Keeping the Heat on

Whether cold weather is just around the bend or about to fade away for another season, it is always best to be prepared for the season. How does one accomplish this on a tight budget? This may seem difficult, but with a little preparation, it is possible to spend a cozy winter season without spending everything else.

The first step to cold weather preparation is a trip to the store. Time this excursion carefully, as you want good quality without paying quality prices. Every store in your area, even those in walking distance, will have some sort of seasonal shift sale. Set back a few dollars when you are able and watch the numbers. Many times, you will find that the retailers in your area become so desperate to sell their cold weather gear that they cut prices to fractions of the original cost. While this is not true of camping or hunting stores, few other places want to hang on to merchandise that will clutter their stockrooms over the coming months.

On this trip, purchase gear for each person in your household. It is preferable to get one size up for children, as they may not wear it until the next cold season. If possible, purchase two of everything for each individual you are shopping for. Scarves, gloves, hats that will cover ears and heavy coats are all sale items right now, so stock up and enjoy the sense of accomplishment when you pull out your needed gear next year.

Feet are also something to remember as you gather your cold weather equipment. Often, people remember that heat leaves the body through the head, and purchase accordingly. However, icy cold feet are sure to make you feel colder than you may really be, and you are at risk of frostbite as well. Try to get winter house-socks or slip-on house shoes that come partway up your legs, rather than the cute-but-impractical ones that only cover most of your foot. While having a cartoon character on your feet may make you smile, it won’t keep as much of you warm in the long term. Fold a pair of trouser socks in with your winter ones, and wear them doubled. With toasty toes, you’ll be more likely to keep moving, rather than huddling in the blankets and losing the heat that activity can generate.

This brings us to our next point. Bundling up in the blankets may sound cozy, and it can be a lifesaver when the weather is truly bitter and dangerous. For most winter days, though, it is best to try to keep moving for at least a portion of the day. Exercise warms you up, as any child in sports can tell you. While you don’t want to break a heavy sweat, keeping mobile even by going back and forth doing laundry can give you an extra boost of warmth and allow you to turn that heater down a touch.

While we are on the subject of the dryer, remember to clean both your lint trap and your outdoor vent. Then, pile up that laundry you have been putting off and throw it in. Running your washer can help keep your water lines from freezing, and the dryer will warm the area it is in.

You can achieve a similar effect by pulling out that stew pot you don’t use all summer and brewing up a big vat of potato and onion soup. The food will warm you twice, once in the making and again in the eating.  Add a decent amount of cayenne pepper to the soup, and you get a glowing internal heat that can hold you at a better temperature for hours. Additionally, your body temperature goes up when you are digesting.

Block off the cracks under doors with blankets, towels, or those cute snake things that the previous generation will gladly teach you to make. Buy a bit of weather stripping if possible, and run around your doors with it. The amount of heat this simple step can retain is really amazing. Consider covering your windows with towels, or making hanging curtains with towels you can get at the dollar store. Add some thread, a needle, a tension rod and a bit of committed time sewing and you can increase the insulation in your house. It’s also nice to be able to coordinate with your rooms, resulting in a cozier feel than just hanging things up any way. When in a pinch, however, any way you can keep the heat in and the cold out will do!

If you have a bundle of plumbing under your kitchen sink like most people, latching that cabinet and hanging a couple of layered beach towels over the cabinet doors can help with retaining heat as well. You can latch the cabinets with something as simple as a spare twist tie from a loaf of bread, or something as sophisticated as a spring-loaded latch from the hardware store. Either way, you are out little to nothing financially, and you have blocked another place that precious heat can easily escape from. There is the added benefit that your kitchen will start out warmer when you go in to make your giant vat of soup.

Be ready with the tea, cocoa and apple cider packets. If you don’t already have a stove top tea kettle, start shopping the garage sales this spring. Having one or two on hand can feel like a lifesaver when cold weather hits. While you can use the microwave for the same technical purpose, there are a few subtle benefits to using a kettle instead.

For instance, the air is often dryer in winter than we realize, resulting in chapped lips and cracked skin. A kettle will release at least a bit of moisture into the air in your home, helping to bring that area back in balance a bit. Additionally, it is much easier and more efficient to heat up water for more than one person in a kettle rather than one cup at a time in the microwave. Furthermore, if you are the only person involved, it often stays warm long enough for a second cup of your hot drink, preventing you from expending any more bill money.

Remember to stay connected with your utility companies. They are often more than willing, during severe weather of any sort, to work out payment arrangements to keep the heat on. This is really an all season tip, but definitely worth a mention here. There is no reason that you should be without heat in extreme cold or without electricity in extreme heat. The corporate companies want you to survive to keep paying them, and the people that work there do care about the people in the community. Swallow your pride, if you have to, and make the call.

Speaking of swallowing pride, if you are in truly dire straits, contact your local DHS office. Get information on the Share the Warmth program they run. This program is also designed to keep the heat on when you are running out of options.

From blankets and food to connecting with people who can help, there are multiple ways to stay warm when the cold hits. Be safe, use your common sense, and have a beautiful winter season!