Saturday, October 15, 2011

Time to Freeze My Buns?

So far this fall, despite a few frosty nights, I've had no desire to turn on the furnace (probably due in part to the fact that the furnace filters desperately need changing.  Eeeew!  Don't need that nasty old dust recirculating anywhere, especially since the furnace is practically right outside my bedroom door!).  But the call has gone out by The Crunchy Chicken, it's time to freeze yer buns off in 2011, and she's issued a challenge to go with it!  Apparently there are even prizes to go with it, but it seems to me like everyone participating wins, since you get a lower heating bill just for playing!

I'm going to cheat a little on the challenge and declare my temperatures to be the same as we usually set them in the winter: 65 during the day and 55 at night.  A lot of people seem to think that is crazy low already, so I'm officially going to leave it there. 

Even though I plan on leaving the thermostat the same place as last year, I do plan on better implementing strategies to keep the family warm, beyond putting on socks and a sweatshirt or breaking out extra blankets.

One advantage we definitely have at the Trailer Park Homestead for keeping the temps down in the winter is, like I said, the furnace is practically right outside my bedroom....and everyone wants to sleep in that bedroom.  This means that we don't have to worry so much about heating the far side of the house at night.  If the kids were to actually start sleeping where they are supposed to, we might have to turn the thermostat up a notch or two more, but, as it is, I encourage that less in the winter so they think they are getting away with something by sleeping in my room, and we're getting away with paying less on the heating bill.

Another thing I'll definitely be doing is strategically planning meals and baking around the weather.  If it is supposed to be overcast (more on why that is important a bit later) and cold, I'll be more inclined to stick something in the oven, or maybe fire up the canner to can some stock, or make  or something, which would also serve to heat up the house while getting something done.

One final unusual way I plan on keeping the house warmer without heat this winter is passive solar energy.  I don't even need any fancy equipment for this--just the storm window shut on the screen door!  On sunny afternoons, if I leave that front door that has a screen door open and the screen door shut, the light from the sun coming in generates enough heat that it raises the house's temperature as much as 10 degrees in an afternoon!  And that is even if it is in the 20s outside, so it doesn't have to be a warm day to do it!  I know this wouldn't work for everyone, but check out the windows on your house and see if you can do something similar, if they line up right that if you put up the blinds or curtains, it actually heats the house rather than loosing heat to a potential draft.

So those are my main ideas for keeping the house warm this winter without using much energy.  If you have others, especially ones useful for a single-wide trailer, I'd love to hear them.  This might be a bit of a game for us, participating in this "challenge", but my next door neighbors' furnace is broken and they don't think they'll be able to afford to replace it (yes, it is beyond repair, according to the guy they had come look at it already.  And, yes, we'll be being neighborly and inviting them to come over any time they need to keep warm, even if it means spending just about every night here), so any tips on keeping warm could literally be lifesaving for them.


  1. I used to use old army blankets hung in the hallway to keep the 1/2 of the trailer that we weren't in all the time from sucking up all the heat,as well as closed off all the heat vents to that end.

    Ours was an old,falling apart trailer,so we often put plastic on the windows during the colder months,and sometimes hung blankets over the windows too,as it was a very drafty,leaky old place.

    Now that we are in a house,I keep the thermostat set at 64 in the winter,and it does not get bumped up.Since our room is in the lower part of the house,and partially underground,is gets much colder in there than is comfortable sometimes,so we simply open one of our camping sleeping bags all the way up and use it like a comforter on the bed.The sleeping bags are rated to minus 15 degrees,so it keeps us plenty warm enough.

    I don't think we could do the passive solar energy thing,as we've only got sun directly at the front of the house for a couple hours in the morning,and then the rest of the day it's blaring down on the side that has no windows.

    I'm gonna have to look up this challenge you're speaking of,sounds interesting.

  2. Ack, I typed in a long comment and it got deleted. Ugh. Anyway, I had mentioned hot water bottles (for keeping warm at night - an extra comforter on the bed plus a well-positioned water bottle equals comfort all night long).

    Secondly, for your neighbors, suggest they invest in a small, energy efficient space heater. I don't mean the old fashioned kind that was a fire hazard...rather, something like this:

    That's very similar to the one we had to pick up earlier this spring during an unusual cold snap...our heater was temporarily out of order, and it was dropping below freezing. Fortunately for us, this model was 50% off, so we didn't even spend that much - and even on the low setting, it took the chill out of a large room rather quickly.

    I would recommend putting the space heater in the living area, and hanging fabric - some type of curtain or a quilt nailed to the wall - over the doorways. You'd be shocked at how effective a single sheet of fabric can be at keeping heat in a room - and a thicker fabric like a thin quilt can work wonders.

    On really cold nights (when hot water bottles just won't cut it), the family could either camp out in the room with the space heater, or the heater could be moved into a common bedroom and everyone can sleep in there.

  3. Whoops! Forgot another suggestion. Trailer home walls can be rather thin (at least, that's my memory from living in one as a child, but it's been thirty years so maybe the newer ones aren't as bad). For extra insulation, hang blankets, quilts, or comforters up against the walls, and use thicker curtains over the windows. I remember my mother doing this interesting layering thing with blankets in my bedroom, in coordinating colors, and the effect was pretty. My room was the envy of all my friends!

  4. Like others, I have been known to hang hand made quilts and other pretty fabrics on walls to help insulate. I will be doing that in my own room this winter! :) We try to heat mostly by wood when we can, a renewable resource and one that we can do most of the work for ourselves, and we get wood from places local that are not clear-cutters. When the wood stove is going, the furnace gets set to 50 or 55, and we use the stove for heat. Right now, we're putting it at about 60, which means it's on at night a couple of times, but during the day it's almost never on. We have a lot of passive solar heat from the big windows, but I suspect we may also lose heat from them, as well, as they are not the new windows that capture heat.

    I would tell your friends to put shrink wrap plastic on their inside windows, and clear plastic taped on well on the *outside* of their windows, making a double barrier against the cold. In a trailer home especially, though, leave one window undone because otherwise you'll have massive moisture build up which really sucks. Cheap carpeting on floors and even walls will help retain heat, as well as putting hay bales around the base of your trailer (all the way). This helps with some types of houses as well, though not most.

    I have a tiny electric space heater that I use in bathrooms in the winter time. It's such a small space that I will go in and "heat it up" for the kids (or myself) before bath time, then take it out before the water gets turned on. So long as they keep the door closed, it holds the heat for a pretty long time. This lets warm baths occur without having to heat the whole house for the joy of it.

    Warm foods help. Keep a pot of broth on the back of the stove or in a crock pot, and help yourself from it liberally. If you don't like broth, swill tea or warmed cranberry juice. I sometimes use the crock pot to make a bit pot of mulled wine or non-alcoholic cider for parties (or just because), and let people serve themselves as they please.

    Warm snuggling is always a good thing, too. Hot bath/shower before bed, while warming the room with a space heater or even with hot water bottles or clean bricks/potatoes warmed in the oven, then hop in under warm covers and snuggle with your sweetie(s). And a night cap... which sounds awfully funny but it helps the body retain heat best!

  5. I remembered another blogger I followed had posted something about keeping warm in winter, so I asked her if she could direct me to that post...instead, she wrote a whole new post about it. Here's the link:

    Really, her writing style - and what she says about frugality and self-sufficiency is similar to your own views. And you are an author and she just published a book....seriously, sometimes I mix the two of you up!

  6. We are going to be doing this challenge too. We haven't decided on a temp yet (think we will have a family discussion lol) but I am thinking 65 and 60. We all get sore throats from sleeping open mouthed at night so any colder may not work.