One way to cut your dependency on utilities is to figure out non-tech ways to stay warm in the winter. From a prepping point of view, using less heat allows you to extend your fuel supply. (If you are totally without heat, greater measures would need to be taken than the ones listed here.)
We rent our home, so it isn’t feasible to insulate or replace the windows and wood stove with more efficient models. So, in the interest of non-tech solutions, here are a few ways that we keep warmer without plugging in the electric space heaters.
- Keep your wrists and ankles covered. Wear shirts with sleeves long enough to keep your wrists covered and long socks that keep your ankles covered. You lose a great deal of heat from those two areas.
- Get some long-johns. Wearing long underwear beneath your jeans or PJ’s will work like insulation to keep your body heat in. I like the silky kind sold by discount stores like Wal-Mart for indoor use, rather than the sturdier outdoor type sold by ski shops.
- Wear slippers. You want to select house shoes with a solid bottom rather than the slipper sock type. This forms a barrier between your feet and the cold floor. We keep a basket of inexpensive slippers in varying sizes by the door for visitors because it makes such a big difference. Going around in your stocking feet on a cold floor is a certain way to be chilled right through.
- Get up and get moving. It goes without saying that physical activity will increase your body temperature. If you’re cold, get up and clean something, dance with your kids, play tug-of-war with the dog, or do a chore. I often bring in a few loads of wood to get my blood flowing and get warmed up.
- Pile on the blankets. If you’re going to be sitting down, have some layered blankets available. Our reading area has polar fleece blankets which we top with fluffy comforters for a cozy place to relax.
- Use a hot water bottle. If you’re just sitting around try placing a hot water bottle (carefully wrapped to avoid burns) under the blankets with you.
- Use rice bags. If you don’t have the ready-made ones, you can simply place dry rice in a clean sock. Heat this in the microwave, if you use one, for about a minute, or place in a 100 degree oven, watching carefully, for about 10 minutes. I keep some rice bags in a large ceramic crock beside the wood stove so they are constantly warm. You can put your feet on them or tuck them under the blankets on your lap.
- Insulate using items you have. A friend recommended lining the interior walls with bookcases or hanging decorative quilts and blankets on the walls to add an extra layer of insulation. It definitely makes a difference because it keeps heat in and cold air out. If you look at pictures of old castles you will see lovely tapestry wall-hangings – this was to help insulate the stone walls, which absorbed the cold and released it into the space.
- Layer your windows. Our house has large lovely picture windows for enjoying the view. However, they’re single pane and it’s hard to enjoy the view if your teeth are chattering. We took the rather drastic step of basically closing off all of the windows but one in each room for the winter. We insulated by placing draft blockers at the bottom in the window sill (I just used rolled up polar fleece – I’m not much of a sew-er.) This was topped by an inexpensive plastic vapor barrier, sealed with duct tape and taking care to overlap the wall and window edges with it. Over that, we hung thermal curtains that remain closed.
- Get a rug. If you have hardwood, tile or laminate flooring, an area rug is a must. Like the blankets on the walls, this is another layer of insulation between you and the great outdoors. We have no basement so our floor is very chilly. A rug in the living room protects our feet from the chill.
- Wear a scarf. No, not like a big heavy wool scarf that you’d wear outdoors – just a small, lightweight one that won’t get in your way and annoy you. This serves two purposes. First, it covers a bit more exposed skin. Secondly, it keeps body heat from escaping out the neck of your shirt.
- Burn candles. Especially in a smaller space, a burning candle can raise the temperature a couple of degrees.
- Cuddle. Share your body heat under the blankets when you’re watching movies or reading a book.
- Sip a hot beverage. We use travel mugs to keep our drinks hot and nearly always have coffee, cocoa, tea or hot cider close at hand. It warms you from the inside out.
- Wear fingerless gloves and hats. When it’s really really cold, wear a stocking cap and some fingerless gloves in the house. Your fingers will be free to allow you to perform your tasks and the hat will help keep heat from escaping your body. You can cut the fingers off of mismatched gloves for a freebie source of these. I especially like using the stretchy dollar store gloves for this purpose, as they are less bulky and don’t get in my way.
- Close off unneeded rooms. Concentrate your heat on the room where you spend most of your time. Be sure to keep rooms with plumbing warm enough that your pipes won’t freeze. You can hang curtains in the doorways to keep your primary living space cozy.