Disclaimer: The below money-saving strategy admittedly isn’t for everybody. If you’ve got “money to burn” and/or a closed mind regarding your indoor, at-home mode of dress (perhaps because of inescapable family or peer pressure to conform), or if you’ve got dangerously poor circulation in your hands, you likely won’t be interested in the below information, which is intended specifically for reasonably healthy individuals having a serious desire (or a compelling need) to slash their wintertime-heating costs. In fact, complacent skeptics might argue that only “Mother Earth News” types could embrace my below strategy. To that, I can only say that I myself don’t subscribe to Mother Earth News, live in a solar house, raise my own food, or hug trees. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) ;-) But, heck, if I’m going to wear “casual” garb anyway in the privacy of my own castle, I have nothing to lose and mucho dinero to gain by simply choosing clothes made with different fabrics than conventionally woven cotton, etc., given that the fabrics I allude to are at least as satisfyingly thin, lightweight, breathable and soft as the bone-chilling alternatives that most cash-strapped folks continue to wear at home.
Fact #1: USA Today recently reported that
“The average U.S. household will pay $992 in heating costs this winter, up $94, or 10.5%, from last winter.”
Fact #2: Years ago I watched a documentary showing an Eskimo family living in an igloo; the indoor temperature was scarcely warmer than most American’s refrigerators, yet tiny Eskimo children happily cavorted around the igloo naked.
Fact #3: “Room temperature” is commonly defined as “68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit”; however, I once read an alternative “definition” stating that the lower range of household “room temperature” could be 59 degrees (which presumably would feel toasty to the average Eskimo).
Fact #4: For the past five winters in the rather cold Midwest, using a ridiculously simple, affordable strategy involving lightweight, insulating, casual clothing, I’ve kept my non-drafty house’s thermostat continuously set no higher than about 61 degrees (and occasionally as low as about 59 degrees) without experiencing any discomfort or medical problems. I’m 54 years old, and, candidly, I don’t exercise as much as I could. ;-) In other words, there’s nothing unusually “high-speed” about my metabolism.
Each individual will have to discover the limits of his or her own tolerance; obviously, different people have differing sensitivities to cooler ambient temperatures. You might have to settle for adjusting your thermostat somewhat more modestly than I do.
In any case, based on my own experimentation during the past five winters, here are examples of affordable clothing that many a frugal person could regularly wear to keep comfy at home with a constant, daytime, indoor temperature within a range of about 60 to 64 degrees. (Experiment to find the lowest temperature you can comfortably, continuously tolerate while wearing the general categories of clothing below.)
All the below kinds of clothing should be reasonably widely available from various vendors, especially if you don’t mind ordering some of them on-line.
SHIRTS/TOPS: Two layers, as follows:
Inner layer: “Long underwear” top. This, of course, is a long-sleeved, insulating undershirt typically comprised mostly or entirely of specially woven cotton. (This is basically like a long-sleeved, pullover T-shirt, but its special weave is much more insulating and properly breathable.) The brand I’ve been using is “Sonoma”, and its composition is 80% cotton and 20% polyester. I’ve bought mine at a local Kohl’s store.
“100% polyester” long-sleeved “sweatshirt”. (And I do mean “100% polyester”!) This basically looks and feels much like a conventional cotton sweatshirt (“pullover”, no buttons or zipper), but there’s just no comparison regarding the warmth it provides! It’s actually plenty breathable, and its interior surface feels uniformly soft and fleecy against the skin (but the exterior surface’s texture may vary from one such shirt to the next). I’ve obtained mine via special sales by a store (Gear for Sports) in Lenexa, Kansas. Choose one whose fabric feels no thinner than that of your conventional sweatshirt, and you might be amazed at how much warmer you’ll stay than when wearing the barely insulating, “100% cotton” alternative.
PANTS: One or two layers, as follows:
NOTE: If you want to look “normal”, you might consider wearing either of the below “inner-layer” garments beneath conventional denim jeans or casual slacks. But if you value physical comfort over social conformity, try substituting highly insulating pants (not only as an “inner” but also as an “outer” layer) for conventional jeans or slacks whenever you’re in the privacy of your own (wintertime) castle!
Inner layer, first possibility: The aforementioned “Sonoma” also makes specially woven, 100% cotton, insulated “long underwear” bottoms. I’ve bought mine at a local Kohl’s store. Note: you may opt to tuck the non-elastic bottoms (hems) of these into the tops of your (insulated) socks to retain significantly more body heat.
Inner layer, second possibility:
R.U. Outside is a vendor based in Logan, UT from whose web site (ruoutside.com) I’ve purchased various items over the past five years. As of this writing, they’re still selling “Micro Fleece Pants” (both men’s and women’s versions) that presumably still bear the “White Sierra” logo (as the ones I bought last year do). These are made of “100% polyester”. Given the thinness of the material, these pants are surprisingly insulating, and they’re about as soft as pajamas or a thin velour robe. Depending on your legs’ circulation and tolerance of cold, these somewhat loose-fitting pants can be worn alone (as a single layer) or, better yet, as an inner layer. Their bottoms are non-elastic.
Outer layer: Via the aforementioned R.U. Outside, I once ordered a pair of somewhat thicker “Micro Fleece” type pants (likewise clearly made with “100% polyester”). This pair is not only (very slightly) thicker but also features gently elastic bottoms that are kept somewhat snug against your socks, further improving body-heat retention. Again, these are very comfy and bear the “White Sierra” logo. Given their overall softness, they’re actually much more comfortable than, for example, the conventional denim jeans (or, occasionally, dress slacks) that I wear whenever I’m out and about town.
Even Wal-Mart carries some adequate insulated socks, and they’re pretty cheap–about five bucks for two pair. My local Wal-Mart carries such socks in two or three fabric formulations (e.g., “largely wool” or “largely acrylic”). It’s possible to wear two layers of certain types of insulating socks, and you might try that. I generally find that one layer’s enough, but two are even better during the coldest days of winter. Accordingly, from such on-line vendors as R.U. Outside, you can find comfortably thinner “Sock Liner” (“inner-layer”) socks that are pretty effective insulators and can help wick moisture away from your skin. In any case, if price is no object, you might do somewhat better (not only in terms of insulation but also comfortable fit) than the “Wal-Mart” variety of insulated socks by ordering from vendors specializing in insulated clothing.
I don’t find it necessary to wear any special, “insulated” footwear while indoors. The aforementioned insulated socks suffice to keep my tootsies toasty. But fleece-lined/insulated slippers do exist if you want ’em. Hmmm, maybe I should get some!
NOTE: I only avail myself of this item very rarely and fleetingly. About three years ago I bought a low-cost “neck ring” or “neck warmer” (made of slightly elastic acrylic or polyester material with soft “fleece” lining) via eBay from a lady who sews and sells ’em in northern Michigan. I only avail myself of this item rarely and temporarily.
If I enter a trivially cooler room and feel the sort of slight, momentary chill that might tempt me to crank up the furnace, donning this somewhat elastic neck ring (which, optionally, can be pulled upward to simultaneously cover the chin) dispels that feeling almost immediately. It’s hard to feel cold when you’ve got something insulating your neck; and this neck ring–made of much more insulating material than old-fashioned scarves–is so effective that I generally can’t stand wearing it longer than about five minutes. Though I only use it rarely, I’m glad to have it available.
Personally, I don’t find it necessary to wear anything other than conventional cotton briefs. But the curious may check out the tantalizing “Fleece Thong” at the R.U. Outside web site (ruoutside.com)! ;-)
You might have noticed I’ve said nothing about keeping one’s hands warm. Well, as it happens, I’ve had a slight, frustrating tendency toward “cool” hands (at least during winter) most of my life. Even so, I still don’t suffer unduly from keeping my indoor temperature in the very low sixties. Probably part of this is simply getting gradually acclimated. In any case, I doubt that the majority of people will have any problem with intolerably cool hands, as long as they keep the rest of their bodies insulated as I’ve described (and are in decent health, eat sensibly, and–ideally–get at least a bit of regular exercise).
BTW, if your hands get seriously dry (or even cracked) during the worst of winter, you might search for some simple, cheap “neem” salve on-line. Some stuff of that ilk worked wonders for me! But I couldn’t find it at any neighborhood retailers.
I certainly would never advocate continually wearing gloves or mittens indoors! If that’s what it takes to keep you sufficiently comfortable, well, perhaps you should just turn up the thermostat and resign yourself to paying the proverbial fiddler! (Or maybe think about migrating south.)
I surely don’t need to remind you to always turn down your thermostat at bedtime! (If necessary, just unzip your average sleeping bag and use it as a high-insulation blanket!)
If you don’t already have an electronic, programmable thermostat, what are you waiting for? They’re remarkably cheap and powerfully convenient! I’ve programmed mine with an overnight temperature of only 50 degrees, and the furnace virtually never comes on during the long night, except when outdoor temperatures fall fairly close to zero.
I also probably don’t need to remind you to check for–and eliminate via caulking or insulation–any drafts around your house (including its basement’s windows and upper wall areas).
Of course, during sunny days, get into the habit of keeping all shades or blinds open for any windows that allow warming sunlight into rooms. Even a “non-solar” house can benefit from such passive radiation.
Of course (unless there’s an adjacent water pipe that could be subject to freezing), close the heat vents in any “spare” room(s) that you don’t occupy during wintertime, and shut the doors to such rooms (except during daytime hours when/if their windows allow passive solar heat to enter the house).
In my split-level house, the thermostat is on the second floor in a hallway. Throughout many winter daytime hours, I can actually set that upstairs thermostat at only 57 to 58 degrees; and the first-floor country kitchen (conveniently on the sunnier south side) still stays at around 62 to 64 degrees; and the fully underground (naturally insulated), finished basement (where I sit at this computer) can be easily kept at a remarkably stable, draft-free, comfortable temperature (ranging from 61 overnight to 64 during daytime) even if I keep its heating vents closed most of the time.
Therefore, if you happen to have a finished basement that’s likewise naturally insulated, be sure to take advantage and count your blessings. Spending many of your wintertime hours there could allow you to stay warm while keeping some or all of the upper floors as cool as you dare (short of freezing any water pipes, of course!).
Short of moving to a consistently warm region, you can’t eliminate your winter heating bills, but you can slash ’em to levels much lower than what your neighbors likely incur. Just keep more of your indoor heat directly “upon your person” (instead of in the air around you) by turning down your thermostat and implementing my above suggestions regarding soft, lightweight, affordable, insulating fabrics. Generally, two layers will be necessary for the torso and arms; and one to two layers for the lower half of the body, including the feet.
Keeping my thermostat set no higher than about 61 (daytime) and 50 (bedtime) has saved me lots of money over the past five winters, even factoring the relatively modest cost of the special clothing I’ve had to buy. And such clothing–excepting perhaps the socks–is generally usable for more than just one or two winter seasons. The bottom line is, I feel perfectly cozy as I thumb my nose at the utility company!