Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's cold in here!

One of the most basic things my family has already started working on is adjusting to the idea that houses don't have to be 68*F in the summer and 72*F in the winter. In fact, if you look at it like that, it's a bizarre luxury that we've come to expect as a birthright. But humans have survived for a good long time in a huge variety of temperatures, and there's no reason we can't go back to it.

We are starting slowly at this. Right now, our main actions have been:
  1. lower the thermostat in our house to 60*F
  2. learn how to dress in fricking layers in our house (it's really not that hard)
  3. don't turn on the A/C during the summer
  4. perform the summertime "dance of the windows"--more on this when summertime rolls around
It is wintertime where we are right now. We don't have a programmable thermostat--yet!--and my husband and I are nothing if not incapable of followthrough, so the house pretty much stays at 60*F right now (rather than dropping the temperature over night, etc.). And so far, despite some complaints on the part of visitors (who are typically polite about the situation as they quietly put their coats back on) it's really not bad.

It does take adjustment, though. If you're used to 70*F, you cannot just drop the temp by
10 degrees and expect to be hunky-dory about it. The best thing we did, in fact, was not turn the heat up in the first place. So far this winter, I've not set the temperature over 62*F, and that was something of a concession to my Gigi for her visit over Christmas. I've found that if I push the temperature below 58*F, my nose gets cold inside, and for some reason this bugs me more than I can say, so I'm compromising with 60*F (until I figure out how to knit a nosewarmer--or make one of these! [youtube video] Oh, I love Beaker and Bunsen!).

The main way we deal with colder indoor temperatures is, as I said above, to dress in layers. All of us wear at least a t-shirt and overshirt during the day. My husband and I both have thermals under our pants. I try to get the kids to wear pajama pants under their regular pants (although since my older son is at school during the day, he'd get too hot that way and I try get him to add clothes when he gets home). I am also continually amazed by how my children just don't seem to notice the cold. Yes, I do try and keep them covered, but I'm always looking over and seeing that they've taken their socks off, or their overshirt, or who knows what. So keeping their clothes on at an appropriate level is a bit of a struggle, but one I won't concede.

We also sleep mostly together, and often with hot water bottles. The boys have opted to sleep in the same bed, and we're fine with that, and my husband and I sleep together. Now, I should say a few words about hot water bottles. Those words are "GET" "ONE" and "NOW". My favorite luxury, by a long shot, is to sit on the couch with a hot water bottle under my feet, and maybe even (bliss!) one on my lap, with a book or knitting, and a cup of hot tea. This is the sort of luxury one cannot experience in a 72*F house--it's just not possible. We've got four water bottles--two for our bed and two for the boy's beds. I bought some cheap fleece and sewed some bottle covers for them, just to make them a bit more pleasant to have against the skin. Everyone loves them. I will probably buy a few more this year, and maybe even knit some cutesy covers (although fleece has much to recommend it, not the least of which wicking away the odd stray droplets of water that the outside of the bottle might have on it). And remarkably, even after a full night in bed with us, I've found the water bottles to still be warm when we get up--not hot, like they were the previous night, but still warmer than body temperature. And naturally, we have piles of quilts & blankets on our beds, too, which we can layer as we will.

What about when we're up and around? Well, honestly, if I'm up and doing, I don't notice the temperature at all (except for that whole 58*F cold-nose thing). We still dress in layers, but activity warms the body very nicely. I've also completed my first set of fingerless gloves, which I've been wearing around to keep my hands warm while also being able to do work (like right now).

But if we can hack 60*F with relatively little adjustment in our lifestyle, how much further could we push it? Now I start laying in plans. Here are some of the things I'm planning/hoping to do either this winter or next to go even lower:
  1. Sew blanket barriers to section off our house--and heat the part of the house that we're actually in.
  2. Try out a space heater or two rather than using central heating. Now, I'll admit I'm a bit lukewarm on this idea, because I've been given to understand that space heaters are spectacularly inefficient. But even an inefficient space heater might be better overall than very efficient whole-house heating, so I'll give it a shot.
  3. Make a kotatsu. I got some great inspiration on this topic today from Colin Beavan over at the No Impact Man blog, including making a japanese kotatsu: http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/2009/01/how-to-cut-out.html I'd never heard of a kotatsu, and in some ways it's just another version of a space heater, but options are always good.
What else can we do? Well, partially as an excuse to feed my knitting habit, I'll be making everyone some close-fitting wool caps for indoors (not those big, nobbly woolen hats which are great for outdoors but frankly feel silly when you're indoors--even if indoors is 50*F). I'll probably knit up some more fingerless gloves, which were quite easy, and I've got some leftover yarn for them anyway. But I'm reasonably sure that going lower in temperature than we are now will require having some source of warmth to go to, whether it's a space heater, a kotatsu, or hanging out in the kitchen while I bake bread. Someday having a woodburning stove might be nice, but that's firmly in the "pipedream" category (ahahahaaa! bad pun). Anyone got other ideas?


  1. You are doing way better than me. That's for sure! I need to learn how to knit. And pick up some hot water bottles. Although knowing my children, they will open them up and dump the water. :/


  2. Meh. Knitting is nice, but you sew, and I actually think long term that will be more useful. It's really hard, and takes a really long time, to make an outfit by knitting it. Maybe we can trade off? You make us shirts & pants, I'll make you pullovers & hats?

  3. The kotatsu is a SUPER idea. I also never heard of it. Now, I'm looking it up and I think I'll pick up a glass coffee table on Junk Day this spring and fix one up for myself (one that the glass is removable to put the blanket under) and I would think that a Heat Lamp would be better than a space heater for under this. Good stuff. I'm practicing now for when I can control my heat, since I currently rent.

  4. Sunnypessimist:

    *headesk headesk headesk*

    I already have the relevant coffee table. I didn't even *realize* it until you said something. Oh great gods, but I'm glad I started this blog--y'all have got to keep me in line, here!

    BTW, thanks!

  5. You're welcome! Keep up the blog, I check it all of the time :) It's kind of scary how much we think alike. It would be great if we didn't live states away and we could meet up.