No-tech or low-tech solutions to stay warm this winter and save energy

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Each winter, many of us walk the line between trying to keep warm and also conserve energy. We want to be comfortable in our homes, but we are also worried about the amount of energy we are using and the price of our bills.

Even if the sight of an energy bill doesn’t fill you with dread, very few people are happy to waste energy unnecessarily. With this in mind, we created a list of easy no-tech or low-tech solutions to help keep you warm this winter.

Close up any unused rooms

If you rarely use certain rooms during the winter, you can close the doors and turn down the heating in those rooms. This reduces the amount of space you have to heat and can drastically lower your energy bills.

It is also worth considering what you are using the rooms for. If you are sitting in one room for long periods of time, it will need to be kept warmer, as this is when we feel the coldest. The rooms where you hardly sit but move around a lot, which can be the kitchen, may not need to be as warm as the other rooms.

It’s not recommended to entirely turn off the heating. If the room is too cold, any warm air that seeps in from the rest of the house can form condensation on the walls, which may lead to mold or fungus growth.

Seal leaks in windows and doors

Some of the major causes of winter discomfort in our homes are drafts. Even if the overall room temperature is fairly high, sitting in a draft can make us feel cold. It is a good idea then to remove cold drafts that enter through windows and doors.

There are many ways to seal drafty windows. You can buy foam tape to fill the gaps or run a bead of caulk around the edges. If you don’t plan on opening the windows through the winter months and you don’t mind how it looks, you can even use duct tape or scotch tape to close up the gaps.

Insulate with a layer of clear plastic and bubble wrap in unused rooms

You can add an extra layer of insulation by placing a plastic film on the inside of your windows. This works like a low-tech double-paned window and can lower direct heat loss through the glass.

For maximum benefits, you can add a layer or two of bubble wrap between the window pane and plastic film. The trapped air in bubble wrap makes it a great thermal insulator. This will block your view through the window, but it is ok in seldom used rooms.

Use curtains

Thermally lined curtains can drastically reduce drafts from leaky windows and also help to slow heat loss out of the room. You can use curtains as a way to stop drafts and trap heat in other parts of the house too. If possible, hang curtains at the bottom of staircases to stop the heat being drawn upstairs.

Remember to always open the curtains during daylight hours, so the house is naturally heated by the sun.

Move furniture away from drafts

This might sound simple, but we often get so used to the position of our furniture that moving it never occurs to us. If your favorite chair is in a drafty spot, you may be tempted to turn up the thermostat when all you need to do is find a warmer place for it.

Use screens

If your living room or the room you spend most of your time in is quite open, consider using a portable screen to create a sheltered and draft free spot. Screens have been used for many thousands of years in Asian cultures for exactly this purpose.

Folding screens come in a variety of heights and lengths, and can serve as a room divider or as a decoration throughout the rest of the year.

Wrap up

The simplest way to keep you warm and save on your energy bills is to wear suitable clothing. A comfortable temperature for a house is around about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are cold at this temperature, try wearing more clothing. Even if you have to buy a couple more warm sweaters, you will save in the long run by reducing your heating expenses.

Personal heating

If you or someone you live with is more sensitive to the cold, it can create a thermostat tug-of-war in the household. You turn it up, I turn it down. A good solution to this is personal heating devices for those who need them.

This can be as low-tech as an electric blanket or heat pad, or a hot water bottle — If you’ve never seen one, look it up. It’s as low tech as possible. This way the cold sensitive person can stay as cozy as they like and everyone else can store their shorts away for summer.

Lower the thermostat

By creating smaller spaces, using personal heating devices, blocking drafts and wearing warm clothing, we can feel the actual temperature of the house and set our thermostat accordingly. Try maintaining the temperature in the rooms you use often at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit or lower if it’s comfortable for you.

Set back thermostat

If you are out during the day, you can lower your thermostat by -7 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. This can save you upto 10% on your heating bill, according to the United States Department of Energy's Energy Saver.

Running your heating throughout the day while you aren’t at home is a huge waste of energy. In moderate climates, you may be able to switch it off entirely. However, in colder areas, just reducing the temperature on your thermostat can add up to significant savings.

Check humidity

Humidity can make us feel colder in winter, so it’s worth checking the humidity levels in your house. If you live in coastal areas or near large bodies of water, the air can be very humid even in winter.

It is generally agreed that between 30-50% humidity is the ideal amount indoors. You can buy a digital hygrometer for under $15 so you can keep an eye on your home humidity.

Dehumidifiers extract more moisture from warm air than cool air. However, in combination with your home heating system, this can make the indoor climate more comfortable. Living in an environment that is too cold is not good for your health, but it is much worse when combined with dampness.

Cold and damp conditions are the ideal breeding ground for mold and mildew, which is bad for the lungs and respiratory system, and in some cases, can be fatal. Removing dampness from the equation will make your home healthier overall.

Need help?

If you are on a low income or are a member of a low income household who are struggling to pay your heating bills, you may be able to apply for assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is a federally funded program.

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