A few days ago, a true cold spell rolled through our area, taking temperatures down to nearly -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Given that it was also a day where every member of our family had some business out and about, it meant that we were all exposed to the frigid elements.
I don’t mind cold weather, but there comes a point where frigid temperatures become nearly painful to experience, and when you have to go outside for a particular errand, such temperatures are particularly nasty, even when the wind is blowing.
Many people around here respond to this with all kinds of expensive gear and disposable items. Things like remote car starters are wonderful, but some of the best tools I have for combating frigid temperatures and keeping myself warm are very inexpensive. Here are some of the things that my family does to keep the worst of frigid temperatures at bay.
We use reusable hand warmers.
These are just small cloth bags with dried rice inside of them. You can actually make one easily out of a sock by putting some dried rice down in the toe, putting clothespins in place above the rice, then cutting the sock about two inches above that, rolling it down, then sewing that little roll of cloth together.
Then, just microwave the hand warmer on high for about 60 seconds or so and you have yourself a toasty hand warmer that stays nice and warm for a surprisingly long time in your pocket. I often take one of these to bed with me, too, warming one up just before I go to bed and tossing it under the covers with me.
We keep a bottle of homemade de-icer just inside the front door.
Our de-icer is just a container of 70% isopropyl alcohol (bought for a buck at the dollar store) mixed with just a few drops of dish soap and poured into a spray bottle. This mixture does a fantastic job of eliminating ice, even on really cold days. I often start my vehicle and let it heat up to get it warm and let some of the external ice melt, and if there’s any ice left, this spray mixture makes short work of it. Far better than buying a bottle of similar stuff at the store.
We dress in lots of layers of clothing.
As I write this, I’m wearing a t-shirt, covered by a long sleeved t-shirt, covered by a sweatshirt, and a pair of sweatpants covered by jeans. If I were to go outside for very long, I’d probably add another layer to my bottoms. All of the innerwear – the stuff you wouldn’t see in public – is stuff that’s well worn but still keeps me warm, so I don’t have any need to buy a lot of clothes for this. There’s really no need for a special “warm” winter wardrobe.
We open the curtains/blinds on any windows facing direct sunlight, but keep them closed on other windows.
Direct sunlight tends to warm up a room, so we open the curtains on windows with direct sunlight shining upon them to let warmth into those rooms and leave the curtains and blinds closed on other windows. In the northern hemisphere in the winter, where we live, that means opening the curtains on the east and south side of the house in the morning, and on the west and south side of the house in the afternoon and evening, with all curtains drawn in the middle of the day (as the sun is close enough to overhead to provide no major benefits).
We add caulk to any windows that leak cold air, and we add weatherstrips and door stops to any doors that leak cold air.
Cold air leaking through the edges of windows and doors is a great way to lose heat throughout the cold winter months. While no method is perfect, our strategy usually is to identify spots around windows where air is leaking and add caulk in those spots (a very easy task with a caulking gun), and to add a weather strip to any doors to the outside where cold air leaks through the edges. In some cases, we add a bit of clay to the inside of the door frame if a weatherstrip won’t work well, as clay can block a small amount of cold air flow very well. We also use draft blockers (effectively, a small pillow) along the bottoms of some doors as a temporary fix.
We bake a lot of food.
Baking a loaf of bread in the winter is even more cost effective than doing it in the summer, because during the winter months, one can just leave the oven door open afterward and allow the heat to flow out into the house. Thus, during the winter months, we tend to bake a lot more than we do in the summer because the heat actually helps with our energy bill rather than working against it.
We park our cars so that the morning sun hits as much of our windows as possible.
Part of the reality of living in a cold climate is that many mornings find us with ice on the windshields and doors of our cars. One great tip to avoid that problem is to find places to park that start to receive direct sunlight as soon as the sun is over the horizon. This often serves to begin the melting process of ice on the windows, making scraping much easier – if it’s even needed at all.
We keep water in the tea kettle at all times.
Tea and hot chocolate tend to be consumed quite a bit during the winter months in our home. Not only does a hot beverage make you feel much warmer (meaning that you’re not as predisposed to raise the temperature of the home), but the actual act of boiling the water adds additional heat to the home. We make this convenient by keeping water in the tea kettle, as we often use an entire kettle’s worth of water once or twice a day.
We get some indoor exercise.
It’s often easy to think of a northern winter as a “hibernating” time, where people are curled up under blankets to stay warm and not moving around much, but I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to feel warm indoors in the winter is to exercise. Do an exercise routine or some body weight exercises and you’ll feel incredibly toasty. I really like the free daily body weight exercises over at Darebee.
We keep emergency kits with warming items in the car and the house.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned and you find yourself stranded by the roadside or without power, and those situations can cause you to be seriously cold very quickly. Our solution is to have emergency kits in the car and even at home. Those kits have some instant hand warmers in them, some backup warm clothes for everyone, some blankets, a flashlight, some road flares, and so on. We keep these items in a box and load them in our vehicles in the winter months.
We keep blankets out in every room.
Whenever anyone is doing anything that’s sedentary during the winter at our house, they’re wrapped up in a big thick blanket. We have stacks of blankets that we keep in every room, so if you’re going into a room to watch a television show or read a book or play a game, you just grab a blanket and swaddle yourself in it. That way, you’re always nice and toasty.
The big idea here is simple: You don’t have to keep your home thermostat running at 72 degrees Fahrenheit for everyone to feel warm all of the time. Doing so is incredibly expensive, especially when there are so many other simple tactics to use to stay warm during the winter months. Keep that thermostat lower and use some of these tactics instead when the snow is flying and the wind chill is frigid outside.