It's that time of year when the leaves fall. Unfortunately, so does the temperature.
It can be tempting to give in and turn on the heat on the first cold night. That moment of weakness is also the moment you make your annual transformation into a winter energy hog. According to energy.gov, the largest energy cost for the U.S. home is heating which accounts for about 45 percent of energy bills.
Why turn up the heat if you don't have to? Here are some tips to keep you warm:
1. Redecorate. Now is the time to put the warmer blankets on the bed and seal up the windows with heavy drapes to keep the heat in. Remember, there is more to keeping a bed warm than just adding more blankets. In the summer the sheet acts as a light barrier between the sleeper and the blanket, but in the winter, the fluffiest blankets should be closest to the sleeper where they can trap heat. The thinnest, densest sheets/blankets should become the outermost layer.
2. Focus on personal heating over space heating. It is much more energy efficient to heat yourself than it is to keep a room warm. Throwing on an extra sweater and the thickest socks available will do wonders. Warm slippers with hard soles also will keep you warmer, as will adding a rug or thick blanket to floors lacking carpets.
3. Invest in reusable heat packs. You can buy one or up-cycle some old fabric by making one yourself. Heat the pack in the microwave and lay it on the seat of your chair or drape it on the back of your neck. Personally, I have kept myself warm all winter using this method. The best part is that you can heat as many of these things in your energy efficient microwave as you like. Go ahead and cover your body with bags of warmth. This will also help in a cold office: just bring your heat pack to work and lay it in your chair.
4. Take up cooking as a hobby. It's true: the kitchen can warm a whole floor of the house, especially if you use the oven. Normally crock pots or microwaves would be more efficient than the stove or oven, but in this case, you produce food while keeping yourself warm.
5. If you must, heat a small space. Space heaters and electric blankets can pick up the slack if there's no other option, but heat the smallest area possible. Space heaters can be energy efficient and effective when used appropriately. But electric blankets are even better at keeping you warm while being low on energy, as they only use 3.2kWh/day vs. 6 to 12 kWh/day, depending on usage for a space heater.
(Image at top by Flickr user midnightcomm/Creative Commons)