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Blog: Keeping Warm in Winter

December 11, 2013

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Where I live, winter temperatures are often in the single digits. Whether your area is colder or warmer, keeping warm is a basic need that we all share.

I've posted some tips—from both Almanac editors and readers—about how to stay warm. These aren't "big" projects like buying a new heating system—just inexpensive, resourceful ways to help you warm up now!

1. Dress in layers.

Bundle up. Wear long underwear, sweaters, and even hats indoors. Remember the days of "sleeping caps"? They make sense when so much heat escapes from the head.

To avoid getting overheated inside, wear layers. I recommend a "wicking" polyester (or silk) undershirt next to your skin versus cotton. I gave a polyester t-shirt to my father and he keeps talking about the amazing difference as if I had invented sliced bread!

One reader adds, "I can't imagine surviving cold weather, inside or out, without a stretchy fleece neck warmer. I have several and I put one on when watching television or reading to avoid turning up the thermostat. Just think about summertime when you are feeling too hot - if you can, you try to cool down by opening your collar. We are using the reverse of that principle here."

2. Keep Your Feet Warm

I highly recommend "house slippers" indoors. I know that it sounds a bit old-fashioned, but having the rubber sole really makes a difference.

One reader adds, "I'm from Florida. But when it's cold, like when we got down to 23 last week, socks are my best friends. A soft, cozy pair worn to bed keeps my feet toasty warm, and as long as my feet are warm, I'm comfortable with the thermostat turned down."

"Keep changing your socks! Everybody forgets that your feet sweat, and THAT can make you cold even though you are layered up."

For the outdoors, it really helps to insert foam liners in your boots or hiking shoes to give your toes an extra layer of insulation.

3. Heat Up Your Bed

Don't turn up the heat for the entire house. Use an electric blanket. An even cheaper and safer option may be a hot water bottle with a wool or fleece cover. Here's what other readers say:

"Fill your bottle with hot water from the faucet before going to bed and slip it into the foot of the bed between the sheets. By the time you're ready for bed it's all nice and toasty at your feet. Believe it or not the water bottle stays warm all night long."

"Use rice! Put the rice in a fleece cover--then warm in the microwave. It will stay warm half the night and keep your toes comfortable."

"I have a water bottle, but better and quicker is to use a large heating pad with an automatic shut-off. Mine shuts off after 30 minutes. I lay the heating pad in the bed and turn it on about 15 minutes before retiring. I turn it off and then on again if I still need a little more heat but it is usually adequate just turning it on once."

4. Harness the Sun

During the day, open the blinds and curtains on the south-facing windows—and let the Sun warm you. At night, close the blinds and curtains to better insulate your home.

One reader adds, "We use roller blinds every night for all windows. Save a lot of energy in a cheap and easy way."

5. Keep the Kitchen Cozy

Many readers keep the kitchen humming!

"I put a cast iron pot of water with liquid potpourri on the top of our cast iron stove. This increases the humidity in the room and puts a lovely smell in the air."

"Drink lots of yummy hot chocolate!!!!"

"Bake something in the oven, either dinner or a dessert (doesn't have to be fattening but even better if it is)."

"A hot cup of tea is great....if you are sick, a hot toddy works wonders. Also, I always have a crock pot of soup going during the cold months."

6. Block Drafts

Beyond weather-stripping, which is difficult with old houses, consider these reader tips:

"I hang blankets to close off the open stair well going to the second floor, since heat raises it keeps the warm air down stairs when we spend most of our time. I noticed it saves a lot of heating dollars."

"Don't forget to put something at the bottom of outside doors--you can just feel the cold air pour in. You can buy a fancy roll or just use a blanket or towel."

"I made long round pillows to place against my doors and window sills. I found some scrap pieces of upholstery fabric that are nice and heavy and help keep the drafts out."

"Just like layers of clothing, I put layers at the windows. Between the window and the thermal-backed drapes are the closed venetian blinds and a flannel-backed table cloth. And we hung a blanket over the entire exterior door cause air doesn't just come in at the bottom."

7. Stay Active

Get your body moving. At the Almanac, we joke that "one log can heat a house." Just run up the stairs with the log, throw it out the top window, and repeat three times. You'll be warm!

Our readers add:

"Keep active, this is a good time to clean out closets, garages, etc. Anything to keep active."

"If I get a chill just sitting I get up and stir around, the movement not only warms me up but also stirs the heat in the house. Children are great when playing, they stir the air around."

"Don't just sit around. Stay active to keep ur blood from 'thickinin.' Exercise is good for ya."

8. Humidify Your Home

Not only does a humidifier keep your house warmer but also it eliminates drying indoor air. As our readers say:

"I discovered that when I run my vaporizer (humidifier) in the bedroom, I can turn the heat down a couple extra degrees overnight. In the morning, I raise the heat by about 2 degrees at a time instead of making the furnace work hard to raise it it all at once."

"I keep coffee cans lined with large baggies with water in them, around the vents to add humidity to the house, and this works great. I lined the coffee cans so they would not rust."

"I put a waterbath canner full of water on the stove (lasts all night)."

If you don't have a humidifier, here's another idea: When you take a bath in winter, leave the water in the tub after you get out. If you let it sit until it reaches room temperature, it will add a little warmth to the house and help humidify it!

9. More Ideas

Here's a new one! "I live five miles from the Canadian border in the St Lawrence region--icebox country! To stay warm INEXPENSIVELY, recycle old panty hose that has runs or snags. That layer next to the bottom and legs and toes, with slacks over keeps me toasty. For guys like Joe Namath too!!"

All, I hope that these tips help—please add any more suggestions on how to get and stay warm. Just "submit" your comment below.

Catherine, our New Media Editor, joined The Old Farmer's Almanac in 2008. She edits content on both this Web site,, and the companion site to The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids publication, She also pens the Almanac Companion enewsletters and keeps up with readers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

More Articles:


I snuggle with our dog. She

By Mary Biemer

I snuggle with our dog. She gives off alot of heat. She sleeps with us in the winter so she stays warm too.

My husband has been using

By C.K.

My husband has been using "hand warmers" for several years, but he used one last winter on his back and got burned -2nd degree- while the cloth bag and his shirts (2 layers) did not. My own analysis is that the "hand warmer" is for the skin layers that are used to such temperature changes; where skin layers normally protected by clothing are more sensitive and burn easily -even with ice.
So be careful how you use these devices, as well as the "hot rock" mentioned in another comment. I would test that one during the day, before it's time to go to sleep. The layers of wrap, especially the foil first, may be the secret to success. With the device and the rock, I would not leave it there longer than it takes to serve its purpose.
What I use in bed for myself are a clean pair of white anklet socks on my feet and -keeping my face uncovered-, just loosely laying a hand towel, or the top I was just wearing, against the top of my head.
Another secret is to place a fleece throw between me and the cold sheets (even flannel ones). The throws aren't terribly big so I first trap the throw with my feet and tuck the throw around my sides. When my fingers are icy, I use the corners to wrap them up with all fingers extended. Best money I ever spent to stay warm.

These are all wonderful

By Kelly Rogers

These are all wonderful suggestions. We use socks and slippers, even at home. And we don't use fans or aircon at night. :)

These are some great

By Rory Williams

These are some great suggestions! My best friend and I just moved into our new apartment at the beginning of the semester, and we have been trying to be conservative about using our heater. We were thinking about ordering heat pump services fairfax va because we heard that it will save your money while still keeping your house warm.

Instead of using extra

By Sheogorath

Instead of using extra blankets to try and stay warm, use towels. An old bath sheet is easily as large as a blanket for a single bed, but the loops help layered towels trap more air than layered blankets do, making you warmer and less likely to overheat.

If you aren't allergic to

By LaVorna Tester

If you aren't allergic to feathers, those old down comforters- like grandma use to have- really insulate against the cold at night. Keeping the bedrooms cool helps cut down on the heating expense in the winter, and the down comforter keep us toasty warm.

Wrap your feet with paper

By David Hamilton (rustedmemory)

Wrap your feet with paper towels to keep your boots insulated and dry!

for more check out

Great way to stop drafts from

By Pat Griffiths

Great way to stop drafts from coming in around doors is to hang drapes over the doors on the inside of your home. When the warm weather comes I just pack the rods and drapes away until next winter. I make sure I buy long drapes so they gather on the floor and I can place the rod high above the door. The heavier the drapes the better.

well you know what it won't

By samantha lee

well you know what it won't keep your house warm why don't you just get heated blanket

Another way to keep warm~ buy

By Nan C.

Another way to keep warm~ buy a polyester foam mattress pad- it will keep your body heat in bed with you. We used to heat big stones by the fireplace, and then wrap them in tin foil, then a brown bag or a towel and put them at the foot of our bed! Another trick that they did in the old days before there was electricity was to use mirrors to reflect the heat- from a candle up to a fireplace or wood stove. They would place the mirror opposite of the heat source, it would brighten up the room more, and would transfer the warmth with it!

I LOVE my silk layer for


I LOVE my silk layer for warmth, and my rice bag (sewn into washcloths)put into the microwave for a minute or two (it works the other way in the summer from the freezer too) and that toasty tub does wonders to heat my core (before you leave the water in, I have to start doing that again) A warm cocoa or peppermint tea helps too. As do those hat & slippers. Oh my Goodness! I thought I was just cold but, you've shown me that I just forgot how to be warm! Thanks! :)

The drugs stores now sell

By Patricia Hilliard

The drugs stores now sell these things they call "heat therapy" or "heat patches" or "hand warmers." They were invented by the Japanese (I believe). Very clever. They are made of sawdust and iron filings. When oxygen hits these two elements they oxidize and produce heat that lasts all day. These pads can be worn outside or to bed or put on a sore muscle. A great invention and not dangerous or a hazard to the environment. They come in an air-tight wrap and can be kept for years if not damaged. I keep them for when the furnace dies or when I'm sick and need extra warmth.

We live in Indiana which gets

By Ann Hicks

We live in Indiana which gets cold, but not so cold as other areas of the country. Yet, from about November through March, I wear a silk or cotton "undershirt" every day, even indoors. As I get older, I appreciate the extra warmth, despite a warm heated house. And one can "tuck" the undershirt in the pants or skirt.

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