How to Stay Warm with Less Heat
by WRETHAOFFGRID on JANUARY 28, 2013 - 9 Comments in self-sufficiency

I can really identify with this, staying warm with less heat, my hubby and I live in a very uninsulated sky castle, we have a wood stove and lots of wood on our property, BUT that wood is not unlimited. We have harvested a lot of the low hanging fruit, the dead wood near the sky castle, there is plenty more where that came from, but it’s up the mountain from us, very un-level ground with lots of rocks and cactus to trip you up. So as a result, we don’t try very hard to keep the sky castle warm, not like what most people consider comfortable for them.

Fortunately we don’t get or stay terribly cold, this wouldn’t work as well in a very northern or very cold area, we do get into the teens at night, sometimes, not all the time, mostly in winter it gets down in the 30s and 40s F overnight, but the following day, being high desert country, it warms up nicely as long as the sun is shining. It often gets up into the 50s-70s F during the day. In the last few days we have been hitting 75 F during the day. When it does get really cold, we do burn a fire in the wood stove, we aren’t into suffering! :)

The way we keep warm is simple, we use layers of clothing. On most nights I sleep in a pair of sweat pants, warm socks, a long or short sleeve t-shirt and a zip up hooded sweatshirt. If it’s really cold, I’ll add a pair of thermal underwear and another layer of socks. I also have multiple layers on my bed, I have a regular fuzzy blanket, 2 quilted moving blankets (the kind movers use to protect furniture), an army blanket (it’s filled with something warm, not sure what it is), and a wool blanket. I used to have a down blanket, that was WARM, but as of last winter, the down was coming out and this winter I wasn’t willing to deal with all the loose down floating everywhere.

I also have a warm doggie that sleeps at my feet under the blanket if it’s really cold, on top of the blanket if it’s not so cold.

Another thing I recently purchased was a hot water bottle. I have never used one before, and I must say, it’s been a lifesaver this winter. I pour boiling water into it, wrap it with a hand towel and place it in my bed at least half an hour before I go to bed. I put it in the middle part of the bed to create a warm spot, then when I get in bed, I push it down to the foot of my bed, there is keeps my feet toasty warm all night long. The one I purchased isn’t like your grandmother’s old red rubber bottle, this is made of a thermal plastic material that is tough, sturdy (you can fill it with boiling water, that’s not recommended with the old rubber type), you can practically lay on top of it without worrying about it leaking or breaking. And with the new material they are made of, they hold the heat all night long. You can also buy or make rice or bean pillows, pop it in the microwave and you will have a heated pad that feels good. We don’t have or use a microwave and I haven’t figured out a good way to heat rice or bean pillows so for now I haven’t done that.

You can wear layers to keep yourself warmer in winter so that you don’t have to turn up the heat. Long johns or thermal underwear are great. Good socks are a must, wool socks, layering more socks, there are socks called Heat Holders Socks, they are WONDERFUL! They are thick and the more you wash them, the better they are. Wear slippers in the house, anything that keeps your feet off the floor. I put a pillow on the floor under my computer desk, I put my feet on top of that, it keeps my feet off the floor and makes a huge difference in my comfort during the long hours I spend on the computer.

Fingerless gloves are good for keeping your hands warm and allowing you to work on the computer or do crocheting and such. I found a pair at my local drug store, I have also seen them at craft stores and online. I would suggest buying this in a brick and mortar store, you will want to try these on as they are somewhat tight but stretchy, you don’t want to cut off the circulation to your fingers.

A hoodie or a hat is good for keeping your head and ears warm. A scarf will keep your neck warm. Keep your layers loose, you want air spaces in there to act as insulation between your body and the cold air.

Blankets, lots of them, but good ones, such as down and wool are good insulators. Keep some throws on the couch or your favorite chair, crocheted or knitted materials is good for this too, granny knew what she was doing when she was crocheting all the time.

Drinking hot drinks will warm you from the inside, coffee, hot cocoa, hot tea, it also feels good to your hands. Move around, getting your blood pumping a bit will also warm you from the inside.

I personally haven’t tried this, but I’ve heard of sprinkling cayenne pepper powder or cinnamon in your socks will warm your feet. Test it on the skin of your feet first before going all the way with this, you don’t want to find out it’s too much for your skin AFTER your shoes are “seasoned” with it. Also know that this will stain white or light colored socks.

How do you keep warm in winter?

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1 Corey { 01.28.13 at 10:58 am }

In a similar high desert situation we run the woodstove in the evening, let it die out through the night, then restart a small fire in the morning to drive the chill out. A warm cup of tea is enjoyed while we (Sarah, the cat, and myself) sit next to the stove.
A huge improvement we’ve made recently is to buy and use an Ecofan. It’s powered only by the heat from the stove. Warms up quickly (and therefor starts quickl) and sits right on top of the stove extracting a nice chunk of heat and distributing is efficiently. They are pricey but VERY worth it and consume no other resource than a small amount of the heat!

2 Wretha { 01.28.13 at 11:32 am }

Sounds great Corey, we don’t typically run the wood stove unless it really REALLY cold, if we go to bed and it’s warm from the fire, it will cool off more and more during the night as time goes by, so we prefer going to bed at whatever temp is naturally in the house, that way we start off with all the blankets we need instead of waking up cold later in the night. :) That works for us, I don’t know if it would make everyone happy though, and getting up in the middle of the night for nature calls is a bit chilly, and you gotta get back in bed before your warm spot goes away. :)

I’ve wondered about those ecofans, I’ve seen them advertised but didn’t know if they worked very well or not, glad to hear a good report on them. They ARE pricey, I wonder if someone handy could make one for less…


3 mike { 01.28.13 at 1:26 pm }

This winter was my great adventure into learning about no-heat living [no running water also since it requires heat to stay running at this latitude].

I was really lucky [or, perhaps, unlucky from an educational perspective] with the coldest night being 7F where it is very capable of -15F or even -20F.

The best thing I learned was how to stay dry and warm through and after sweaty exertion in very cold temps without changing clothes => synthetics and wool; strip down to minimum clothing early; gradually add layers of clothing as slowly as possible allowing the sweat to evaporate before completely dressed [you’ll “steam” like an NFL athlete in a January game].

Otherwise, the way to stay warm is neither new information nor brain surgery – “put some clothes on” as James used to bark.

I’ve been putting together my clothing for over 8 years but I am still learning. However, I would offer one piece of advice in that regard – especially for bags, parka, and bibs, go see wiggy’s.


4 Corey { 01.28.13 at 2:22 pm }

You should switch to a memory foam mattress if you want some added heat holding ability. Once it gets warm it STAYS warm very nicely. It’s also initially cooler in the hot months.
I love my Ecofan. Worth every penny for sure. Just be sure to follow the directions in regards to placement at max temp.
I’m an electronics tech so I’m sure I could build one pretty easily. It’s simply as thermoelectric plate attached to a motor. That motor spins a shaped blade. The lower portion which contacts the stove transmits heat to one side of the thermoelectric plate while the other side acts as a heat sink continuously cooled by the same blade. The biggest concern is the insulation of the motor from ambient heat and heat transfer through the materials. If you weren’t concerned about cosmetics I could offer a diagram with off the shelf parts and directions on how to build your own. Balancing the blade with be difficult as the small electric motors need a nicely balanced load. Also, stepping up to a brushless motor will ensure many years of service so long as you don’t mind the price increase.

5 Wretha { 01.28.13 at 4:36 pm }

I came out here with a memoryfoam 4 inch topper, I loved that thing! But we found that it gets hard as a rock in winter, you can actually knock on it, and in summer it holds your heat and makes it miserable to sleep on, we have saved it to make some cushions or something else… perhaps the newer ones don’t do that so much.

Ahhhh, I didn’t realize the ecofan had a motor in it, I thought it worked by the heat rising causing the fan blades to move, if you wish to I wouldn’t mind having a diagram, we are really into DIY stuff, it might be fun to build, though no guarantees it would happen, don’t do it if it’s any trouble or too much time. My email address is wretha(at)gmail(dot)com


6 Corey { 01.29.13 at 10:44 am }

Hmmm … Our memory foam doesn’t get nearly that bad, haha. We have a full mattress and not a topper though. Don’t know if they are designed differently.
It produces electricity through a thermoelectric pad and that is what runs a standard electric motor. When I have time I’ll dig up info on parts and design something for you.
You could also look into sterling motors. They work any time there is a temperature disparity.

7 Wretha { 01.30.13 at 1:05 pm }

Corey, if I recall correctly, and mind you this was MANY years ago, I believe the one I purchased had even more of what made it memory foam, so that may be the difference, it’s super memory foam, it gets super hard in winter and super hot in summer… :)


8 Jay { 01.30.13 at 7:10 pm }

How we stay warm in winter is using a wood stove with a back boiler. quiet a simple yet ingenious concept.
1. Cast iron wood stove with back boiler
2. Connect the water pipe to it and the exhaust one to a hot water tank.
3. Have an immersion on the tank and have radiators connected to it.
4. Enjoy heat all over the house.

Our one can heat 9 radiators and cost about $1500 for the stove. After that you can pick and choose how many radiators you need. we have 9 and we actually have to stop fueling the fire as it heats it all too well. Also a blower fan on top of the stove can circulate heat much better and it does not require any electricity.

9 Annie { 02.18.13 at 9:52 pm }

Good list. I think if I were you I would invest in a good quality down comforter with a duvet cover. We have them on our beds and they kept us toasty during a 5 day power outage during a snowstorm. also insulation for the house seems like a high priority.

My husband, who loves gadgets, bought one of those wood stove-top fans. I don’t think it makes the slightest difference in the warmth of the room. Doesn’t even create a slight breeze from 4 feet away. IMO a waste of a lot of money.

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