Heat: Curtains and Blinds as Insulators

I knew that closing the curtains and/or blinds at night and opening them when the sun would shine in could help keep the home warm. This morning I had a practical experience of it.

When I woke, it was 63 degrees in my room. I opened the curtains and blinds and it dropped to 60. The sun came up and shone bravely, and soon it was 65 in here. I like seeing theory born out in practice.


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.



Heat – Hot Sock

If you’re going to spend some time outside in subzero weather, or the cold sheets are a shock when you slide into bed, here’s a thought:

“I read about making a hot pack by filling a bag or a sock with raw rice and heating it in the microwave. I took a clean sock, poured a pound of rice into it and tied the top shut. At one minute in the microwave, it felt toasty warm. It stayed warm for fifteen minutes, and was still warmish even longer than that. Two minutes of heating kept it very warm for a half hour and still warmish for a while longer.

It smelled faintly like rice. An aromatic type of rice, such as basmati, would be nice for this. Eventually I heated it too long and burned the rice, which made it smell like burnt popcorn. I poured a tablespoon of mint oil into the rice and now it smells heavenly. It makes the whole room smell fresh. Now it’s also oily, so I have to protect clothes and furniture from the oil.

This would be nice for preheating the bed on cold winter nights. You could put one in each pocket before spending much time outdoors in freezing weather. For moist heat, like for chest congestion, dampen the sock before microwaving.”


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Heat – Homemade Fireplace Logs

If you still get the paper, or know people who do and would give it to you, here’s a handy winter use for it:

“To make fireplace logs you need newspapers and either string or masking tape to secure them. Leave out the glossy inserts. Take newspapers, a section at a time, and lay them on top of each other. Alternate the direction of the folds. Thicker logs burn longer. Use the amount of newspaper you need to make a log as thick as you prefer. Roll the stack up very, very tightly and securely fasten each end with string or tape. Submerge and completely soak the roll of newspaper in water. Then let it completely dry before burning it just like a wood log. These work best when mixed with wood logs.”


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Heat – Adding Heat and Humidity

It’s so hot here I can’t experiment with new ways to keep warm in winter, so here’s another clip from the book:

Adding heat and humidity

“You’ll feel warmer in winter if you run a space heater in the room you are occupying. Space heaters are the second leading cause of house fires (after cooking fires). Be very careful to keep flammable things away from the space heater. Always supervise young children and pets around it.

Some people vent the clothes dryer inside, with a special filter. This lets you use the heat from the dryer to heat the inside of the house in winter. There are many cautions attached to this idea. Caution: never do this with a gas dryer, due to the danger of carbon monoxide. The air coming out of a dryer is very moist. It 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.

When venting indoors, it is all the more important that you keep lint buildup 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. Check the bag often. If it gets too full, the dryer will be less efficient.

Amazon.com sells a readymade version of this, the ProFlex Indoor Dryer Vent Kit, for about $13. 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.

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. The foil side should face in to the room. This will reflect heat that radiates toward the wall back into the room. It’s possible that 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 reverses 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.

Sometimes I open the curtains on the east windows to let in the warmth of the morning sun. Then I 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, you may feel more comfortable if you run a humidifier. It will also limit static electricity buildup in carpets, etc. Hanging clothes to dry indoors will add humidity to the air. So will simmering a pot of water on the stove.”




Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.


Heat – Keep the Cold Outside

More from the book:

Keeping the cold outside

“Cold in winter and heat in summer get in through any openings or thinner places in the outer shell of the house. Here’s what my local utility website has to say:

“If your home was built before 1982, it should be checked to see if it has R19 insulation, about six inches deep, across your entire attic. Energy Star® estimates that you can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs (or up to ten percent on the total annual energy bill) by sealing and insulating the “envelope” of your home – its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors and floors. You can have your attic checked for adequate insulation by scheduling a free Home Energy Survey. If you do need ceiling insulation, FPL can help you pay part of the cost with rebates up to $300.”

If you live where it snows, you can detect internal heat leaks by checking the roof. If one area thaws faster than others do, then heat is getting into the attic from a specific area. If your whole roof is thawed, and your neighbors’ roofs aren’t, you seriously need some insulation.

If you have a fireplace, be sure to close the flue when you’re not using it. If the flue is open, the chimney will let your heated (or cooled) air escape from the house. To prevent fires, have your chimney cleaned every year, if you use it. If your neighbors also have fireplaces, maybe the chimney sweep would give you a group discount.

Living in an older home calls for lots of caulk and tape. One house I lived in, I went all around the outside filling holes with caulk. Anywhere a wire or pipe enters the house, the opening around it will let in outside air. My current raggedy windows have been repaired with clear tape where there’s a small gap between the glass and the frame. It doesn’t show, and I don’t feel any more outside air coming in there than from any other parts of the windows.

The spray foam insulation that comes in a can is useful and versatile. It has a plastic wand to get it into narrow or awkward spaces. Once sprayed into a crack or hole, it expands to fill it completely. It’s easy to use too much. Wait and let it expand to see if you need to spray more.

This foam can catch fire, so don’t use it near pilot lights or other open flames. Don’t use it in a place that gets hot for long periods, such as behind an oven. One online reviewer said that the can he had very quickly became too clogged to spray anymore. A poster on http://www.thriftyfun.com said that DAPtex Plus Multi-Purpose Foam Sealant is easy to clean up after. He could rinse out the applicator straw and reuse it later.

Another factor in feeling warm is to keep drafts down. Try heavy insulated drapes over the windows and “draft stoppers” or “draft snakes” at the bottom of doors. They will prevent chilling drafts and make the room feel warmer. There are many patterns and ideas online for making these draft stoppers. A quick way to make one 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 with either screws or a self-adhesive strip. A combination of both door sweep and draft stopper will work the best.

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 up in blankets and fastened with a bungee cord. Readymade covers are available for $10 to $20.

You’ll also feel warmer if you move your chair, couch or bed a few inches away from the outside walls.”




Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.

52 Weeks to Effective Use of Money – Heat

By now, it’s cold in most places north of me. It seems odd to be posting about heating when I’m sitting in front of a fan, but here we go. A clip from the book:

Dress for it

“I grew up in southern and western New York State, with lake effect snow and sub-zero days. I remember dressing in layers to keep warm in winter. Keeping your head covered has a major impact on keeping body heat in. It makes sense to wear head covering even indoors if you are keeping the heat low. There’s a reason old-time people wore nightcaps to bed. I made a little headscarf out of the front of a pink T-shirt. I tried it on in summer and ripped it off within five minutes because it made me too hot. In winter, it will be great.

I’ve lived in the South for over thirty years, so I no longer have cold weather clothing. On our rare cold days, I wear first a tank top, then a long sleeve shirt, then a short sleeve shirt. I wear lightweight slacks under heavier slacks, and warm socks. For reading or napping, I also get under a blanket on the couch.

When feel a need to turn the heat on, I walk on the treadmill for a few minutes until I start to feel warm again. If no treadmill is handy, you could alternate physical home chores with resting activities to keep from getting too cold from sitting still.”

Wearing the clothes you’ve already got costs so much less than setting the heat warmer.




Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Super-duper Air Conditioner Filters

Here’s another thing I had been assuming and it turned out not to be 100% true. As a person with a wide range of allergies, I believed I was doing only good by using the highly rated and very dense air conditioner filters that catch almost everything.

When I had the ducts cleaned, the tech pointed out how hot the air handler was. He said that when it has to pull air through the very dense super filters, it works much harder (and thus uses more electricity), runs hotter, and shortens the life of the air handler.

The super filters cost many times more than the simple ones. By using the simple ones I’ll save on air filters, save electricity, and potentially save on not having to replace the air handler sooner than necessary.

What really helps my allergies is having the ducts cleaned. I have to do that at least every two years, or I notice much more allergy trouble. I don’t notice that much difference with the filters.