Monday, August 25, 2008

Prepping for a Cold Winter

In the news today was a short article about the Farmer's Almanac and its prediction for a colder than usual winter. With prices rising for everything and our heavy addiction to fossil fuel for heat, this may not be such a nice winter for many folks. Here's some ideas to keep your home warm and toasty this winter:
  • Winterize as much as possible. Put up storm windows or seal drafty windows with plastic. Add insulation to the attic and the basement/crawlspace ceiling. Weather strip doors and windows. Seal drafts with spray foam or insulation. Call you local energy company and see if they offer free home energy audits or provide other freebies to cut your energy costs such as low flow shower heads, an insulation blanket for the hot water tank, etc. Even if these items aren't offered free, take a look at your local home improvement store for cost-effective, energy saving ideas.
  • Have a number of sources of heat. Most homes have gas forced air, electric, oil, or propane heating systems as their main source of heat. Alternately, you may want to also have small space heaters so you can heat only the area you are using and not the entire house, a wood stove or pellet stove, and a kerosene heater on hand for emergencies. Be sure that any heating system you use is functioning as efficiently as possible. A friend just moved into a home with a plain fireplace. After noting that it burned up wood quickly and gave off very little actual heat, he promptly installed a highly efficient wood stove and is very happy with his decision.
  • Be sure that any heating appliance you use is properly ventilated--there is always a rash of carbon monoxide poisonings each winter from improperly vented heaters and generators.
  • Speaking of generators, if you absolutely must have heat and your heating system will not work without electricity, consider having a generator and fuel on stand-by. Those with small children or elderly in the house may find a generator particularly necessary.
  • If you have a fireplace or wood stove, be sure to have plenty of seasoned firewood ready for winter. Ditto for pellets if you have a pellet stove, kerosene if you have a kerosene heater, and oil/propane if you have these types of heating appliances.
  • Practice some good old fashioned heat management. Years ago when homes were drafty and windows were of the thin, single pane-type that you puttied into place, families used a variety of ways to conserve heat. Some of these include: wear heavier clothes, bundle up under blankets, heat only one room where all of the family gathers, use heavy blankets to curtain off the cold sections of the house, use heavy drapes to keep the drafty windows closed up, only heat the home during the day when people are home (lots of blankets and the occasional hot water bottle were used to keep people warm in their beds overnight), etc.
  • Ask your fuel/electric company if they have some sort of monthly payment plan. These plans usually estimate your fuel/electricity usage over the course of the year and bill you even payments on a monthly basis which is often better than receiving tiny bills in the summer and astronomical bills in the winter.
  • If you qualify and if you absolutely can not afford to heat your home, check with local social service agencies to see what programs they have to help with winter heating bills.
  • Be creative. Here's one idea: The Amazing Wood Burning Stove
  • And some final ideas: spend more time away from home if this is plausible (at work, at friend's homes, at the mall, at the library, etc), get moving (physical work and exercise raises your body temperature and thus makes you warm without as much heat), bake and cook more at home (the heat radiates into the kitchen, usually making it the warmest room in the house), cuddle up with the spouse, wear socks to bed, take a quick hot shower then get under a blanket, drink a cup of cocoa (at night) or coffee/tea (in the morning)...

To my friends in the southern hemisphere--have a wonderful summer (and save this post for March).


  1. Here in Argentina the preps are going on all the time.
    Plenty of wood and fantastic fishing.
    You'll be surprize but we have mormons here also .

    Un saludo


  2. Heat management is a biggie. Many people try to keep homes comfortable for t-shirts and shorts. Wear long underwear and a wool sweater, even a light wool hat, and you can keep the temp in the low 60's F. This makes a large difference in the amount of energy needed to heat during the whole winter.

    I just redid the basement, which is mostly underground, and will close off the entire upstairs this winter. With a woodstove the basement is exceedingly easy to heat.