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31 ways to save on winter heating for $30 or less

 
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31 ways to reduce heating costs in winter and for less than $30. If properly used, their payback is less than 1 year.

Quilted window coverings. Most windows, including double pane have an r-value of 4 or less, whereas  a modern insulated wall has an r-value of 15 or more. Quilted covers, or the like, can be made from emergency blankets, moving blankets, or fancier material, and will easily  double the insulation on your windows.

Make use of solar heat. During sunny cold days, you can still get the equivalent of a wood burning stove going full blast from the sun beaming in large South-facing windows (in the northern hemisphere). If you don't have large South facing windows, you can still get some benefit from East and West facing windows, if the curtains are open when the sun comes in and closed when it is not. Opening and closing windows treatments is free heating. Although still new technology, you may be able to find automated window treatments connecting to your smart home system.

Close off large North facing windows (in the northern hemisphere). Windows to the north mean an r-4 wall in your coldest wind direction. If you have large windows in this direction see if you can block them off with extra thick window quilts, window shutters, furniture, or if the have a bad view, turn them into a highly insulated wall and hang a picture. You can make working window shutters for a 3'x5’ window for about 20 dollars and thick window treatments for less than 10.

Use a heated blanket or mat instead of a space heater. A space heater is about 7x more energy consumptive than an electric blanket, and much more drying. Therefore, on average a heated blanket running 10 hours a day for a month will cost 9 dollars to run, but a space heater running the same amount of time would cost $45. Electric blankets can be found for as little as $20, new.

Comfortable warm clothes. A yummy soft robe and slippers out a cardigan and tall socks might not seem like a reasonable purchase until you realize you can drop the temperature of your thermostat a degree or two, lowering your heating bill 1-3% for every degree.

Properly place furniture. Outside walls, especially next to windows, are the coldest places in a room. They are great for book shelves, media centers, and other things people don't tend to hang around. Place the furniture people hang out on in the center of the house, especially next to heating vents, where it is warmer. Put the heated fish tank by the couch, where they will compliment each other's heat needs and provide entertainment. These rearrangements can cut make your home more comfortable, lower your thermostat, and reduce your need for secondary secondary heaters.

Cook food instead of take out or delivery. An oven can produce 10,000 BTUs of heat per hour, and a cheaper dinner than eating out. 10,000 BTUs is about ⅙ the output need to heat a standard insulated 2,000 sqft home.

Section off heated spaces. Close the vents in the guest room or other rarely used spaces. Keep the doors shut. Use a piece of elastic to spring the door shut if people are prone to forgetting to do so. When asleep, lower the house temperature and use smaller heating apparatuses to heat yourself and/or the room. A piece of elastic and the nails from door to door frame costs about $3.

Install a programmable thermostat. A simple programmable thermostat costs about $20 and can dramatically lower your heat bill by only heating to comfortable when you need it to.

Set your thermostat to only vary about 10 degrees. Over a ten degree variation takes more energy than it saves.
Insure tight gaskets around your doors and windows. Gaskets are less than $10 and stop or slow the breeze around doors. Heat loss around poorly gasketed doors has-been estimated to 20%.

Have a family sleepover. Most little kids don't want to sleep alone anyway and many cultures have a family bed and shared rooms. On especially cold nights, have a sleepover for your family in one room. This can include the dogs and cats. You can drastically reduce your overnight heating costs by only heating one room with many people.

Use lanolin and other high temperature body oils as moisturizers. High temperature oils become solid below room temperature, which makes them insulate. They become liquid above room temperature, cooling your skin. Using these to keep your skin moist in the dry, chapping winter air can make you just that much more comfortable and costs the same as conventional skin moisturizers.

Exercise at home. Heating yourself and reducing your need for additional heat.

Have friends over. With more people there's more body heat and more activity, meaning an easier time for your heating system.

Visit local hang outs so you can lower your thermostat ten degree while you're gone.

Block an unused fireplace. Even a fireplace with a damper can suck hot air out of your house. Closing it off with the same vigorousness you would other walls and ceilings helps reduce heat loss. Remember to clear the block if you want to start a fire.

Eat healthy, take care of yourself. Getting sick often means you need to turn up the heat. Reduce unnecessary exposure to illness and take care of your body. This is usually the cheaper option for medical expenses too.

Place a windbreak on the winter wind side of your house made of cheap fast growing trees. It will take them a while to grow, but in 5 years you will notice a difference. Fast growing bare root trees can be purchased for as little as $1 a piece. Insure they are far enough away from things that can be destroyed by roots.

Fill insulation gaps. Although many gaps are in hard to reach places and can be pricey, sometimes the gaps are easy to find and fix, like between the first floor and the walls of an unfinished basement, or around plugs on outer walls and window caulking. The materials vary, depending on the hole your pluging but usually way under $30. Plugging these holes can be more important than thickening wall insulation.

Adjust your furnace intake location with a bench. Sometimes the intake for the forced air unit is located by a window, pulling in cold air from outside rather than cycling the warm air from inside. A bench is sometimes all that is needed to direct the air intake towards the room, instead of the window, behind a curtain. A bench can be made out of a 2”x6” piece of wood cut in three pieces and attached with 6 long screws, and a 1”x2” for stability. Doing this project yourself can cost about $20.

Insulate ducting from an unfinished, rarely used basement. A roll of insulation can cost about $15.

Use thermal masses in areas with sunny days and frigid nights. A thermal mass is something heavy that absorbs a lot of heat before it changes temperature and releases a lot of heat before it changes temperature. Basically, a heat battery. They are usually rock, clay, cobb or cement. But can also be a house plant. Be sure your floor is capable of holding the weight of the thermal mass, as some are quite heavy. Set the thermal mass where it will get the most sun and then let it do its job.

Cover or pull in your window unit air conditioner. Air conditioners leak air. Covering them or pulling them in reduces that.

Protect air vents from wind. Some crawl spaces have air vents. These keep the space from building up moisture, but can also cause cold air to penetrate under a house and seep in, especially when exposed to wind. At ground level these can be blocked from wind with a stack of firewood, a big rock, or some evergreen bushes.

Avoid using the bathroom vent fan except when taking a long shower. Bathroom vents suck hot air right out of the house, exactly what you don't need in winter. For stinky situations, try a scented candle in a fire safe location.

Use heated lighting for your sitting areas during winter. They cost as much to run as a heated blanket, but give the feel of a nice summer's day. The bulb costs about $8, can fit some regular lamps or a $10 heat lamp fixture.

Take winter walks. Human bodies can adapt a little, so experiencing winter can help you be comfortable with less heat.

Make a thermos full of warm drink. With a short spurt of heating you have a hand warmer and body warmer. This is great for needing to warm up after the walk. Rather than hiking up the thermostat to defrost you, drink up.

Move to a smaller house or take on some roommates. Along with saving money on property costs and maintenance, smaller spaces are cheaper to heat.

Strategically place blankets. A warm blanket or two on a couch, several more on your need, one in the recliner can help keep you cozy without raising the thermostat.

When you save on heating you save on money. Even if you can only do one change listed here the first year, you'll be able to do two the next year and four the following because these projects, if done with thought for your situation, can pay for themselves in very little time, leading you to bigger projects with higher pay offs sooner than you thought. Spread the word.
 
Amit Enventres
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Fixed it up based on comments and made it a wiki, since it's a reference not a question. Hope I did that right. Feel free to correct.
 
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These are great money-savers.  I would just caution those who are pregnant or hoping to be so against using electric blankets.  There's an increase (albeit, small) of miscarriage and infertility linked to sleeping with an electric blanket.

Rather than post something here that is applicable to a small number, just type it into a search engine.
 
steward
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I keep seeing news articles like this:

Energy crunch hits global recovery as winter approaches

Associated Press wrote:Power shortages are turning out streetlights and shutting down factories in China. The poor in Brazil are choosing between paying for food or electricity. German corn and wheat farmers can’t find fertilizer, made using natural gas. And fears are rising that Europe will have to ration electricity if it’s a cold winter.

The world is gripped by an energy crunch — a fierce squeeze on some of the key markets for natural gas, oil and other fuels that keep the global economy running and the lights and heat on in homes. Heading into winter, that has meant higher utility bills, more expensive products and growing concern about how energy-consuming Europe and China will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.



I hope by bumping this thread, more people will be able to stay warm and cozy this winter.

(for those facing summer and hot weather, you might find these threads more useful right now 20 ways to REALLY reduce your summer utility bills and Cool the Person, not the Space and Natural Air Conditioning)
 
pollinator
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Great ideas, big read
 
pollinator
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Some great ideas. We have a porch with sliding doors on the north side of our place, I'll be measuring it and hitting the thrift stores for an appropriate quilt cover. Can double as an attractive wall piece! We do some of the others already - our bike trainer is in the living room, a 15 minute ride can translate to 1-2 hours of not needing heat. And we keep our spare duvet by the couch in the winter, it's very nice for cuddling up under in the evening.
 
gardener
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Great ideas that I can use!
Here's one more for the list: when you're using the oven, put a few bricks on a lower shelf. They hold the oven's heat so baking is more steady when opening the door in a cold kitchen. When it's time for bed, wrap a still-hot-brick in a towel and slip it into the bed near the feet: instant warmth and comfort!
 
pollinator
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As someone who lived without a furnace or wood stove for over ten years, I learned a few tricks... Many are NOT under $30, but most will easily pay for themselves within a year or two.

Electric Add-Ons:

Plug in throws for "living rooms" or office situations are fabulous, if the blanket alone finds you still chilly, 'turn up the heat' by clicking the throws power button.

Plug in mattress pads or electric blankets allow you to cut the heat to the bedroom entirely, or at least significantly. These have been used for decades and are not only a HUGE energy saver (heat the bed, not the room), but incredibly luxurious! Most have timers, even dual ones.

TIP: always go one to two "sizes" larger, this ensures there is no "gap" when turning over in bed where icy air rushes in. Same for regular top sheets, blankets and quilts; using 'king size' on a double or queen makes for a MUCH more cozy bed for not much extra up front cost (of course the fitted sheet must be correctly sized).  I hit the thrift stores for cotton top sheets/fitted sheets in lighter colors and batch dye them, along with pillow cases, so they all, at least somewhat, match

Plug in OIL FILLED RADIATORS are my go to for small rooms like the bathroom that NEED extra heat for comfort and safety of the plumbing. Super efficient, plus they double as a towel/clothing warmer!

These space heaters are my choice due to their high safety factor - with multiple animals, the heat source must not be a potential fire or burn injury hazard. Further, they have no "moving parts", and commonly are programmable. Mine have timers that turn them on/off at preset times, along with thermostats, three "power" levels " (500, 1000, 1500 watts) and an anti freeze feature that automatically turns them on if the temps drop dangerously (pipe freezing) low.

Plug in Dog bed warmers: the ones I use are from K&H Manufacturing (vinyl pads from 6x6 inches to 15x20+ inches - supposed to go into upholstered pet beds). They can be pricey, but I wait until they are on sale. The smallest use just 4 watts, but all are under 25 watts and warm to 102 F.  

I have three large ones on the futon Sofa, covered with a polar fleece fitted sheet (folds down into a queen size bed). Technically this was for the dogs, but we now each have one for each of our recliners, constant, soft, steady heat.

Invest in a Digital Laser Thermometer - we used one to discover our new insulation was incorrectly installed. Once the installer returned and we showed all the cold spots they redid the job ($500 to add a foot extra of blown in cellulose) for free. Just as easily it allows you to find and properly insulate the "locations" heat is escaping.

Ceiling Fans/Room Circulator: seems counter intuitive, but correctly placed units move/mix cooler temps near the floor with the warmer, rising air. Particularly useful in multi-storey (lofts) dwellings or ones with a single (wood stove?) heat source. Pricey, but I highly recommend the Vornado line of air circulator; practically silent and do double duty in summer for cooling - plus the VFAN Vintage line is absolutely gorgeous!

Close doors (and vents) to rooms seldom or only briefly used, and rooms only used for "certain" time periods (bedrooms/office) and only heat when needed.

Programmable thermostat: for less than $50, this can make a HUGE difference. Especially as you can slowly, degree by degree lower the temperature (preferably WELL below the 70+F (22+C) most folks deem acceptable) to the lower 60's (mid teens Celsius).

When and wherever possible, spend $$$ on upping the attic insulation; this is generally your fastest return on investment.

Check door and window seals for air leaks (a candle flame or smoke source will clearly show these), and don't forget gaskets for outlet and switches - if the walls are not well insulated, a lot of heat and or drafts can be found here.

Extra insulation for the ELECTRIC hot water heater can save serious $$$; as can regularly flushing debris/build up from the bottom valve. This can build up on the heating element and burn it out, or at the very least seriously limit it's efficiency.

Double paned windows, filled with Argon gas will keep you warmer in winter and cooler in summer. BUT return on investment tends to be much longer.

In cold climates the addition of an "Arctic Entry"; essentially (insulated but not heated) a vestibule which provides an "airlock" due to the second door between the bitter outside air and the heated inside air. Enclosing a porch, even seasonally, can do the job. Basically all you need is one door to the outside, a tiny room, with a second door to the inside.  

Thermos, or insulated cup/mug/tumbler: great way to keep a warm drink warm for MUCH longer when your room may be chilly.

Hope this helps!
 
pollinator
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Here, as well as in earlier threads, a 'dog bed warmer' is mentioned. I went searching for such a thing (to put it under my cold feet). But I found out 'dog bed warmers' are not for sale here! At least not in the pet shops here in town.
Of course I don't want to order it online, with shipping costs more than the price of the thing
 
master steward
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:Here, as well as in earlier threads, a 'dog bed warmer' is mentioned. I went searching for such a thing (to put it under my cold feet). But I found out 'dog bed warmers' are not for sale here! At least not in the pet shops here in town.
Of course I don't want to order it online, with shipping costs more than the price of the thing



I keep reading here on permies about a dog bed warmer.

Seems to me a heating pad like people use for sore muscles would be just a good and a lot cheaper.

Inge, do they see heating pads where you live?

I looked at an amazon link and the dog bed warmer sounds like the heating pad used for sore muscles.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Anne Miller wrote:

Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:Here, as well as in earlier threads, a 'dog bed warmer' is mentioned. I went searching for such a thing (to put it under my cold feet). But I found out 'dog bed warmers' are not for sale here! At least not in the pet shops here in town.
Of course I don't want to order it online, with shipping costs more than the price of the thing



I keep reading here on permies about a dog bed warmer.

Seems to me a heating pad like people use for sore muscles would be just a good and a lot cheaper.

Inge, do they see heating pads where you live?

I looked at an amazon link and the dog bed warmer sounds like the heating pad used for sore muscles.


Hi Anne. I don't know. I'll have to find out how they call that 'heating pad' in Dutch. For sore muscles I only know an infra red lamp or a pad you'll have to warm in warm water (so that is not electric).
EDIT: I found it. It's called 'warmtekussen' (warmth cushion) and it's sold in town
 
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Great ideas. As Nicole can certainly attest to in the NW, they are very militant against any type of burning (there are numerous laws on file about natural heat) so rocket mass heaters might be a challenge. Question, how do you 'block' a fireplace? Is that just doing the curtain/blanket thing in front or something in the chimney? Thanks!
 
Amy Gardener
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Rick has a great question about blocking the fireplace. I would love to see some pictures showing different strategies. Form + function =  an art project! The approach here with the kiva-style fireplace (like a sideways D shape) is to put a 4 inch thick upholstered cushion inside the threshold to the opening. The cushion is 1" larger all the way around so the cushion is held in place with the compressive pressure of the foam. It works well though I want to upgrade the look with new upholstery fabric. Show us your covers Permies!
 
Lorinne Anderson
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The dog heating pads/bed warmers are specially designed to be low energy (4-20+ watts), and maintain a steady, 102F temp, 24/7.  

Human heating pads nowadays have auto shut offs and a tendency to fluctuate significantly in temp from barely warm to potential burn temps. Usually they come in a single, standard sizes, with three temp settings.

The ones for dogs can be pricey and are designed to be slipped inside an upholstered dog bed. To my mind they are safer as they are expected to be plugged in, and turned on, for months if not years at a time.

K&H Manufacturing is the brand I use and in 20 yrs, have never had a problem (dog eating cord/pad doesn't count!). I get mine off Amazon (check for sales and returns in the Warehouse store).
 
pollinator
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Insulating window film works great.  It isn't insulation but a clear plastic you put over the entire window that will hold the cold air to the window and keep drafts and cold air from cooling off the room.  They also have larger kits for sliding glass doors.
These work great and still allow light and will allow you to look out the window.  My parents used these about 40 years ago when I was a kid, they made a huge difference in keeping the bedrooms warm in the winter.
https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/p/d/cbgnaw011297/

A few years ago when I was still living in my travel trailer I put clear plastic on the outside of the windows with clear bubble wrap between the plastic and the window, the bubble wrap was a big improvement over the plastic alone.
 
master gardener
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Hi Michael,

Normally, I try to avoid plastic. But I grew up in a house that was one notch above a shack. When I did my homework, the wind would blow the papers off the table. The use of plastic on the windows was a blessing.
 
pollinator
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I, too, am trying to reduce my plastic usage as much as possible but I'm not above re-using plastic that others have already produced. Reuse doesn't count as causing (paying for) the production of the bad stuff. Anyway, I've found that most mattresses come to the mattress store wrapped a pretty heavy, usually clear, (or at least translucent), plastic bag. Most stores are happy to give them away (less trash for them) and they cover small greenhouses, windows, etc. quite well. They don't last forever since they're not UV resistant but, hey, they're free and going to the dump anyway. Any secondary use is an improvement on just junking them immediately.

This is a great thread. I've used most of these strategies in the past but will definitely be looking for a dog bed warmer. I have a rabbit's nest box warmer which is the same concept - extremely safe and low power usage - but it's quite small. And I expect to be living off grid in a very theivery-prone area when I finally get to my property so I don't expect I'll be able to use solar panels until the long-active neighborhood thieves are caught and/or removed. My grandson just finished cavalry scout training and he thinks he can catch them. I sure hope so. They even steal any and all hidden cameras within a day or two. Anyone want to start a thread about unconventional security on the homestead?
 
gardener
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Quoting from the link: "Sheltering in? In times of war, natural disaster, pandemic & national emergency people have turned to a little known technology called wood gasification to transform sticks and branches from their own property into clean gaseous fuel."

Another interesting quote: "The Wood Gasifier Builder's Bible is a step-by-step construction manual to build a powerful woodgas generator with advanced features, yet needing only a minimal build budget. Wood gasification extracts the stored sunlight in wood to create a gaseous biofuel rich in hydrogen. It's like having your own personal scale natural gas refinery."


Wood Gasifier Builder's Bible: Turn Tree Branches into Biofuel in Minutes
 
master pollinator
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In the old days when people had rambling, drafty, poorly insulated brick homes, it was not uncommon for people to block off the majority of the house during the coldest months and heat only a small area for cooking, sitting and sleeping. Obviously there was no plumbing in the unheated areas.
 
pollinator
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:In the old days when people had rambling, drafty, poorly insulated brick homes, it was not uncommon for people to block off the majority of the house during the coldest months and heat only a small area for cooking, sitting and sleeping. Obviously there was no plumbing in the unheated areas.



Some of us still have these houses, if we wanted to we can block off the top of our stairs with a little wooden cage (which lives in the attic as we don't use it) and drain the upstairs radiators, only using the bottom of the house. However leaving rooms unheated is not healthy for the house We turn down heating in unused rooms but it is still there. In our experience letting rooms drop under 14C for more than a few days results in mould and damp issues.

Also remember to check your electric price before thinking about any type of electric heating especially now! For example for me right now running a 1kw electric heater which would just about heat one small room would cost $20 per day! (average electric price is 5.4DKK per kwh) Heating the entire house costs $12 for pellets and about $4 for electric.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Skandi Rogers wrote:However leaving rooms unheated is not healthy for the house We turn down heating in unused rooms but it is still there. In our experience letting rooms drop under 14C for more than a few days results in mould and damp issues.




Good observation. Every house has its quirks. Do you think the moisture is coming from the living areas or from the humidity of the general environment?

Anyway, there's no sense in solving one problem and creating a new one.

 
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If your house has interior rooms that do not have an exterior wall, close any vents in those rooms. They'll get circulated "heat" from the rest of the house.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:However leaving rooms unheated is not healthy for the house We turn down heating in unused rooms but it is still there. In our experience letting rooms drop under 14C for more than a few days results in mould and damp issues.




Good observation. Every house has its quirks. Do you think the moisture is coming from the living areas or from the humidity of the general environment?

Anyway, there's no sense in solving one problem and creating a new one.



It's environmental our outside humidity right now is 99% (2nd Jan) If you live in an area with high winter humidity you have to keep the place heated or mould will appear.
 
Anne Miller
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I mention this in another thread:

Sit with a dog or cat in your lap or next to you in bed.

There is a thread somewhere about heating the person where I believe it is recommended to put a blanket around the person.  Having a dog or cat on this person's lap makes this work even better.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Anne Miller wrote:I mention this in another thread:

Sit with a dog or cat in your lap or next to you in bed.

There is a thread somewhere about heating the person where I believe it is recommended to put a blanket around the person.  Having a dog or cat on this person's lap makes this work even better.


When I was a child we had other reasons too for sitting with a cat on our lap: if our mother asked us to do something (a chore) we could answer 'no, I can't, I have a cat on my lap'! That was a valid reason to stay on the couch in our family.
 
John C Daley
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Sorry Armit, I could not read the huge topic, so I made a precie of it
Quilted window coverings.
Make use of solar heat.
Close off large North facing windows (in the northern hemisphere).
Use a heated blanket or mat instead of a space heater.
Comfortable warm clothes.
Properly place furniture. Outside walls, especially next to windows, are the coldest places in a room.
Cook food instead of take out or delivery.
Section off heated spaces.
Install a programmable thermostat.
Set your thermostat to only vary about 10 degrees.
Have a family sleepover.
Use lanolin and other high temperature body oils as moisturizers.
Exercise at home.
Have friends over.
Visit local hang outs so you can lower your thermostat ten degree while you're gone.
Block an unused fireplace.
Eat healthy, take care of yourself.
Place a windbreak on the winter wind side of your house made of cheap fast growing trees.
Fill insulation gaps.
Adjust your furnace intake location with a bench.
Insulate ducting from an unfinished, rarely used basement.
Use thermal masses in areas with sunny days and frigid nights.
Cover or pull in your window unit air conditioner.
Protect air vents from wind.
Avoid using the bathroom vent fan except when taking a long shower.
Use heated lighting for your sitting areas during winter.
Take winter walks. Human bodies can adapt a little, so experiencing winter can help you be comfortable with less heat.
Make a thermos full of warm drink.
Move to a smaller house or take on some roommates.
Strategically place blankets.

A couple more;
- Fit pelmets above window coverings.
- fit door seals to the bottom of all doors in the home, not just the external ones.
- check ceiling downlights have the insulated draft stoppers
- wear at least 3 layers of clothing before putting the heater on.
- wear shoes instead of just socks inside.
- check windows are sealing correctly.

 
Lorinne Anderson
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There is an old thread from 2010 ( https://permies.com/t/4906/making-electric-heat ) where Paul experimented with all sorts of heating alternatives to keep COMFORTABLY warm if one only had access to electric heat.

I just finished reading that 11 page plus thread, and thought consolidation of some of the items mentioned could be useful, then thought of this thread, and decided to replicate the links here.  Nope, they are mostly not UNDER $30, but based on what Paul saved by heating himself and not the space, they more than paid back their investment.

***PLEASE NOTE: I have used Amazon for convenience of displaying the products and the variety available, in no way am I promoting or suggesting you purchase from Amazon - only that it is handy for research purposes.

Dog Bed Warmers/Heaters:  these are hard plastic or soft vinyl pads that come in multiple sizes from 9x11 inches to 30+ inches in length, and multiple widths.  The ones I have used for well over ten years are by K&H Manufacturing, and go by multiple 'names' from chick warmers to cat warmers to small animal warmers.  They are not cheap, but seem to last forever (ten years so far, and going strong - I have dozens of them for the animals and they run 24/7, 365), based on my experience.  The use minimal energy (some less than 4 watts, the highest/largest is 80 watts) and the vinyl ones can (we placed them on our easy chairs used at night) easily be adapted as a couch, chair, butt, or bed warmer, depending on size.  

Not sure if these are the same one Paul was using, but it looked very similar to the hard black ones this manufacturer makes, that I use, daily, and can attest to their longevity.
https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=k%26h+heating+pad&rh=n%3A6205514011%2Cp_89%3AK%26H+PET+PRODUCTS&dc&crid=1L8BAXDDEAE4Y&qid=1641946700&rnid=7590290011&sprefix=K%26H%2Caps%2C396&ref=sr_nr_p_89_1

Heated Seed Mats:  used for germinating seeds, but....
https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=heated+seed+mat&crid=22OCIKZYOIRWD&sprefix=heated+seed+mat%2Caps%2C332&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_1_15

Heated blanket for bed:  I highly recommend getting one with two controllers (one for each side) if you share a bed, nothing worse than you 'baking' whilst your partner 'freezes'.  

I also recommend getting at least one size larger - get a king sized blanket if you have a queen or double bed - and do the same with all top sheets/blankets, this ensures there are no gaps letting cold air rush in making life uncomfortable or waking you up when someone rolls over or gets up.  Only keep a thin flat sheet between you and the electric blanket - this keeps the blanket from needing frequent washings, but does not restrict the heat transfer.  

The more insulated layers ON TOP of the electric blanket, the more efficient and toasty it will be; adding a down filled, wool or polar fleece blankets can easily turn a not quite warm enough bed to one that is toasty on a much lower setting as all the heat is directed into the bed.

Heated Mattress Pad: Have one, not installed it...worried that laying on the wires would degrade them or they would 'feel' yucky...but the same theory of extra insulation via blankets would apply.

Heated Throws:  loved them, until the cord died in just a few months from being moved/twisted all the time.  Not happy with the lack of longevity - my electric blankets have lasted decades.  Next time I will see if there are rechargeable ones that do not need to be plugged in all the time, that actually have decent reviews.
*** I see no point posting links on the above heated blankets, pads or throws, as they are available everywhere.  

Reptile Heat Lamps: one must ensure these bulbs are be fitted to an appropriate wattage bulb base that is rated correctly for the size of bulb purchased, some are as low as 50 watts, others triple or more; most home sockets can only handle 40 to 60 watts, some 100, most cannot handle 150.  Some even have thermostats, many are non-light emitting, so Paul could warm his face without being blinded!

Bulbs: https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=reptile+ceramic+heat+lamps&crid=RGXMBBN94R7D&sprefix=reptile+ceramic+heat+lamps%2Caps%2C296&ref=bnav_search_go

Specialized Heat Lamp enclosures: appropriately designed for withstanding the heat/wattage these bulbs can put out.  https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=reptile+heat+lamp+dome&rh=n%3A6292566011&dc&crid=23NQD392J2VXH&qid=1641948171&rnid=5264023011&sprefix=reptile+heat+lamp+dome%2Caps%2C312&ref=sr_nr_n_1

Thermostatic controlled outlets/receptacles:  these can be super handy for ensuring items are only turned on when heat is required to prevent freezing.
https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=thermostatic+controlled+outlets+and+receptacle+on+off&dc&crid=286PI7SFDIRHT&sprefix=thermostatic+controlled+outlets+and+receptacles%2Caps%2C266&ref=a9_sc_1

Heat Tape for pipes:  this can be far more effective and cheaper in the long run than heating pipes.
https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=heated+tape+for+pipes&crid=2EJOFNXPL98UA&sprefix=heated+tape%2Caps%2C264&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_2_11

Plug in, Oil Filled Radiator: these are my personal favorite "space heaters" as they are incredibly safe and efficient.  Most have the option of using them at 500, 1000, or 1,500 watts, come with timers and emergency settings that cause them to automatically turn on to prevent freezing.  I found them super safe to operate, and they double brilliantly as towel warmers, I used them in the bathroom when I lived with no heat for over ten years.  One thing I would not compromise on was cold showers/toilet trips, plus had to make sure the pipes did not freeze.  
https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=oil+filled+radiator+heater&crid=3BSJO14ILPLF2&sprefix=oil+%2Caps%2C272&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_3_4

Kotatsu Table: Lots of references to this in the thread, likely one could "make" their own, but thought access to the actual items might make it easier to source materials and designs.
https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=heated+table&crid=15TVJHCSNBDWM&sprefix=heated+table%2Caps%2C254&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_1_12

https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=kotatsu+table+with+heater&crid=1RJFTK4KV6PB5&sprefix=kotatsu%2Caps%2C463&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_5_7

Heated Mouse: https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=heated+mouse&crid=2JS3HJ98FJEEN&sprefix=heated+mouse%2Caps%2C374&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_3_12

https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=heated+mouse&rh=n%3A680462011&dc&crid=2JS3HJ98FJEEN&qid=1641949205&rnid=5264023011&sprefix=heated+mouse%2Caps%2C374&ref=sr_nr_n_3

Heated keyboard:  I have not included a link as there seem to be very few around.  There is an actual heater for the keyboard: https://www.thisiswhyimbroke.com/ca/infrared-keyboard-hand-warmer/  but it seems most options are for an actual pad for the entire surface needed for the keyboard AND mouse.

Heated keyboard mat/mouse pad:  https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=heated+keyboard+mat+for+desk&crid=3CF6DWUYF4U3C&sprefix=heated+keyboard+mat%2Caps%2C274&ref=nb_sb_ss_midas-iss-hred_2_19

Heated keyboard gloves: https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=heated+keyboard+gloves&crid=1L0DX7YZ2KHFA&sprefix=heated+keyboard%2Caps%2C278&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_3_15

Heated Clothing: https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=heated&ref=bnav_search_go

I would like to briefly address backups, as when the grid fails (Storms) those of us who rely on electricity, and without a generator can get cold awfully fast.  We should all have an alternative, emergency heat source, safe, certified for inside use, fuel heater.  

The Buddy line is well known https://www.amazon.ca/Mr-Heater-F274865-Portable-Massachusetts/dp/B005EEYBI4/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=Buddy+heater&qid=1641949590&sr=8-3

I, personally, prefer and use the Heatmate that uses kerosene.  Yes, is certified and intended for indoor use, and we have a CO detector that has never registered anything (except when the door was left open to the deck and someone was running the 5hp generator for the fridge/freezers).  We relied on it for over 6 weeks (Nov/Dec) after we lost power due to a fire.  Easily kept our living room/kitchen toasty, where it was located, and the bedrooms and bathrooms farther down were easily kept above 50F - total house is 1500sq ft. It was quite economical, each fill of the 1.2 gallon tank is supposedly good for 14 hours, but on low, or only used for a bit, it would last for several days, easily.  We can raise or lower temperature, by adjusting flame height, and frankly, only ran it about 8 hours a day, or it got too hot in the house (we usually in the 50-65F range indoors), oh and the dogs LOVED it.  Outside temps would have been in the 30's F.
https://www.amazon.ca/HMN-110-Radiant-Kerosene-Heater-10000/dp/B002JPRKYI/ref=sr_1_2?crid=39X7XTX6RYLU3&keywords=heatmate&qid=1641949663&sprefix=heatmate%2Caps%2C299&sr=8-2

 
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Julie Harris wrote:caution ... against using electric blankets.  

we turn on the blanket an hour or two before retiring for the night; and turn it OFF when we go to bed.  the bed is warm enough to get comfortably off to sleep.  (it almost seems decadent in our 'live simply' and 'buy less' goals, but the blanket was inherited and one VERY cold night we decided to give it a try.  hard to give up 'cozy' now...)
 
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It was always cold in our kitchen, even in summer.  House is on a slab and apparently there is a spring under the kitchen floor.  So a fatigue mat over the cold spot helped that situation.  The window over the sink has a long crack in it,  and just a cold draft there anyway from inadequate caulking.  Caulked the window, still not enough.  Wrapped the window screens which are removable, with clear lightweight plastic wrap.  That helped.  Put bubble wrap, smooth side out, over the double window on the outside but larger than the window to prevent any air leaks around the edges.  That did it.  Under the sink it was cold inside the cabinet, so put closed cell foam board there, but had to cut into smaller pieces to get it behind the plumbing because it was tight in there and the foam board is not flexible.  Worked great.  At last I have a warm kitchen, and not only that, it made the entire house warmer.  
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:
(for those facing summer and hot weather, you might find these threads more useful right now 20 ways to REALLY reduce your summer utility bills and Cool the Person, not the Space and Natural Air Conditioning)



New, modern homes are sealed up so tight that many windows aren't even opened to allow natural breezes through the house. That is a shame as those breezes also carry out the "smells" as well as cooling and refreshing the inside air.

Most people will just go over and turn the thermostats to cool an entire house when all they need is just one room cooled, or even just one person cooled, which could be accommodated in a different manner - and at much less cost.
 
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A couple more thoughts...when you are making that hot drink, heat a little larger amount of water, put it in a hot water bottle (yes they still make them!) wrap it in a towel and snuggle it next to you. Keeps your core warm. Or use an empty canning jar. One fall I slept comfortably on our screen porch til the middle of November and in northern Vermont ( nights were below freezing by then), with a used army sleeping bag on a foam pad on an army cot, a hot water bottle filled with very hot water and well wrapped in a bath towel, and a $5 yard sale comforter over the sleeping bag, and the hot water bottle was still warm in the AM. Heat the foot of the bed first, then move the heat source to your core. And there was a reason our ancestors wore nightcaps, reduced heat loss.

It also occurs to me that you could put an emergency blanket (ie space blanket ie mylar sleeping bag) under your mattress pad and not waste body heat, maybe a second one sandwiched between two top coverings. Get a couple of tag sale flannel sheets, quilt the mylar in between them. SKIP points, maybe?
 
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Can anyone please explain what lanolin doing different things above and below room temperature means? Surely on your skin it would pretty much stay above room temp?

Also, for the last sixteen years we've had a waterbed. This has a bag each side so we can change the amount of water giving different firmness, has some sort of wadding to minimise motion, and a very small heat pad each side. Warm in the winter, off and cooling in the summer. I'm also not sure how it would wear out? I think it's awesome :)
 
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Amit Enventres wrote:31 ways to reduce heating costs in winter and for less than $30. If properly used, their payback is less than 1 year.

Quilted window coverings. Most windows, including double pane have an r-value of 4 or less, whereas  a modern insulated wall has an r-value of 15 or more. Quilted covers, or the like, can be made from emergency blankets, moving blankets, or fancier material, and will easily  double the insulation on your windows.

Make use of solar heat. During sunny cold days, you can still get the equivalent of a wood burning stove going full blast from the sun beaming in large South-facing windows (in the northern hemisphere). If you don't have large South facing windows, you can still get some benefit from East and West facing windows, if the curtains are open when the sun comes in and closed when it is not. Opening and closing windows treatments is free heating. Although still new technology, you may be able to find automated window treatments connecting to your smart home system.

Close off large North facing windows (in the northern hemisphere). Windows to the north mean an r-4 wall in your coldest wind direction. If you have large windows in this direction see if you can block them off with extra thick window quilts, window shutters, furniture, or if the have a bad view, turn them into a highly insulated wall and hang a picture. You can make working window shutters for a 3'x5’ window for about 20 dollars and thick window treatments for less than 10.

Use a heated blanket or mat instead of a space heater. A space heater is about 7x more energy consumptive than an electric blanket, and much more drying. Therefore, on average a heated blanket running 10 hours a day for a month will cost 9 dollars to run, but a space heater running the same amount of time would cost $45. Electric blankets can be found for as little as $20, new.

Comfortable warm clothes. A yummy soft robe and slippers out a cardigan and tall socks might not seem like a reasonable purchase until you realize you can drop the temperature of your thermostat a degree or two, lowering your heating bill 1-3% for every degree.

Properly place furniture. Outside walls, especially next to windows, are the coldest places in a room. They are great for book shelves, media centers, and other things people don't tend to hang around. Place the furniture people hang out on in the center of the house, especially next to heating vents, where it is warmer. Put the heated fish tank by the couch, where they will compliment each other's heat needs and provide entertainment. These rearrangements can cut make your home more comfortable, lower your thermostat, and reduce your need for secondary secondary heaters.

Cook food instead of take out or delivery. An oven can produce 10,000 BTUs of heat per hour, and a cheaper dinner than eating out. 10,000 BTUs is about ⅙ the output need to heat a standard insulated 2,000 sqft home.

Section off heated spaces. Close the vents in the guest room or other rarely used spaces. Keep the doors shut. Use a piece of elastic to spring the door shut if people are prone to forgetting to do so. When asleep, lower the house temperature and use smaller heating apparatuses to heat yourself and/or the room. A piece of elastic and the nails from door to door frame costs about $3.

Install a programmable thermostat. A simple programmable thermostat costs about $20 and can dramatically lower your heat bill by only heating to comfortable when you need it to.

Set your thermostat to only vary about 10 degrees. Over a ten degree variation takes more energy than it saves.
Insure tight gaskets around your doors and windows. Gaskets are less than $10 and stop or slow the breeze around doors. Heat loss around poorly gasketed doors has-been estimated to 20%.

Have a family sleepover. Most little kids don't want to sleep alone anyway and many cultures have a family bed and shared rooms. On especially cold nights, have a sleepover for your family in one room. This can include the dogs and cats. You can drastically reduce your overnight heating costs by only heating one room with many people.

Use lanolin and other high temperature body oils as moisturizers. High temperature oils become solid below room temperature, which makes them insulate. They become liquid above room temperature, cooling your skin. Using these to keep your skin moist in the dry, chapping winter air can make you just that much more comfortable and costs the same as conventional skin moisturizers.

Exercise at home. Heating yourself and reducing your need for additional heat.

Have friends over. With more people there's more body heat and more activity, meaning an easier time for your heating system.

Visit local hang outs so you can lower your thermostat ten degree while you're gone.

Block an unused fireplace. Even a fireplace with a damper can suck hot air out of your house. Closing it off with the same vigorousness you would other walls and ceilings helps reduce heat loss. Remember to clear the block if you want to start a fire.

Eat healthy, take care of yourself. Getting sick often means you need to turn up the heat. Reduce unnecessary exposure to illness and take care of your body. This is usually the cheaper option for medical expenses too.

Place a windbreak on the winter wind side of your house made of cheap fast growing trees. It will take them a while to grow, but in 5 years you will notice a difference. Fast growing bare root trees can be purchased for as little as $1 a piece. Insure they are far enough away from things that can be destroyed by roots.

Fill insulation gaps. Although many gaps are in hard to reach places and can be pricey, sometimes the gaps are easy to find and fix, like between the first floor and the walls of an unfinished basement, or around plugs on outer walls and window caulking. The materials vary, depending on the hole your pluging but usually way under $30. Plugging these holes can be more important than thickening wall insulation.

Adjust your furnace intake location with a bench. Sometimes the intake for the forced air unit is located by a window, pulling in cold air from outside rather than cycling the warm air from inside. A bench is sometimes all that is needed to direct the air intake towards the room, instead of the window, behind a curtain. A bench can be made out of a 2”x6” piece of wood cut in three pieces and attached with 6 long screws, and a 1”x2” for stability. Doing this project yourself can cost about $20.

Insulate ducting from an unfinished, rarely used basement. A roll of insulation can cost about $15.

Use thermal masses in areas with sunny days and frigid nights. A thermal mass is something heavy that absorbs a lot of heat before it changes temperature and releases a lot of heat before it changes temperature. Basically, a heat battery. They are usually rock, clay, cobb or cement. But can also be a house plant. Be sure your floor is capable of holding the weight of the thermal mass, as some are quite heavy. Set the thermal mass where it will get the most sun and then let it do its job.

Cover or pull in your window unit air conditioner. Air conditioners leak air. Covering them or pulling them in reduces that.

Protect air vents from wind. Some crawl spaces have air vents. These keep the space from building up moisture, but can also cause cold air to penetrate under a house and seep in, especially when exposed to wind. At ground level these can be blocked from wind with a stack of firewood, a big rock, or some evergreen bushes.

Avoid using the bathroom vent fan except when taking a long shower. Bathroom vents suck hot air right out of the house, exactly what you don't need in winter. For stinky situations, try a scented candle in a fire safe location.

Use heated lighting for your sitting areas during winter. They cost as much to run as a heated blanket, but give the feel of a nice summer's day. The bulb costs about $8, can fit some regular lamps or a $10 heat lamp fixture.

Take winter walks. Human bodies can adapt a little, so experiencing winter can help you be comfortable with less heat.

Make a thermos full of warm drink. With a short spurt of heating you have a hand warmer and body warmer. This is great for needing to warm up after the walk. Rather than hiking up the thermostat to defrost you, drink up.

Move to a smaller house or take on some roommates. Along with saving money on property costs and maintenance, smaller spaces are cheaper to heat.

Strategically place blankets. A warm blanket or two on a couch, several more on your need, one in the recliner can help keep you cozy without raising the thermostat.

When you save on heating you save on money. Even if you can only do one change listed here the first year, you'll be able to do two the next year and four the following because these projects, if done with thought for your situation, can pay for themselves in very little time, leading you to bigger projects with higher pay offs sooner than you thought. Spread the word.



Thank you so much for this brilliant post, Amit!
 
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My house is chilly at the moment, and my go-to for getting myself up to do things that are not sitting warm on the couch is my rice bag scarf.  Long enough to tie around my waist, I microwave it for a few minutes and then I have a portable source of warmth that doesn't require the use of my hands.  I made the scarf, so I don't know if one can buy them or just be forced to do the creation route.  There are baffles sewn in to keep the rice in place, so little pouches of warm don't drizzle down to only one end.  I also put some mulling spices mixed in with the rice so it smells nice!
 
pollinator
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Thanks for reminding me of the rice bag idea Erika. My partner just pulled a back muscle and that could be comforting.
Some great concepts in this thread. Every person is unique. I happen to like setting up a tent in a unheated or low heat space. Or a bedroom tent inside of a tent. The inner tent can be 20 degrees or so warmer than the room just from body heat. And I love fabric and organic shapes. My dream house is a big shop with some tents and perhaps a aircrete dome inside. And a outside kitchen.
 
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Amy Gardener wrote:Rick has a great question about blocking the fireplace. I would love to see some pictures showing different strategies. Form + function =  an art project! The approach here with the kiva-style fireplace (like a sideways D shape) is to put a 4 inch thick upholstered cushion inside the threshold to the opening. The cushion is 1" larger all the way around so the cushion is held in place with the compressive pressure of the foam. It works well though I want to upgrade the look with new upholstery fabric. Show us your covers Permies!


There's something called the chimney balloon. Available in the UK (https://www.chimneyballoon.co.uk/), , USA (https://www.shopchimney.com/chimney-balloons/) and I guess anywhere else.

Some other points:
Beware placing bookshelves and other furniture against external walls - you need something of a gap to allow for air movement and prevent condensation.
Heat is precious: pouring hot cooking liquors down the drain is a crime. It will take a not much more time to extract the cooked products with a holey spoon and put the lid back on.
Water that needs to evaporate absorbs heat: I'm talking wet laundry, towels, shower surrounds, condensation on windows. Extract what you can and lose it down the drain, as water. A flannel can help you dry off after a bath/shower, you can wring it out and use a smaller towel - which'll take less laundering and subsequent drying.
There's an encapsulated wax based product that can be included in plaster, or comes in plasterboard - not cheap. It serves as thermal mass, but being a phase change material at a convenient temperature (about 20C, 68F) it can hold more for its weight. I'm thinking that - does it need to be in plaster? I've a coconut oil based deodorant that was given to me. I can't use it in winter - too solid. I can in summer. So do I need a crate of them to help be save some summer heat into autumn, perhaps winter?

An energy-guru mate of mine has set up this website, relevant for domestic users: https://www.getenergysavvy.info
 
Bring me the box labeled "thinking cap" ... and then read this tiny ad:
An EPA Certified and Building Code/UL Compliant Rocket Stove!!!!!
EPA Certified and UL Compliant Rocket Heater
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