Tuesday, January 29, 2008

7 Strategies for Saving Money on the Heating Bill

Our family awakened to a very chilly house on Saturday. I thought maybe someone had left a window opened in our adjoining bathroom. Nope. Our propane ran out - a grim reminder of how fast we’ve been going through propane trying to keep the house warm this winter. I cringe to think how much we’d be spending on heat if we kept the thermostat above 68. Of course, keeping the thermostat below 68 in cold weather has its challenges, too. But there are a few strategies which go a long way toward meeting that goal.

1. Water in the Bed

Many nights when I come to bed my feet are cold. Long ago my strategy would be to gingerly place my two frozen appendages against the hairy, warm legs already in bed hoping and praying that the sudden jolt of ice cold feet wouldn’t disturb my sweet husband’s deep slumber. Thankfully, it didn’t wake him too often. Now, however, I don’t have to even chance it.

When my cold feet demand it, the first thing I do when I start getting ready for bed is to fill an old-fashioned water bottle or better yet a 3 liter bottle with hot tap water, drop it into an old sweat pants leg, and then tuck it under the covers where my feet will be. I go about my nighttime routine and by the time I’m finished, the bed at my feet is nice and toasty warm. And it’ll stay warm for quite some time. My feet breath a collective sigh of relief when I crawl into bed.

An alternative is to heat up a corn bag and use that in the bed instead. By the time I’m ready for bed, though, I’m mighty tired. Heating up a corn bag would require me to go all the way downstairs to the microwave. The hot water faucet in my bathroom is much closer. So I usually use the water instead.

2. Fresh Socks

Another bedtime trick to keeping feet warm is to take off your current socks, get your feet nice and dry, and then put on a pair of fresh socks to wear in bed.

3. With Ma in Her Kerchief and I in My Cap

I’ve spend a lot of time as I wait for sleep to wash over me thinking about my cold hands. When sleeping, the two things that are uncovered on me are my head and hands. It is common knowledge that a great deal of body heat escapes through our heads. In an effort to conserve it I’ve tried wearing hats. They do work, but have a habit of coming off with any groggy tossing or turning. I finally hit upon a solution that does double duty - wear sweatshirt hoodies to bed. Not only are they very warm and comfy, I can pull up the hood if I get cold and it won’t fall off.

4. Cover Your Hands

I don’t know about you but my hands stick out of the covers when I sleep. They can get mighty cold at night. My strategy to keep them warm lies in how I make the bed. With just the fitted sheet on the bed, I lay a king-sized pillow case where the standard-sized pillows will be lain. Then I make the bed as usual. When I sleep I slip my hands beneath the overhang of the larger pillow case. Works every time!

5. The Onion Principle

Of course, there’s the classic but ever so helpful principle of dressing in layers. Thick tights or long johns and an undershirt are a nice foundation. Long sleeved t-shirts or turtlenecks and pants or skirt are next. Leg warmers work very nicely with skirts or dresses. On top of that a sweater or flannel shirt. Then a light jacket of some kind. Two or three pair of socks and a warm pair of knee-high boots work nicely to keep your feet and lower legs warm. I‘m a very warm-blooded person now but I didn’t used to be. And I never used to need more than this to keep me warm even with the thermostat set at 64. Some of my kids are so active that they would be happy wearing shorts and a short-sleeve shirt all winter long. But that makes me feel cold so I send them off to put on another layer.

6. Is There Room on Your Lap?

If sitting still make you cold, keep a small quilt or blanket to cover yourself when you’re not up and about.

7. Oasis of Heat

With little ones still in the house, we do try to keep at least the room where they spend most of their time somewhat warmer than the rest of the house. Seeing children playing happily in a nice, warm room makes me feel like a bertter mother somehow. We have a space heater that we use now. In the past we’ve used a wood stove. Lowering the heating bill at the expense of having higher medical expenses is not a wise choice. In addition, having an oasis of a nice, warm room is a real boost when we get tired of being cold.

Hopefully, if we can apply these strategies a little more faithfully, our propane tank won’t run out again this winter.


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