A Little Bit About Heat

Here’s a small clip from my book, on the subject of staying warm indoors.

One way to feel warmer in winter is to operate a space heater in only the room you are occupying. Space heaters are the second leading cause of house fires (after cooking fires). Great care should be used to keep flammable things away from the space heater. Always supervise young children and pets around it. You’ll also feel warmer if you move your chair, couch or bed a few inches away from the outside walls.

I have seen several mentions of venting the clothes dryer inside, with a special filter, in order to use the heat from the dryer to heat the inside of the house in winter. There are a lot of cautions attached to this idea. Warning: this should never be done with a gas dryer due to the danger of carbon monoxide. When venting indoors it is all the more important that lint buildup is kept cleared out. Disconnect the vent hose from the outside vent opening. Thoroughly clean all lint out of the hose. Use clamps to fasten a vacuum cleaner bag to the end of the hose to help keep lint out of your indoor air. Unless your dryer is centrally located it may make sense to set a floor fan where it can blow the warmed air into the living area. Check the bag often. If it gets too full the efficiency of the dryer will be reduced. A readymade version of this, the ProFlex Indoor Dryer Vent Kit, is sold on Amazon.com for about $11. The air coming out of a dryer is very moist and could cause mold problems unless your area is quite dry in winter. Some sites also warn about lint in the air causing breathing problems. Because of the lint and the possible mold, I haven’t tried this idea.

Does your heat come from radiators? The room will feel warmer if you put a foil-faced insulation board against the wall behind the radiator, foil side facing in to the room. This will reflect heat that was radiating toward the wall back into the room. It’s possible that just taping aluminum foil on the wall, shiny side out, will do about the same job. Use masking tape or painter’s tape to avoid damaging the wall surface.

Are your kitchen and bathroom fans vented to the outside or to the attic? If they are, running them will pull heated (or cooled in the summer) air out of your living space. Do you have the type of ceiling fan that can be reversed so it blows the air up instead of down? Running it upward on low speed will push the heated air from the ceiling area back down to where the people are. One place I lived, we had a wood stove in the main living area. It took care of most of our heating needs (in Florida). We sent heat down the hall to the bedrooms by hanging a box fan up nearly at the ceiling so that it blew heated air from the stove into the hallway. Luckily my then husband enjoyed chopping wood, and had a pickup truck to go around gathering large tree limbs to cut up.

Depending on how cold it is, I may open the curtains on the east windows to let in the warmth of the morning sun, and then close them when the sun has passed. When it’s very cold the leaky windows let in more cold air than the heat from the sun can overcome. After using the oven leave the door cracked open so the leftover heat can get out into your living space. Do the same with the dishwasher. If your winter weather is very dry, running a warm air humidifier can help you feel more comfortable at a colder temperature. It will also limit static electricity buildup in carpets, etc. Drying clothes indoors will add humidity to the air and so will simmering a pot of water on the stove. In cool weather I put the incandescent bulb back in the lamp in my office. It puts out enough heat to take the slight fall chill off the room. I notice that when I turn the blinds so that they are partly open and the curved-outward side of the slats is facing into the room I feel warmer near the window than when I turn them so the curve faces outward.

Changing the furnace filter regularly will help it run more efficiently and save money. Adjust the vents so they are blowing at an angle that makes you feel warmest. If they are floor vents keep furniture and drapes clear so that the hot air can get into the room completely. There is such a thing as a washable permanent furnace/air conditioner filter. I haven’t bought one because my air handler doesn’t have a lot of life left in it and I don’t want to buy an expensive filter that might not fit the next handler.

 Another factor in feeling warm is to keep drafts down. Heavy insulated drapes over the windows and “draft stoppers” or “draft snakes” at the bottom of doors will prevent chilly drafts and make the room feel warmer. There are many, many patterns and ideas online for making these draft stoppers. A quick substitute is to lay a towel along the bottom of the door and snug it up to the crack with your foot. A more permanent method is to buy a door sweep at a hardware or home improvement store. They fasten to the bottom of the door either with screws or a self-adhesive strip. A combination of both door sweep and draft stopper will work the best.

The twin draft door stopper available readymade sounded extra good, so I looked into it more. It slides onto the bottom of the door and has a padded strip on both sides of the door, blocking both drafts and noise. The online reviews suggest that you may have to tinker with it to get it to work right. More people were dissatisfied with it than were satisfied. I really love the existence of online reviews; they’ve saved me a ton of money.

If you have window unit air conditioners that stay in place all year be sure to block drafts from them. Set the dial so the vent is closed. I’ve seen the outside of these wrapped all up in blankets and fastened with a bungee cord. Readymade covers are available for $10 to $20.

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