It just occurred to me that for all my life, I have lived in old houses. By old, I mean pre-1920. My current home was built in 1855, before electricity, modern plumbing, modern central heating, and even before insulating walls became common. Very little of my house has been updated. The only insulated areas are the attic and the living room (which I renovated last summer).
The house is a balloon-frame house, which means there’s a lot of chilly air circulating between the walls, and the windows are over 100 years old. So my house gets coooooold. I’ve come up with a little system that helps take the bite out of the utility bills. Here are a few things I’d thought I’d share; maybe you can glean something from it.
1. Hang heavy curtainns or blankets over windows.
Windows are a huge heat loss, especially old ones. I open them when the sun shines, to let the heat in, but as soon as the sun starts to set, I close them.
2. Hang heavy drapes or blankets in doorways.
I essentially cut off 2/3 of the house during the day. The kids and I work in the living room and kitchen, so blankets keep the heat in these rooms. I also have my heaviest drapes over the stairs (I have an enclosed stairwell).
3. Close off all doors but one.
This can be inconvenient, but it does same money. I have three doors that lead to the outside; in winter we use one. For these doors I hang plastic sheeting around the door frame, and then a heavy blanket.
4. Utilize your vestibule, or air lock.
My old home has a formal front entry hall. This is great, because it creates an air lock, preventing cold outdoor air from coming directly into the house.
5. Put all the computers and electronics into the same room or area.
Computers generate heat. I keep all the computers in the living room, where we work most of the day, and it creates a warmer room than if everyone had their computers scattered throughout the house.
6. Use draft doggies.
Draft doggies are rolls of fabric, filled with stuffing or dry beans. I use rolled-up towels and put them in front of the door threshold. This keeps drafts from entering the house.
7. Use a space heater.
Space heaters can sometimes cost you more to run, but if you are like us and really only need to be in a few rooms, running a space heater can keep you from running the furnace, which heats the entire house.
8. Dress warmly.
The kids are NOT allowed to wear t-shirts and shorts and then whine that the thermostat is too low. We actually have a pile of extra blankets in our work room, for them to use of they are feeling chilly. I also make sure they have clean, solid slippers that fit.
9. Bake and cook.
I do a lot of baking and cooking in the winter. This makes up for the very minimal cooking I do during the summer. There is just something about apples, cinnamon, roast turkey, and coffee that makes you feel warmer.
10. Insulate your house. Or, insulate what you can.
I cannot insulate my house walls, because we have bricks in between the studs. (*sigh*) However, the attic is insulated, and so are the rim joists in the basement. The rim joists are the wood frame pieces that sit on the stone or concrete foundation of your home. There’s a huge amount of heat loss here. I had my rim joists insulated, free of charge, from a weatherization grant offered by my county. See my post about it here.
So this is my method for surviving the winter and it’s bills. I know that having drapes over the doorways isn’t very pretty, but we’re talking survival here! If you have any helpful tips, feel free to add them in the comments– I’d love to know!