February 1, 2014
After opening the December utility bill, (my first winter bill for the whole house,) and nearly having a heart attack, I decided I’d better find a way to reduce my dependence on the gas furnace.
Granted, my son was still living upstairs for most of that time, though that part of the bill was less than fifty dollars and granted that the big hole in the foundation didn’t get repaired until the first week of January, gas usage for downstairs came to nearly $200 dollars of the $326 utility bill.
In my defense, lest you think I am just an old lady who is easily shocked, the biggest gas bill I paid for heating the upstairs – where I was home most days (unlike my son) and so, had the heat on – came to no more than fifty-five dollars.
Granted, also, that the January bill – which should come this next week – will be lower, even $100 or $150 to heat the downstairs apartment is just unacceptable to me; I’m supposed to be learning how to do without fossil fuels. And I certainly can find better things to do with that money.
This past month, as I mentioned before, I tried turning the thermostat to sixty-eight or seventy degrees during the day; I really did. I always wear an undershirt under my sweatshirt in the winter and even add a sweat jacket. And as long as I keep busy (and I mean really busy,) I’m okay. But there is only so much dirt and so many dishes accumulated by one person during a day.
As soon as I sat down at the computer, or did something less heat producing than running a vacuum cleaner, washing dishes, or mopping a floor, I found myself sneaking over to the thermostat and turning the heat up, upper and, finally, uppest (nearly eighty degrees on those coldest days). I even tried stopping what I was doing and running in place for a minute or two. It helped – momentarily – but, let me tell you, that heat dissipates very quickly.
I would love to dismiss all this as my just being “cold intolerant” rather than my being a rank hypocrite, but …
Fearful that it was the latter, I spent the last few days researching how I might become more cold “tolerant” around the house, so that I can keep the heat down. And here are some things I learned:
Layering – I was doing it wrong. I had a couple of pairs of good, thermal underwear I’d bought back when I first started prepping. I even un-packaged one pair and stuck it in my chest of drawers where it remained. (I did wear the top under my sweats a couple of times, upstairs, when the temperatures got well below freezing, but when I moved downstairs, I pretty much forgot it was there.) And the sleeveless cotton tees I’d been wearing under my sweats just didn’t do that much. So, if you’re as ill informed as I was about layering, here are a couple of articles I read that might help. http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2011/02/body-insulation-thermal-underwear.html and http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-01-29/simpler-ways-to-stay-warm
A hot beverage – I found conflicting information about whether this really makes you warmer, but it makes me feel warmer and it warms my hands, which also makes me feel warmer.
Running in place for a couple of minutes – or just moving my arms and legs rapidly when I’m sitting at the computer does help me warm up if I start to feel chilly.
For those of you who, like me, have an older house that isn’t as energy efficient as you’d like (but can’t afford,)especially in the city, here are some ideas on staying warm from Farmer’s Almanac. http://www.almanac.com/blog/editors-musings/blog-keeping-warm-winter
If you live up north, where winters are harsh, all of this may sound pretty wussy to you. But here in southwest Missouri, where I live, our average temperatures across the winter months are in the low forties for highs and the low to mid twenties for nightly lows. So much of this winter has been as harsh for us as yours has for you – and I really was not prepared for it.
But I’m happy to report, today I’ve been sitting at the computer, writing this post in a sixty degree room and am comfortable. It’s thirty-one degrees, cloudy and rainy outside and the temperature is dropping. So far, I’m good.
But climate change weirds our weather more and more. The peaking of conventional oil is here, now. The economic costs of both, this winter, are only going to increase over the coming years. This old house, built before air conditioning, stays fairly cool in the summer. Having moved downstairs, to a much larger area, what I’m having to learn now, is how to be frugal with money and energy and still stay warm this winter.
We’re due for another round of below-average weather this month, too, so for those of you who are in the same situation I am, I’ll keep you posted on my progress and please feel free to make suggestions from your own experience in the comments section.