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If you live in an old farmhouse or have ever set foot into an old farmhouse, you’ll know that during winter, they can be cold as . . . well. . . .hell. Ours is no exception.
The problem with old houses, especially old farmhouses, is that they are drafty and have approximately 6,923 different little nooks and crannies where cold (or hot) air can seep in. Thus, making it very chilly during the winter.
Keeping the heat cranked up on overdrive isn’t an option in most frugal homes and it’s definitely not an option in this frugal farmhouse. We’d pay an arm and a leg to heat the outside since air seems to travel so freely between the indoors and outdoors of this house.
Thus, we have had to get creative on ways to keep warm during the winter. Now, before anyone’s heart starts to bleed for us (or our mothers start worrying about Mr. FVF & I taking appropriate care of their grandson!), we are not freezing to death in our home. There is just definitely a difference between the comfort level and effort involved in remaining comfortable in this house vs. our other homes which were much newer construction.
We set our thermostat to 65 during the winter and that’s pretty much the end of it. We don’t touch it unless we absolutely have to. My husband could comfortably live in a house that is consistently 65 degrees in the dead of winter. Me, uh. . .no. This girl gets cold when it’s 98 degrees outside in July. Seriously. That, and our thermostat may be set at 65 but due to the age of our house and how drafty it is, it might be 65 at the thermostat (or the point where the thermostat reads the temp of the house) but it is NOT a consistent temperature throughout our house. We have areas on either end of the house that are frigid in winter no matter what the thermostat says. It is always hotter upstairs than downstairs (rumor has it, heat rises). My point is that the number reading on our thermostat isn’t a reliable read of the temp in the house so we have decided not to chase our good money right out the door trying to keep the house at a consistent temperature using the heating system alone. We learned this the hard way when we first moved into the house (in January. During a snow storm.) and our heat bill our first month was over.a.thousand.dollars. I’m not kidding. We didn’t know any better so we just kept the heat running constantly and kept raising it when certain areas of the house seemed too cold. We’ve been here three years now and we’ve never made that mistake again. I remember breaking down into tears — ugly tears, not cute little sniffly tears — when I opened that bill. I begged my husband to let us move and tried to convince him that we would have to live out the rest of our days freezing to death because we would never be able to afford heat in the winter in this house. Thankfully, it isn’t quite as dramatic. . .or as bad. . .as I initially thought.
If you yourself are living in an older home or just want to find ways to heat your home for less electricity usage, follow along and I’ll share some of our tips with you.
Wear More Clothing
(*insert eye roll*) yes, I know it’s suuuuuper obvious but it really does help, I promise! I am known for wearing a pair of leggings underneath my comfy pj pants or sweatpants to lounge around the house. It’s an added layer and it helps. Throw on a long sleeved thermal shirt underneath your hoodie. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper to invest a few bucks into fuzzy socks or slippers than it is to jack the heat up in the house. Plus, we all have a few pairs of really warm wool socks that we wear when doing outside chores around the property during winter that we just wear those around the house too.
Every room in my house where we congregate or someone might be sitting for an extended period of time (i.e. living room, office, bedrooms) has a basket with a few throw blankets in it. When we get chilly in a room that we are in, we throw a blanket on our lap or around our shoulders. I even have an electric blanket like this one that I sleep with on my bed to keep me warm at night. I got this one for my son since it has an auto-shut off in case he forgets to turn it off in the morning, it will automatically turn off after 10 hours of use.
Admittedly, this one isn’t applicable to everyone but we were very lucky to have 3 fireplaces in our home. One (in our Master Bedroom) we believe is completely non-functional but our bed is positioned in front of it now so we can’t use that one. However, the other two: one in the living room and one in the kitchen can both be used to help offset a high electric heating bill. When we bought the house both fireplaces were gas but unfortunately, they weren’t both operating correctly. After investing some time and money into both, we’ve been able to get them both to a functional state. The fireplace in our living room had to essentially be replaced and could only be replaced with a certain kind of gas fireplace due to its location and venting. Therefore, that one is gas. But, we added a blower to it so the heat blows into the living room when it’s on. Since the fireplace in our kitchen was also not operating efficiently at first and needed to be replaced, we converted that one back to wood burning. I am so glad that we did that! Our kitchen is situated on the far end of our house and gets really really cold during the winter (like pipes freezing kind of cold) and having a wood burning fireplace in there is super helpful to heat that area of the house without having to use any additional electricity or gas. If I or my husband are home alone during the day while everyone else is at work/school/running errands, we can sit in there at the kitchen table and just have a fire going in there to stay warm. Plus, Mr. FVF gets up early and starts a fire so I can have my coffee by the fire every morning. It’s the perfect start to the day! If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, USE IT!
We had really really old windows when we bought the house. Really old windows suck at efficiency. There’s just no two ways of putting that. While we always planned on replacing the windows, we couldn’t afford to replace them all at one time. Therefore, our first two winters in the house, we used window insulator kids like this one to stop the drafts coming in from the windows and the heat escaping out the windows. We’ve replaced most of the windows that were the biggest culprits with new high energy efficient windows and have seen a big difference. However, we still have several windows left to replace which means we still use these kits to cover some of our windows. I’ll warn you, they aren’t pretty (just imagine hanging Saran wrap from each window!) but they do help to cut down on drafts. If it’s going to save me a little bit of money, I’ll do it and keep the shades drawn. Speaking of shades. . . .
Thermal Insulated Curtains
While we don’t have many window coverings in our home — we’re in a farmhouse with few close neighbors — we do have some that cover the . . .ahem. . .important windows (i.e. bedrooms and bathrooms). Having insulated curtains will help to keep cold out and heat in because the backing on the curtains minimizes the air pass through. Another benefit to these types of curtains is that it keeps the house cooler in the dead of summer for the same reason.
In rooms where it stays pretty cold all the time no matter what I do (like my Master Bathroom or our walk in pantry/laundry room), I will plug in space heaters like this or this. Given the age of our home and the fact that it’s a whole lot of old wood, I was really hesitant to use space heaters at all because I had heard so many horror stories about what a fire hazard they were. I did a lot of research and ultimately found that newer space heaters have a lot more safety features that minimize (if not eliminate) the problems that they used to have. I still only use space heaters for “on-demand” heat and only when I’m in the room. I, personally, wouldn’t use them in a small child’s room but that’s just me and my over worrying self, I’m sure.
No, I’m not talking a Hot Toddy (although, that does sound delish!), I’m talking about hot liquids that will warm our body from the inside. When it’s cold in my house, I am typically holding and sipping on a hot beverage of some sort non-stop. Coffee is the most frequent friend but I also incorporate plenty of hot tea, hot cocoa and even homemade hot chicken broth when I’m feeling something savory or starting to feel sniffle-y.
Filling up our bellies with Hearty Meals that stick to the ribs and insulate the insides is another trick I use to keep myself and my family warm during the winter. Breakfasts like Oatmeal or whole wheat waffles will warm us up & kickstart our day a lot more than cold cereal. Dinners like chicken & dumplings or chilli fills our bellies and keeps us toasty in the evenings. During the cold winter months we eat heavier meals that stay with us longer to fuel our body during the cold.
When using the oven for cooking or baking, I crack the door once I’m done with my cooking and let any leftover heat from the inside be shared with the rest of the kitchen to help warm it up. While I would never advocate using my oven as a source of heat, anything that’s left over in there after the cooking is done and once the oven has been turned off can safely be disseminated into the room. No reason for it to go to waste! If you are going to do this, just make sure you don’t have any littles who may try to stick their hands in there or curious pups who may try to open the door further. Since my little isn’t so little anymore and my dogs don’t really bother with my oven, I can get away with this without too much worry. Plus, I spend so much time in my kitchen that I’m rarely ever not in there while the door is cracked!
What other tips do you have for staying warm in winter?