Winter is here. Our boilers are working full time to keep up with the lowering temperatures outside. Let’s think about ways to save energy without spending any money.
Being comfortable in a house is somewhat of a brain game. The trick is in feeling warmer, and you can use principles of heat transfer to help you feel warmer, even though it may not actually be warmer.
Think of these heat transfer principles: Different surfaces feel warmer or colder; for example, metal feels cooler than wood, even at the same temperature. Hot air rises and cold air hugs the ground. The sun warms surfaces through passive solar energy even when it isn’t very warm outside.
Knowing these methods of transferring heat or cold will allow you to feel warmer even when temperatures are downright frosty. Try these ways to feel warmer.
Cover bare floors. An area rug on a wood or hard tile floor will make your feet feel warmer.
Unblock the heat vents or radiator. If heat is being absorbed by the sofa in front of the radiator, you won’t get warm. Rearrange furniture to allow for maximum heat gain in the room. Dust also absorbs the heat, so vacuum out all that dirt and you’ll feel warmer
Block drafts. Weatherstripping or other forms of insulation will keep the cold air where it belongs — outside. Use the dollar test. Shut the door on a crisp bill and it should resist you as you pull the bill out. If not, replace the weatherstripping. Leaks around outside doors or at the threshold can really cool off a house. If the door leaks along the bottom (where it hits the threshold of the frame), use a folded blanket to stop the leak. Or fill an old sock with rice or beans and put it at the bottom of the door. This is particularly important when the door might be a little out of level.
Warm the space you spend the most time in. Lower the thermostat in most of the house and raise the temperature only in the areas where you spend more time. By the same token, it is a good idea to shut off those rooms in the house that you aren’t using. However, make sure that you don’t keep the temperature so low that it will compromise your heating system. Some people choose space heaters to keep the most-occupied parts of the house warm, but space heaters can use a lot of power. If you choose to use a space heater, make sure it is an efficient one.
Bundle up. Wear warm clothes. Opt for long sleeves, sweatshirts, sweatpants and socks, and don’t forget the slippers — you’ll feel warmer. Keep spare blankets in the living room to snuggle under and you’ll be able to drop the thermostat several degrees.
Let in some light. If the sun is shining outside, open the window blinds to allow heat gain from the sun. When the sun goes down, it is a good idea to cover the windows to keep the cooler temperatures outside. You might consider using a clear plastic film on the window glass to form an air barrier.
Warm your bed. Use an electric blanket or lots of fluffy covers on the bed to keep you warm while you sleep. Most people sleep better when they are in a cooler room, so keep the bed warm, not the room.
Stir the air. If you have a ceiling fan, turn it on to bring the hot air down to where you are sitting.
Use the oven and the stove — not to heat the house, but to cook. The warmth that spills out into the kitchen will make you feel warmer and will give your family a nice, warm meal to come home to. The tantalizing smells will help you warm up as well.
These simple steps will help you feel warmer and keep your heating bills down. You won’t have to rely on raising the thermostat to be warmer this winter.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201.