Reducing Winter Heating Bills: From Covering Up to Singing Aloud

Now that the cold season is settling in to many parts of the U.S., we see frequent mailings from our power company, always suggesting the same energy conservation ideas to help us reduce our heating costs. You would think, to read them, that turning down the thermostat and putting on a sweater were the best, most effective and perhaps even the only options for attaining that goal. Not so. There are others that will not only cave you money on your heating bill, but may also make your life just a tad happier.

Although this may read like humor, it is not written tongue-in-cheek. Each of the following ideas has been tested, proved and approved by literally millions of people and has nothing whatever to do with how you dress or how your thermostat is set. I offer you the following alternatives to consider:

Share body warmth.
There are two essential versions of this strategy. 1) Find a human you’d really like to get under the covers and snuggle with and do so, and/or 2) Get a dog – preferably a mid-size friendly cuddler who doesn’t drool excessively and whose breath is tolerable. (The same essential criteria may be wisely applied to the option as well.)

Have some hot soup.
Warming the inside of your body has a warming effect on the outside. Chicken soup is good for more than the soul. Hot mashed potatoes, tea or other steamingly comforting foods and drinks work equally well – except for the Jewish among us who deeply believe in the miraculous all-healing powers of hot chicken soup (especially with matzoh balls!)

Take a warm bath.
Not too hot! It actually works better to warm yourself up by bathing in warm water (under 100 degrees, like a moderately heated hot tub) to warm your body up than it does to get into one that is much hotter. Overheating the water not only uses the power you are saving in other ways, but is apt to leave you feeling even more chilled than you were at the beginning when you get out. Keep adding small amounts of hot water as needed and bring a book – soak for a while and be warm. Your body will hold that warmth for quite a while afterwards.

Put on a hat and socks.
No matter how much or how little you are wearing, your body will lose much of its warmth through your upper and lower exit points – your head and your feet. It’s amazing just how much difference a pair of socks and just about any kind of hat can make and just about everyone has both easily available to them. Hats, particularly, are not just for the outdoors.

Sing out loud.
Singing produces body heat and works for just about everyone. Sing whatever you like if you are alone and if you are with someone else (and not in the snuggling-technique mood) sing something you both know the words to. It is a genuinely and physically warming experience.

As with singing, physical movement and exercise raises the body temperature and, to some degree, will help to compensate for a temperature that would feel too cold if you were sitting still. Walking (or skipping!) back and forth in your apartment, room or house has quick and effective results.

Go to bed early.
Covering up and going to sleep turns up most people’s natural thermostat. That’s why it always feels cold when you first get out of bed in the morning in the winter! Don’t think about an earlier bedtime as being a waste of time. It is, rather, a good opportunity to catch up on your rest and attain warmth in one fell swoop.

And remember, of course to close your curtains and drapes at night (helps the place contain whatever warmth has built up in the day time,) open them as soon as sun (if there is any) is shining on those windows and change out those old furnace filters!

Hybrids Of The Above.
Combining any of the above activities can increase the overall impact. Sing and skip simultaneously. Bathe and snuggle. Sing and bathe. Put on socks and a hat and quickly walk around for a bit. Wear a hat while having a bowl of hot soup. Have some mashed potatoes with your dog.

Staying warm in a cold house isn’t always fun, but it can be a lot more satisfying than turning down the thermostat and putting on the sweater that you keep in the back of your closet hoping that no one will ever see you wearing it. (This is probably the one your grandmother knitted you years ago that you have never had the heart to toss out or donate!)

The power companies are well intentioned, but their advice is both thought up and composed by technocrats, not by people at home needing to feel a bit warmer. These ideas are a tad more personal, but my be entirely effective and satisfactory for you. Geve ’em a try!

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