Friday, January 6, 2017

Staying Warm Without Killing The Bank Account

wood burning kitchen stove

Winter brings snow, cold, and high heating bills for most of us.  Our family is no exception.

There are definitely ways to help tame down the heating bill monster, and each family will have different ways to go about it.  Some have old farm houses with lots of drafty areas, some have energy efficient homes that are air tight, some are in between.

I've grown up on farms and spent many many cold days/nights in farm houses with more drafts than the military had.  A lot of mornings it wasn't unusual to wake up with ice on the inside of the windows.  Oddly enough those days from my memory seem the most cozy.

In the houses we lived in, we mostly had Warm Morning or Morning Glory stoves for heat.  It oddly enough looked like the one pictured below, including carpet.

Those bad boys could kick out some heat, and usually were centered in the middle of the house.  In fact my father-in-law still uses one and it keeps his house feeling like the tropics.  Ours on the farm was hooked up to propane and sounded like a shotgun when it kicked on.  We kept an old coffee can full of water on top for humidity, and many mornings you'd find dad stretched out in front on the carpet after getting out and breaking ice.  I joined in that and had to thaw myself out in front of the old Warm Morning pretty often too.  We lived in North East Missouri at the time, back in the late 80's and through 2000.  Let me tell you, winters can get rather mean and nasty there--not like Minnesota or Wisconsin or the Dakotas nasty, but it has a hefty bite to it.  Previous to moving to Missouri we lived on a ranch in South East Oklahoma, where it doesn't normally get extremely cold--not by northern standards.

To help on costs for propane, my folks would buy on contract in the late summer and do fill ups on the tank early.  We didn't use much propane during the rest of the year, with an electric top stove and electric water heater.  I don't remember the cost, but those days it seems everything was cheaper than it is now.  We (mainly dad and I) would work on putting plastic up to the windows and using wood slats to keep it up.  We'd throw bales of straw around the foundation of the house as well.  I was the last kid at home (of 11 of us) so I did a lot of the fixing up for seasonal things, including the winter set up.

Dad and I worked outside a lot, as there was cattle that needed ice broken, the owners (who owned the property and cattle that we helped tend) would come in with hay bales and feed buckets, and there was always keeping an eye to make sure no cattle went out onto the pond and fell through the ice.  That Warm Morning stove felt great coming back in from the bitter cold.  We'd put our gloves and boots by it to warm them back up and defrost the gloves that had ice all over them, and thaw ourselves out while mom did her thing taking care of the house as much as she could.

I've taken some of those lessons learned on the farm and use them now in our house.  We live in an old wood frame house, and I like it.  It reminds me of being back home.  It has the old double hung windows and mostly the original lead glass,  It has drafts of course, which is to be expected.  To fend them off, we worked at putting plastic up to the windows, as well as using old blankets up to the doors when they are not in use.  Simply cut two little holes at the top of an old blanket and put a nail on either side of the door frame, hang, and when you are not using the door, keep the blanket up to keep the wind and cold air from coming in.  We also invested in insulated curtains.  These I am not fond of.  I washed one set without reading directions and completely ruined them.  They must be washed cold and line dried, and even then they stick to themselves and remove some of the insulating materials adhered to the back of the fabric.

Baking is a big thing in the winter here.  Although, I did try it the other day when it was very cold, and I couldn't get the yeast warm enough to proof.  Our kitchen is in the back of the house, and when the arctic freight trains roll through, it's not the easiest to  keep it and the laundry room and bathroom warm.  Heat just doesn't reach back there well due to how it's laid out.  But, with the gas stove (older one that I really like as it doesn't use electricity for ignition) going and space heaters we keep it fairly decent.  Baking during the cold days does help, and provides fresh made goodies and keeps the back half of the house warmer.  I've been also known to put on a stock pot of water and throw in cinnamon sticks and cloves to simmer, adding more water as it evaporates.  The only downside is the red drip marks that sometimes ends up on the wall behind the stove...but it's easily cleaned with Murphy's Oil Soap and the boiling stock pot puts out a nice scent and heat and some humidity.

We also have taught the kids (and reminded ourselves) to wear layers inside the house as well as out.  It's nothing during the coldest days to find us wearing multiple layers.  We have the heat set at a certain temp, and that is usually within our budget and there it stays--if one is cold, put on more clothes.  If we're watching tv or sitting down reading or sewing or whatever, there's plenty of lap blankets to go around.  The family has enough clothing to wear 3 layers a day for 2 or 3 weeks and not run out, so they have no excuse.  Wearing extra clothing in layers helps keep warm, and doesn't put more pressure on the heater and utility usage.  We don't expect the family to dress for summer in the middle of winter--it will not feel like the tropics in our house until July, therefore we have to dress appropriately.

I've also put layers of quilts and blankets on all beds.  One child has 4 that he uses (his choice), the others choose up to 3.  Most often they get too hot and kick them off, but they are there for them to use just in case.

We also make use of space heaters.  Yes, I keep an eye on them, and we've bought ones with the feature that shuts them off if they tip (and tested them out).  They help a bit in rooms that are farthest away from the heat sources.  When used sparingly, it doesn't hurt the utility bill much.

Going through winter doesn't have to cost an extreme amount.  Yes, it gets cold, but with planning and a little work ahead of time, even in older homes, you can cut the cold and keep as much heat in the house as possible.

I guess you can say we are a bit old fashioned in how we handle the cold.  That's how hubby and I were raised, and it seems to work.  Sometimes the older ways work the best. :)

How do you keep your heating bills down in the winter months?  I'd love to hear from you!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your graceful comments are always welcome!