10 Ways to Stay Warm and Win the Thermostat Wars

Photo (cc) by C Jill Reed

My ex-husband frequently complained about being cold. We lived in a drafty trailer in Alaska, and he was always turning up the heat. I was always sneaking it back down.

In other words, we fought on opposite sides of the Thermostat Wars.

As the weather cools this fall and winter, the same skirmishes may break out in your household. Thermostats go up and down, complaints and counteraccusations fly like shrapnel.

The collateral damage, unfortunately, is your utility bill.

Winterizing your domicile could mean a truce. But some places (like trailers!) are not likely to be toasty warm no matter how much caulk you apply and how much heating oil you burn.

If you’ve done all you can to winterize your home and it’s still drafty or downright cold, try winterizing yourself. These 13 tactics can help keep your core temperature up and your utility costs down.

1. Layer up

I hate to sound like your grandma, but here goes: Wear long underwear under your slacks. It won’t make you look lumpy because it’s available in a variety of fibers, including polypropylene and even silk. Or just wear tights.

You could also put on a T-shirt (or long underwear shirt) topped by a blouse/shirt. If it’s really cold, add a sweater, sweatshirt or fleece layer. Choose wool socks over cotton ones. Like long underwear, wool socks have greatly improved in terms of style and comfort.

Wear fur or felt slippers around the house. A contractor once told me that if your feet are warm, your head is warm. If you own one of those drafty historic houses, you might need to don a hat or cap in the house and/or wrap a scarf around your neck. Either one can be a stylin’ look if you do it right.

Oh, and tuck in that shirt. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes. (Hint: You’re tucking in body heat.)

2. Go where the warmth is

Take up residence in the better-insulated room instead of sitting in the drafty parlor. Shut the door, if there is one — two or three people in a closed-up room will contribute body heat. You also get the figurative warmth of togetherness.

Don’t have a “warmest” room, only less-shivery ones? Use a space heater to fill the most comfortable room with BTUs, then turn it off and let that togetherness factor take over.

Be extremely cautious, however. According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters are responsible for one-third of heating-related fires and 80 percent of deaths in heating-related fires. Check out the NFPA’s list of safety tips.

3. Redecorate the room — and yourself — for winter

Move your favorite furnishings into the least drafty parts of the room. That picture window may have great light for reading, but, boy, is it chilly. Scoot the high-backed sofa into the spot once dominated by those Morris chairs.

And don’t just sit there. Put a chenille throw on your lap or a rice sock around your neck, or get yourself one of those heated throws (sort of a mini-electric blanket) to stay comfortable while doing paperwork, reading or watching television. I have all three items but prefer the rice sock because it’s so solidly warm.

4. Take a motion break

Go up and down the stairs a few times. Walk around the house for five minutes. Do some basic stretches, yoga moves or even pushups. Or take a walk outdoors, because when you come back in, the house will seem mighty cozy.

Bonus: Whatever method you choose means a touch of good-for-you exercise.

5. Sip hot drinks

Tea, coffee, cocoa or even hot water with a slice of lemon will warm your insides. Holding the hot mug or cup is soothing to chilly fingers. The heat stays with you for a good long time.

Remember that cocoa has a lot of calories, and too much coffee might keep you awake, so be judicious about refills.

6. Eat hot foods

Hot foods will warm you up inside. Keep something delicious simmering in the slow cooker, because the fragrant promise of a hot supper is emotionally warming.

Got a bread machine? Put that on a timer, too, so you either wake up or come home to fresh bread.

I once interviewed a single mother who set both appliances up each morning so that on dark, cold winter nights, she and her children came home to a house that smelled delicious and to meals that didn’t break her fragile budget.

7. Warm your kitchen

If you don’t work outside the home, do your cooking and/or baking during the day instead of in the late afternoon or early evening. That way, you’re adding extra heat when you need it most instead of when you’re relaxing with a book in the evening.

Run the dishwasher during the day, too. Partway through the drying cycle, turn off the machine and open it to release heat and a little extra humidity into the house’s winter-dry atmosphere.

8. Prewarm the bed

Start with flannel or jersey sheets, which are so much cozier than diving into a pool of icy percale. Some people swear by electric blankets and others prefer down comforters.

Quilts have their champions. My childhood home had no heat on the second floor or in the attic, but the patchwork quilts our great-grandmother made for each of us did the trick.

9. Dress for dreamland

Long johns work under a nightshirt or nightgown, as do sweatpants. You can also leave on the wool socks.

Remember that people used to cover their heads at night, so don’t rule out some kind of headgear. Consider an acrylic knit cap from the dollar store or a polypro hat.

People also used to have curtains around the bed, creating a still air space warmed by body heat and breathing.

10. Buddy up

Add warmth by letting your cat or dog sleep on the bed, or at least in the same room. Or, for that matter, let them sit on your lap or next to you on the sofa during the day. This is good for your emotional thermometer as well as your internal one.

What are your favorite ways to stay cozy in the winter? Share your thoughts in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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