you down to 5x lower unless you found a really big, easily fixed blooper.
However, the personal heater stuff does quite a bit more - see Paul's article on richsoil.com about how he cut 87% off his electric bill by heating himself more directly, keeping the house cooler.
I don't want you to try and do without heat, in any case.
The pellet stove is not a bad idea but be aware it will not get you through electric failures, they need power to run a fan.
If you want to DIY this somehow, or work around conventional solutions and prices, you'll need to tell us more about the situation.
Climate? Snowy, rainy, sunny, cloudy?
Rent or own? Stick frame, masonry, old or newer home, trailer?
What resources do you have - kids or neighbors with free firewood, a way to move pellets, gas facilities already on site or have to pay to connect/buy a tank?
Horses or cows to burn dry cow patties? How far do you want to go? What are you still able to do? If you won't be the ones doing it, who will?
Some people in tiny spaces have done some thermal mass heating without building a masonry heater, by using large soup pots with lids on their woodstove. Or bricks around their oven. I occasionally heat a brick on my rocket stove and wrap it in a towel to pre-warm the bed - one brick of heat lasts 1-2 hours, wrapped in a full-size beach towel. You probably can't go through the night with one, but they are great to take the chill off the bedgear. Using your heat (including the sun) to heat up bricks, pots of water, metal art, heck jars of jam if you have flavors you never cared for, will create more warmth indoors. But this is probably going to buy you a few extra hours, or let you move one space heater around instead of running two - not a full days' or nights' heat.
Some people find that a canopy bed, cupboard bed, or blanket fort makes it easier to get through the night, with a smaller warm space in a larger cool space. If you don't like living in a cupboard, you can make sure and close pantries, cupboards, closets, unused rooms, and create a buffer zone of cooler space on the exterior walls.
Baking or not baking, LEDs or not, those are not your problems. "Wasted" electricity usually turns into heat, unless it's happening outside the house.
So you either have some power loss happening at the meter, hot water leaking out the drains, or heat loss out the envelope of the house (the floor, walls, or ceiling/roof system), or the utility company has decided you are the solution to their problem and not vice-versa.
If it's a rental, looking for house-sitting gigs in a warmer climate might be a good option too.
If you live in a climate where you are strapped over a barrel to keep your pipes from freezing, that is harder to escape.
Wishing you the best.