Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Easy Ways to Warm Up at Home

Have I said how brutal the cold has been this winter?  Another big temperature drop has come our way here in Michigan and it has me thankful for the little things we have done around the house to make it a little more cozy.  Of course, there is the list of things you should do before winter to ensure your home is prepared - caulking and insulation and such.  But if you are having some drafty areas, noticing hot/cold spots or just want to reduce your heating costs in general, there are some things you can do quickly, easily and without a large expense.

Fleece Blanket Curtains
This was a thrilling find, I will admit.  We had bought the kids some little fleece lap blankets at Walmart for $2.88 each at Christmas and they had a large selection of patterns and solids.  After the ice storm and during the first big snow storm, I started looking at things I could do to contain heat and block out drafts as we learned more about this house.  My dining room windows face the west and while lovely to let a breeze in during the summer, they also let quite a breeze in when the winds were blowing hard too so I needed something more seasonally appropriate than the sheers I had been using.  I returned to Walmart thinking that even if I had to sew them together, those blankets were cheaper than most fleece I could buy by the yard and I had seen some colors I thought might work.  I found this adorable blues/greens/grays snowflake pattern and realized that their 50"x60" measurements meant I only needed two to form perfect curtains for my 84"x60" windows (that measurement included the frames and measuring from the curtain rod).  With their cute blanket-stitched edge, no sewing was necessary.  

A $3 packet of round curtain clips and I was all set.  Bonus - when I got to the register the blankets had been marked down to $.78 each!  Since putting these curtains in place, the room is noticeably warmer - in fact, we don't even run the electric floor heat in this room at all because we are only in there to eat meals.

Door Draft Blockers
Our basement door is in the kitchen and the floor is wood laminate.  We replaced the door when we renovated and didn't think a lot about the gap between the floor and bottom of the door at the time.  When the really cold weather hit, I was standing at the stove and realized the floor was noticeably colder near the basement door than in the rest of the room.  A rectangular scrap of cotton fabric leftovers the length of the door, some pillow stuffing and 5 minutes with my sewing machine left me with a decent draft blocker that slides under the door but does not interfere with the door movement.  While you can buy foam ones, if you have irregular spots were trim matches up or a floor transition, I think the fabric works better to cover in those areas.  This is a great way to use an old sweatshirt or sweatpants if you don't have the fabric laying around.

Vertical Blind Lining
OK - this may not be the most beautiful solution if you actually had to look at it, but if you have a sliding glass door or metal doors with the full (thin) windows like ours, this will greatly reduce the draft off the door and can be removed easily.  I left the vertical blinds in place and used the metal support brackets to string clothesline behind the header.  I took big panels of a heavy faux velvet fabric I had previously used as window swags and hung them from the clothesline using clothespins.  The header on the blinds hides the clothespins and line and the blinds hide the fabric.  The only difference is that this does block out the sun pretty well so if you want to let the light in on a nice day you have to unclip your fabric (takes a whole 2 minutes).  But it did make a huge difference in the temperature of the room.  I also used some strips of the same fabric rolled up along the bottom of the door to block any drafts along the seal.  A tip on the fabric: check the clearance section of fabric stores and you can often find bolts of heavy fabrics in solids that are under $1 a yard and work great to keep on hand for projects like this.

Even cheap plastic blinds can make a temperature difference in your home - if you keep them closed.

While the seals around your doors and windows should be checked before winter hits, sometimes it looks fine until the cold air hits and you can feel what you can't see.  Make sure your weatherstripping hasn't worn out or gotten shredded at the corners of the doors - if it has, use a utility knife to trim out the bad part and replace just that section.  If a section has become loose, you can use a hot glue gun to make it stuck.

If you have a fireplace, using it even as supplemental heat will make a big difference.  Make it work a little harder by taking advantage of its bonus features.  If it has a fan, once your fire gets going don't forget to turn the fan on - it will push the warm air away from the fireplace and out into other areas of your house.  If the top has a flat surface, place a pot or two of water on top while the fireplace is hot.  The water will heat up and not only help distribute the heat, but will also evaporate and make the air in your house less dry - a bonus if you have sinus or skin issues.

Window Plastic
After years of owning a poorly insulted home that I had to put plastic over all the windows, I have not wanted to do that in the new house (I invested in thermal curtains for our bedroom) but it certainly does make a big difference.  We had a bathroom in our cabin that was painfully cold due to the old crank-style window.  The toilet was next to the window and it was not very pleasant for us ladies...  The window would actually get ice on it overnight - on the inside.  A plastic window kit made a huge difference in the temperature of that little room and not only sealed up the window but the toilet seat actually stayed warm, lol.

Have you ever thought about meal-planning around the weather?  On those days that are below zero, every bit of heat energy generated can make a difference in your comfort.  If you have the time, use those days for baking or roasting a large piece of meat so your oven does double-duty.  Simmer something on the stove-top where the steam will escape and help warm up the air.  

Along the same lines of the oven, other tasks you do when you are home in the evening can generate some warmth and you can time them strategically.  Our laundry room is right off the fireplace room and has a small bathroom.  We rarely have to turn on the electric heat in these rooms because when we are home I almost always have at least one load of laundry to do.  I start the laundry when we get home in the evening and then I am cooking for a while so the stove pitches in.  Before we head to bed for the night I usually start the dishwasher so that generates heat for a while as it heats the water and dries the dishes.

It seems like common sense but so often I visit people who talk a lot about the energy costs in their home but are not dressed for the season.  My husband and kids have "hot feet" so they enjoy the cool floor with bare feet or just socks on but I find that if I feel cold, just putting on slippers raises my comfort level by a ton (I confess I often take my slippers to other people's houses with me for the same reason).  I also keep hoodies for everyone on the main floor where they are convenient - I do not want to hear anyone complain about being cold while wearing a T-shirt.  My mom gave me the softest robe when I was pregnant with my second baby and when he was born he was colicky so I spent a lot of hours up at night with that robe on and realized its value.  She just bought me a new zip-up housecoat/robe this Christmas and it has quickly become a go-to piece when I am first getting up in the morning and its hard to crawl out of a warm bed or after I shower in the evening to keep cozy.  Now I try not to wear it every day or my poor husband would get very tired of that, but when it has been very cold, it definitely makes a difference in my comfort without having to turn up the thermostat.

What other ways do you use what you have to increase your comfort level 
and the warmth of your house in the winter?

1 comment:

Alex said...

The weather here has been brutally cold and wet. Our house is Victorian and thankfully it has double glazing to keep out the fierce winds. I insist on everyone wearing their slippers. We don't wear shoes in the house, so slippers are a must. When we visit then we take our slippers. Having cold feet is so unpleasant. When we have guests for dinner I always tell them,"don't forget your slippers!"