I live in an older house. It’s not too fancy, but it features things like wood heat, an independent water supply and a million dollar view with a frugal price tag. In the Northern winter, however, I notice exactly how drafty and chilly our little house is! The breeze off the lake also increases the nip in the air. With an older wood stove as our only source of heat, the rooms more distant from the stove move from chilly to downright COLD.
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. For some SHTF heating ideas, this article has some fantastic and inexpensive tips.
I rent 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.
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 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 a heavy blanket, taking care to overlap the wall and window edges with it. Over that, we hung thermal curtains that remain closed.
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.
Note: This list isn’t comprehensive – these are the things that we do at our little home in the woods.
What do you do to stay warmer at your house during the winter? Share your cozy ideas in the comments section!