The Frugal Hackers' Guide to Keeping Warm in the Winter

Are you feeling cold this winter? Do you blast the heater, taking a huge financial hit to your electricity and gas bills? Not to forget the impact on the environment. So what is a frugal person like you to do besides setting up a schedule on your thermostat so your home only gets heated when you’re at home? Here are some frugal tips we use to stay cozy this winter in San Francisco without any central heating.

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Protect the House

Seal all air leaks and drafts in your house. A lit incense stick should help you detect drafts. Double-check your insulation using the help of a professional. Keep your blinds closed during evenings and nights since the cold weather outside chills the glass which in turn chills the air inside your room. Keep blinds fully open during the mornings and afternoons to let the sun in. This also helps with the greenhouse effect, trapping heat inside. Ensure all windows and balcony/patio doors are tightly shut. Keep room and bathroom doors closed while your space heater is on to improve its efficiency.

Spend less time in large rooms and more time in smaller rooms with doors. This improves the efficiency of your heater. Firing up your stove to cook warms up the house. So does running the dishwasher or dryer. Be sure to run these when you feel the coldest.

Wear the Right Clothes

Trapping heat doesn’t just stop with your house. Reduce your heating requirement by also trapping heat inside your body. Always wear socks & sweaters when chilling (no pun intended) at home. Indoors slippers are also a great idea (IKEA sells them for super cheap). Surround babies with warm, thick blankets (in addition to socks and a beanie) to minimize heat loss. If you’re on the couch watching TV, throw on a blanket. Use a parabolic heater if going to be situated in one location for a while (desk, bed, stove, etc.) Parabolic heaters are far more efficient since they heat up just a single spot, and do so quickly without fuss. Place a hot pack in bed with you while sleeping / napping (with hot water filled from the kettle).

Consume the Right Things

Drink 2 cups of morning & afternoon chai, coffee, green tea, hot chocolate, or whatever your poison may be. Keep sipping hot water from a kettle the rest of the day to warm your insides. Eat more hot stews and soups for meals to give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Reduce consumption of cold liquids such as smoothies, beer, orange juice, refrigerated milk, etc. Try to eat spicier food than usual which tends to generate heat. Use only hot water for washing hands, brushing teeth, etc.

Do the Right Things

Take your shower in the hottest temperature tolerable. Watch yourself feel warm for at least a couple hours after that. Do more exercise throughout the day to generate body heat: yoga, jumping jacks, dumbbells, squats, push ups, pull ups, sit ups, etc. are all great choices.

Go for mid-afternoon walks in the direct sun; climb up some hills to generate even more heat inside your body. Check the forecast to figure out the warmest hour of the day before leaving. Here in San Francisco, it’s usually between 1 and 3pm. If you have good heating at work, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to put in an extra hour or two at work. On the weekends, hit up a mall with free heating, or a neighborhood Starbucks/Peets. And finally, invite more friends & family over. More bodies = more heat in the house!

So there you have it. 4 easy themes to allow your thermostat to sit at a comfy 67° rather than a sweltering 76°. Your utility company will thank you for it, and so will your wallet.

Mr. Frugal Hacker

San Francisco, CA

Born in India. Grew up in Dubai for 15 years. Studied and lived in Canada for 8 years. Backpacked in Europe for 2 months. Lived in Toronto for 1.5 years. Working in San Francisco for the past 4 years. Runner, cyclist, software engineer.