We all have some kind of heater in our house to make the winters bearable and keep up warm when the temperatures dip, but you don’t have to rely on that old workhorse to do everything. Whether you have old fashioned radiators, a gas furnace, or a heat pump they all cost money to operate. Back in the old days people didn’t have the modern heaters we have today. They were reliant on the fireplace and passive heating to keep warm.
Just because we have the modern technology keeping us warm at night doesn’t mean we can’t also use some of those passive ways to stay warm to supplement our heaters. Not only is passive heating a money saver, but it’s good for the environment because it happens naturally with very little work on your part.
Keep reading and you’ll find 7 free ways to keep your house warm this winter that are passive and don’t require you to adjust the thermostat. Start doing one or two of these and save some bucks, or do them all and watch the savings add up quickly.
Light a Fire at Night
If you’ve got a working fireplace use it. Especially, if you have an old house where the fireplace was actually built with the purpose of heating the house. A roaring fire certainly does a lot to keep you warm and toasty, but there is a secondary benefit that lasts long after the fire is out.
If you have a big fire roaring for a few hours before bedtime a lot of that heat is stored up in the thermal mass of the chimney bricks and will radiate out into your house throughout the night. Heat those bricks good, extinguish the fire before you go to bed and let the laws of thermodynamics keep you warm all night.
It’s no secret that glass is not a good insulator. Even double or triple-paned windows are a weak point in the thermal envelope of your house. So what can you do if you don’t want to live in a cave without windows? You can hang some winter drapes. There are lots of thick materials or even thermal drapes meant for just this application that act like putting a jacket on your windows.
Keep the drapes closed tightly at night to seal out the cold drafts and you’ll be amazed how helpful this one tip is for your overall comfort if you use the right materials.
Let in the Sun
Did you hang those heavy drapes? Great! Now open them up wide. Wait, what? You heard me. In wintertime, heavy drapes work best closed when the sun is down and wide open on a sunny day. Even if it’s -10° outside the sun is still a big ball of fire in the sky that gives off radiant heat. That heat, in the form of solar heat gain, will go right thru your window glass and warm the interior of your house.
Also, in the winter the sun is at a lower angle in the sky which has the added benefit of allowing more sunlight into your windows. So, no matter the outside temps, open up your windows when you get a day of winter sunshine.
Skip the Microwave
I know we live in a microwave culture so I won’t be offended if you don’t do this one, but cooking dinner using the stove and oven rather than the microwave means you get the side benefit of heating the kitchen area as a side effect of cooking a great meal. A lot of heat is generated and lost into the room during the cooking process and while it annoys you in the summer there is no reason you can’t turn it to your advantage in the winter.
I even took the opportunity to use the automatic cleaning feature on my oven on a particularly cold day this year because it is a 3-hour cycle where your oven heats up to its highest temperatures to burn off all the drippings and leftover food that inevitably gets left in the oven over time. That cleaning cycle kept my kitchen warm for more than half a day with all that residual heat.
Close Unused Rooms
If you’ve got rooms that no one uses then let’s mothball them for the winter. Close the HVAC vents in them and keep the door closed. There’s no need to be heating the guest room unless the guest are actually coming to stay, and even then it depends who the guests are and if you want them to stay very long.
By closing off these unused rooms you keep the heat where it needs to be and doesn’t waste your money heating unused spaces.
Take a Hot Bath
Maybe you’re not a bath person, but hear me out. Drawing a steaming hot bath has more benefits than you might think. First you get clean, a good thing. Second, soaking in very hot water warms you up better than a shower. Third, that heat has to go somewhere and, just like the fireplace, that old cast iron or steel tub will retain the heat and disperse it through the bathroom for a while after the water is gone.
And don’t drain the water right away. When you’re done, wait until the water has completely cooled to drain the tub so you get all the residual heat from the bath water transferred into your house.
Grab an Extra Blanket
My wife is a cold-natured person which means that even in Florida she keeps an electric blanket on the couch all year long. I know. But rather than heating the whole house to your liking it’s much cheaper to heat yourself. Wether that means an electric blanket or an extra cozy sweatshirt you have the ability to keep warmer without sending that cash to your utility company.
Sp there you have it! 7 free ways to keep warm this winter without turning your heater on. There’s lot of opportunities for savings if you just think it through a little more. So before you go install a new thermostat or turn that dial, think if you’ve done some of these tips and ad them to your routine. I know you’ll enjoy the savings and stay much warmer this winter.
What are some other ways you have found to stay warm in the winter that I missed? Let me know in the comments below.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.
5 thoughts on “7 Free Ways to Keep Warm This Winter”
I keep an electric blanket on my couch all winter. It really helps keep my pups and myself warm. My house is 105 years old, and is heated with gas fireplaces. I close off all unused rooms upstairs. Not a perfect solution, but it helps.
Investing in an electric blanket was the best purchase I’ve ever made. Even if you don’t want to sleep with it turned on, you can warm up your bed 15 minutes prior to retiring…especially nice to crawl into a warm bed when the room is chilly.
How fascinating that all those tips are how folks heated their homes before furnaces & radiators. Ha! The cycle of life….
At how low a temperature can we set the rooms that are occupied rarely in the winter? The entire downstairs is constantly used. The upstairs bathroom, two bedrooms and loft are not.
Dedicated makeup air is a necessity when using a wood stove. Otherwise, the stove draft will get air from wherever it can and discomfort may be realized in other areas of the house. Sources would be around doors, windows, outlets, water heater, furnace or boiler. The last three can cause CO and other pollution irritants.
Humidity is also a key factor for comfort. Dry air (less than 30% RH) at 70F may still feel chilly especially if there is moving air (oscillating or ceiling fans). RH of 45% will help reduce influenza viruses.
We have down quilts on our beds and it allows us to keep the rooms cooler. I sleep better in a cool room but am always toasty with down.