11 Ways To Avoid Turning On The Furnace

Whether your furnace is broken or you’re just looking to save a buck, you might be surprised at how well you can get along without heat. Here are some simple and inexpensive ways to make cold days and nights more comfortable without touching the thermostat.

Wear layers: I’m not just talking about wearing a long-sleeved shirt under your sweater. I’m talking about wearing a tank top under your long-sleeved shirt, a short-sleeved shirt over your long-sleeved shirt, a sweater over that and a robe or giant sweatshirt over your sweater. I’m talking about wearing tights, then long underwear, then legwarmers, then pants. I’m talking about two pairs of socks followed by thick slippers. And don’t forget to wear a hat and a scarf, even indoors.

Create temporary relief stations: I find a cold bathroom particularly unbearable. Also, my bathrooms are the smallest areas of my house. Putting a space heater in the bathroom thus provides me with moments of temporary warmth throughout the day, making the overall cold more bearable, and allows me to create an entire warm “room” in just a few minutes and at minimal cost. I also keep a space heater next to my bed that I turn on just for a few minutes, until my body heat has sufficiently warmed up the sheets. Space heaters will really escalate your electricity bill, though, so it’s best to use them sparingly.

Snuggle with your pets: If you’re cold, chances are your pets are, too, and they’ll be all too happy to sit on your lap for hours.

Stay active: Now is the time to do all those projects around the house that you’ve been putting off. You’d be surprised how much warmer you can feel from a simple task like cleaning out the closet. Keep your body moving and you’ll stay comfortable. Even going for a quick 20-minute walk outside in the cold can warm you up and keep you that way for 30 minutes or an hour afterwards. As long as you dress appropriately, only the first 5 minutes or so of your walk will be really cold. After that, you’ll be comfortable (and you will have gotten some exercise, too).

Consume a steady stream of hot foods and beverages: Now is not the time to have a salad and a Diet Coke for lunch. Soups and stews are the way to go. In between meals, sip on hot coffee and tea to stay warm, and for dessert, have hot chocolate, a chai latte, or some bread pudding. Keep in mind that all this consumption of hot things doesn’t have to result in weight gain or a jittery caffeine buzz. Herbal teas are caffeine free, calorie free, and very inexpensive, and many soups are low in fat and high in vegetables, making them comparable to salads in terms of healthfulness.
Cook from scratch. Using the oven and/or stove for long periods of time can create a nice, toasty kitchen that will keep you warm the entire time you’re cooking (and for a while afterwards).

Don’t be still without a blanket: Whether you’re eating dinner or watching TV, keep a blanket on your lap for warmth when you’re not moving around. At night, dress both yourself and your bed in layers. Sleep under three, five, or seven blankets if you have to — whatever it takes to stay warm. And don’t forget a comfortable hat to keep your head warm while you sleep.

Get out of the house: Go to a friend’s or relative’s house, the library, a coffee shop, or any other place that’s inexpensive, will allow you to linger, and will be heated. If your car has heat, you can even use the drive to warm up. You probably won’t notice the difference in your gas mileage.

Use a hairdryer: Having wet hair is a great way to make the cold weather feel even colder, so dry your hair completely after taking a shower. If you don’t have any space heaters or other source of heat, you can even blast yourself with a hairdryer a few times during the day to temporarily warm up.

Sit in front of a sunny window: If you’re lucky enough to have sun on a cold day, find the sunniest window in your house and sit in front of it until you get warm.

Take a hot shower: As long as you have the aforementioned hairdryer, the hot water combined with a steam-filled bathroom can warm you up both while you’re in the shower and for a whilte afterwards. (Taking a hot bath won’t have the same effect, as your head will be freezing cold the whole time, the water will quickly cool off and the bathroom won’t get steamy.)

While going without heat is unpleasant for many of us, there are ways to make it more bearable that are simple and inexpensive enough for anyone to implement. Try some of these tips and you’re sure to save money this winter without freezing.

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13 Responses to 11 Ways To Avoid Turning On The Furnace

  1. L says:

    Going without heat is just stupid – and unhealthy. Go to a store or friends to warm up? Yeah right – I’m all about cutting out unnec. costs, but when the temp is 50 and below, heat IS necessary – especially if you have children or pets. Refusing to make a comfortable, warm home for animals is being a bad pet owner. Small pets especially need to be kept warm to be happy and healthy. Cut costs where you can, but not when it affects you or your loved ones in such drastic ways.

  2. Traciatim says:

    I’m thinking you don’t live in places where it actually gets cold for tips like that. Going without heat where I live and you freeze to death. Today it’s already noon and it’s -20C with a wind chill of -32C. Granted you wouldn’t have the wind chill inside, but we keep our house at 16-17C in the winter and we don’t air condition in the summer, that’s as much as you are going to get from me.

    Use the oven to make lots of food? You’re essentially using the same energy anyway, why not just stay mildly comfortable. There is a reason far more people die in the winter than in the summer, cold kills.

  3. Stephen Waits says:

    @L, rather judgmental eh? Please back up your claims that it’s “unhealthy”! Reducing heat usage is a great way to save a few bucks. It’s not that uncomfortable, especially at 50!

  4. Annie Jones says:

    I have to disagree about the shower. When I shower, I’m cold again as soon as I turn off the water. I get and stay much warmer when I take a hot bath.

  5. This would be a good list to print off and keep handy for power outage situations.

    We hesitate to leave our home unattended for long during power outages because we have to watch the sump pump situation.

  6. I keep my programmable thermostat at 72 Fahrenheit when the humans are gone, 74 when the humans are awake, and 72 overnight. However, it is hard to leave one’s bed so early in the morning, so I raise the temperature to 76 shortly before the alarms start waking everybody up. This has helped me cut down on heating costs.

  7. Traciatim says:

    Wow BiA, 74F is pretty warm, that’s just a smidgen over 23C, or mid summer weather around here. Our house is 16C at night (just over 60F) and right now it’s at 18.5C since it’s Christmas break and we’re spending all day inside. 23 I would be walking around in shorts and a T-Shirt.

    @Stephen Waits, one only has to look at death rates by month to figure out that cold kills. Look up the death rates by month in both the USA and Canada, you’ll see a huge swing that favours more people dying when months are cold vs fewer when it’s warm. A quick google produced these two links and this great quote off the second link:



    “The cold weather can weaken our resistance to illness so it is vital that people follow this advice and avoid losing body heat both whilst outside and whilst inside the house. By maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle you can strengthen your immune system to help you defend yourself against common winter viruses.”

  8. Traciatim says:

    Oh, another good tip is to use incandescent bulbs in the winter. They throw off the same light, but serve a dual purpose of being small cheap portable space heaters. Switch to CFLs/LEDs or another efficient light source when you turn your air conditioning on.

  9. Molly's mum says:

    I agree with Monroe – this list has some potential utility in an emergency situation. As a way of living… not thanks. We keep our heat @ 68 round the clock… some of our friends (usually those not paying utility bills!) find that a bit chilly, but we like it.

    Not turning on our furnace is not an option here — we don’t get as cold as Traciatim, but close enough that not only would we be extremely uncomfortable, but I’d fully expect both CPS and the SPCA at my door.

    I consider us both financially and environmentally mindful – we try not to consume more than we need to. Heat, however, is definitely on the need list for us.

  10. Pingback: The Tao of Change » Blog Archive » CARNIVAL OF THE GREEN # 161

  11. Sean says:

    I’ll tell you what, in December of 2007, we had an ice storm here in Tulsa that left me without power for 11 days. I was able to keep my living room close to 55 degrees with the fireplace (warmer, of course, if you were right next to it), but the rest of the house settled to between 40 at night and 50 in the daytime.

    I bundled, I used blankets, I snuggled with my dog, I moved around, etc. just as you suggested, but I was absolutely miserable.

    I keep my home heated to 66 degrees and wear layered fleece and sweats around the house. I use a blanket when I sit or lay on the couch, and Lily, my sabre-toothed retriever is always glad to snuggle. I turn the heat off when I go to work, and turn it off when I have a fire in the fireplace. My combined increase in gas and electric during the cold months is around 90.00 a month, and that’s 3 bucks a day that is well spent, if you ask me.

    I started reading this savings advisor about a year ago, and I have to tell you, better than half of what I’ve read on here is 100%, absolutely, NUTS, like this crazy post. Quackery!

    I work hard so I don’t have to freeze my ass off. There’s a difference between being frugal, and being a wacko, my friend. Look into it.

    PS, of the 90.00 per month I spend more than you do by running my heater? You’re spending a significant portion of that running an electric space heater. I’d be willing to bet following your advice would save me less than 60.00 a month, at best.

  12. Cindy M says:

    It’s gonna go down to -10 below here tonight, kinda unusual. I’m thinking your “cold” is not like mine, ha-ha. I work from home in the evenings and because I have to sit still and transcribe for 8 hours, the hands and feet get cold in the winter. I hate to turn the furnace up; it mainly stays at 68 degrees, down to 65 at night. I do wear 2 pairs of socks and half gloves and it’s true the hot drinks do wonders. So does getting up and doing the dishes at dinnertime. And I love my electric blanket, have used them for 40+ years, they are lifesavers; you turn them on before you even get into bed and sleep like a baby. I take a warm bath after work at night. But to do without heat? I don’t think it’s worth the discomfort unless you’re desperate.

  13. Laura C says:

    Broke – you must not be as broke as me. I find it a luxury to turn my furnace up to 65 degrees F.

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