ashley englishsmall measures

small measures with ashley: heat saving suggestions

by Grace Bonney

A cold wind swept into my cove this weekend. I don’t know if it was from the north, the south, the east, or the west, but I do know that it has moved me firmly out of tank tops and flip-flops and into thermal henleys and wool socks. In addition to a wardrobe shuffle, the change in temperature got me thinking about the impending need to have firewood delivered for the wood stove and propane brought in for the furnace. Firewood and furnaces got me thinking, in turn, about money (and the recession) and the environment. I know I’m not alone here. Not only does the use of winter fuel cost us our hard-earned dollars, it exacts a hefty toll on planet, too. All of those combustible materials disperse into the atmosphere when burned. According to the National Resources Defense Council , electric power plants are the single largest source of pollutants that contribute to global warming in the United States. [image above: swans island blanket and alpaca hot water bottle cover]

In an effort at saving cash and reducing carbon emissions alike, I try to turn low-fi when the mercury dips. I realize what I do won’t warm everyone. My grandmother is perpetually chilly, even in summer, while my brother’s internal temperature renders his cheeks always warm and rosy. In my 1920’s house, though, (way overdue for an insulation makeover, which will happen, when time and funds allow) I’ve found the cold-warrior methods listed below bring a bit of much needed warmth ’round the old hearth. I know the time will eventually come when supplemental heat will become necessary. Until then, and even once that need arises, my heat-saving (and heat-retaining!) small measures provide a hugely welcome thermal injection. Many will seem obvious, others will induce “Ah Ha!” moments (hopefully). I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel or be the high priestess of cold-warring endeavors here, just merely offering a few tips on helping you feel the heat while saving Benjamins.

CLICK HERE for ashley’s heat (and money) saving tips after the jump!

I find few things more satisfying than a warm blanket and a cozy spot on the couch. Grab a great book and there’s little left to do but sigh in contentment.

heavy curtains
It’s incredible just how much cold can be kept at bay through employing the use of heavy curtains. My north-facing bedroom warms up considerably once I pull the curtains tight in the evening (two dogs on the bed at night don’t hurt either!).

hot water bottles
Great for both menstrual cramps and cold toes, hot water bottles are a fantastic way to fight the chill. I fill mine up with the hottest water my tap provides, and then snuggle under the covers. Would work great for a couch-bound warm-up, too.

My feet were forever frosty until I began investing in proper cold weather foot and leg ware. Now I have an arsenal of cotton tights, wool socks, warm knee highs, and toasty leggings to help stave off the chill.

storm windows
If you’ve got ’em, use ’em. If not, consider installing them or ask your property owner about having them added. Storm windows provide an incomparable extra layer of insulation against cold temperatures and high winds.

Now is the time to bust out your most beloved cardigans and revel in your favorite pullovers. Sweaters are an instant ticket to a warmer body. I keep a rotating collection to complement every activity and style whim.

My tea collection seems to reproduce itself exponentially with little assistance on my part, which is fine by me. There’s a pantry’s-worth, ready for chilly mornings, frosty evenings, and any time in between when a bit of liquid warmth is in order. Spicy blends are especially good at warming up extremities, so I always keep ginger and chai offerings on hand.

Setting your daytime thermostat temperature at 68 degrees F and nighttime (or away from home) temperature at 55 degrees F during the cooler months will go a long way towards curbing emissions and costs alike.

weather stripping
Easily sourced from your nearby hardware store, weather stripping is an invaluable tool in your cold warrior quest. Super affordable and easy to install, weather stripping is available in a number of forms. Rubber and plastic adhesive-backed or felt are probably the most affordable and easiest options for renters, while metal would perhaps be a more suitable choice for homeowners, or those who intend to remain in the same location for more than 3 years. This tutorial on How Stuff Works will help get you navigating around the weather-stripping world.

windowsill blankets/door sweeps-shoes
I have several small, old windows in the house that lack storm windows. For these, I use a windowsill blanket, resembling very much a rather long hot dog. This infinitely handy gadget fills in the gaps that wind and cold air would otherwise slip through. They are also great used in the same manner on the bottom of doors, especially in unused, or seldom used, rooms.

I’d love to hear your cold-fighting tactics. When it comes to staying warm this season, an ounce of prevention (and preparation) are worth a heap of savings, fiscally and environmentally.

Suggested For You


  • We live in a cold, hundred-year-old farmhouse up in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. During the winter, we close off the entire upstairs and don’t heat it (luckily, or unluckily, there isn’t any plumping up there to worry about).

    For warm curtains, I turned white quilts (purchased on clearance at TJ Maxx) and wool military blankets into curtains. It was cheaper (and in my opnion, more interesting and attractive) than most of the insultated curtain options I had seen. Quilted and wool curtains, plus covering the windows with both bubblewrap and plastic, keeps most of the drafts at bay.

  • I live in Alaska and am always cold even in the summer! I LOVE my hot water bottle. A couple years ago I found a heart shaped one made out of vanilla sented rubber. Unfortunately it wore out after tons of use and sprung a leak. I have not been able to find another one since :(

    For the person w/ the cold 2 year old – I use fleece wearable blankets on my daughter. They are by Kiddopotamus. I think I got mine at Toy R Us. My daughter is still in a size medium at 21 months. I know they have size large as well that might fit your son. I just layer one of those over her fleece footed pajamas and she stays toasty all night in a room that is probably at 64-65 degrees.

  • We have just a heated foot warmer in the bed. I find that if my feet and arms are warm, I am good. We turn on the feet heat before we get into bed, and then we have to turn it off as it gets quite toasty under the down comforter and the flannel sheets.

    We keep our thermostat set at 60, day and night. I also recommend scarves. I don’t like a sweater that constricts my neck, but I’ll wear a scarf since it can be loosened. My chest gets cold, and a nice scarf helps with that.

  • I love these kinds of articles. It gets my wheels turning for simple solutions to the most basic and consistent problems. I live in San Francisco where it seems to be perpetually cold with the exception of those few warm fall days, but the weather never dips below freezing. The cold, fierce winds started a couple days ago so this is the perfect time to think about how to warm up. While we need proper insulation in our house, a heater is uneccessary 80% of the time. I would like to find a way to make it uneccessary 100% of the time, and these tips will surely help. My biggest ally against the cold is warm underclothing. I shop for slips of a thicker cotton material that I wear under dresses. Dense tights and high boots are always appropriate. Long cardigans and coats are my best friends. Lately I’m into cloche style hats, which keep my ears and whole body warm by retaining heat and blocking wind. I prefer vintage clothing for winter wear, as folks used to rely on heavy wool and insulating materials to keep them warm before central heating. Modern apparel is made with lesser quality, thinner materials. A vintage wardrobe makes you want to turn the heater off!

  • Oh, and my mom made rice bags for all three of her daughters to help with menstrual cramps. It’s a perfect fit for my tummy with a flannel “pillow case” made for it to make washing easier. Now when I’m in pain or say I’m cold, my boyfriend finds my rice bag, heats it, and brings it to me. It’s smell, warmth, and fuzzy/soft texture makes me think of my mom, and the gesture from my boyfriend reminds me that home is where you make it. My cat snuggles with me and the rice bag because she likes the heat too. Everything about it is lovely and comforting.

  • Hot water bottle tip:
    Put a little cold water in first, then fill with boiling water, not all way, you don’t want it to be like a balloon, nothing worse than burst water
    bottle. I’m from the north of England and that’s how my Grannie taught me how to fill a WB.
    Also, I can’t live with out flannel sheets. I’m in the mountains near Lake Tahoe now.
    This is my favorite blog and I always look forward to reading it.
    Well done, and keep up the good work!

  • Where did you get your windowsill blankets? I’ve been trying to do a google search for them and am not coming up with much. Thanks!

  • Second the door snakes, our house is dreadfully inefficient, but until we win the lotto, there’s only so much we can do. We use no A/C in the summer and are all wood heat in the winter. We HAVE baseboard heaters, but they’re old, costly, inefficient, and scare me (dust inside + age + weird wiring).

    We plastic up our windows starting mid-October, and leave that up until May 1st.

    We combine both a down comforter and a wool blanket for max warmth.

    Polar fleece is really the greatest modern invention, thank you US military. All our jammies are fleece, and I’m in long johns/fleece all day long.

    Replacing our front door was the best thing we’ve done. That thing didn’t just leak at the bottom, it leaked on all 4 sides! Brrr!

  • Jesy-My home contains both original, historic windows with storm window inserts. I’m a huge proponent of historic preservation myself, so we’ve managed to both retain the window’s aesthetic integrity while retaining heat.
    Jamie-I found my windowsill blankets about two years ago at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Here are a few other places to find them (also referred to as “draught/draft stoppers”):
    Or make your own:

  • Awesome tips from everyone. I just moved into a new house this spring, but my old apartment was very heat inefficient, so I kept it cold. I wore toe socks and a hat to bed and it worked well. I also have two Grandmas and several aunts that quilted, crocheted and knitted so there is not shortage of hand made warmness. My favorite is a quilt by my Grammy, that is not only warm but extra long.

  • I got distracted by the beautiful wedding posts and just remembered that I wanted to comment on this too!

    For the 2 year old: If he is in his big bed, I highly recommend the electric mattress pad that others have mentioned. My niece in the frigid north always kicked off her covers, so my sister got her one for her twin bed. It keeps her nice and toasty with the blanket on or off. She just sets it to the lowest setting.
    These are all great tips!

  • I live north of the Dallas/Ft Worth area of Texas and it gets cold enough here in the winter for me. I call my Huny my heater because of the heat his body puts out so I’m usually toasty warm at night. But, he gets up at 2:00 a.m. to get ready for work and the heat quickly leaves the bed so I keep my favorite wool throw and a pair of socks on my side of the bed. With both eyes closed I throw on my socks and he covers me with the throw and I’m back to being toasty warm.

    Huny is also pretty good at taking care of any house repairs to help with the insulation. He caulks any holes he finds in the brick mortar, adds insulation when needed and this year we got some solar screens for the west-facing windows. These are great for us here in Texas, they help stop the heat from the hot, hot sun, and I found that even though they help with the wind blowing thru you still get the air circulation that you need to keep the house cool and with our first chilling nights coming on, they help keep the drafts from coming through as well.

    We have a fireplace that we love to use and with all the insulation that we have plus a not very large living room, we are able to keep the heater temps low and stay warm in the evening.

    Socks, sweaters and blankets on the couch work for us as well..

  • Down comforters and dual control mattress pad heaters with – hears the wonder of it – TIMERS. We love these – the bed is warm when we get there and we don’t have to think or remember. Almost idiot proof comfort.

  • Thanks for the lovely talk here.Though not much of an in thing these days I love the hot water bags and the woolen cover you have made is very cute and nice.

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