How To Manage
Your Winter Energy
are going nowhere but up. North American
natural gas production is in decline. The price
of oil is rising. The days of cheap energy are
gone. Expect energy price increases.
Windows are open
holes in your walls. They stop the wind, but
warmth can also leak out. One option is
installing new double pane, argon filled
windows, but many people cannot afford that.
The next best option is to put some kind of
insulation over the windows. One inexpensive
but very effective option is to duct tape 2 or 3
mylar auto sunshades together (depending on the
size and shape of the window), and then sandwich
that between two blankets, and hang that over
the inside of the window. You could staple a 1
x 1 to the bottom and roll it up to let sunlight
in. If the windows are not south facing, and
are older and leaky, you will benefit a lot if
you place plastic over the window, inside and
outside. Staple it to the window and then nail
1 x 2 strips of wood or some other cheap strips
of wood, around the edges. Going the extra mile
in covering up windows is one of the most “bang
for your buck” energy conservation ideas. Keep
the windows covered whenever there is no light
coming through them. If there is no light
coming through the window, you are losing heat
to the outside.
A Cheap Window Insulation
Cut pieces of
rigid board insulation and use them on the
inside of your windows. We use Thermax for this
purpose, it’s the kind with aluminum foil on one
side and some kind of plastic-like paper on the
the other side. You can put several sheets
together, and tape them together at the edges
with aluminum foil tape. Cut them so they fit
snugly inside the windows, or put magnets on the
window frame and your interior shutter and put
them over the inside of the windows. You can
paint them, encase them in canvas or other cloth
slip-covers, and apply contact paper to them (to
make them more attractive).
Free heat from the sun.
South-facing windows can bring free heat from
the sun inside your house whenever the sun is
shining through them. In the morning, when the
sun strikes those windows, open any curtains or
shades. You can increase the heat coming
through the window by placing something that
reflects sunlight on the outside of the window,
going out horizontally. The reflector surface
should be the same size as a window. So if you
have a window that is 28 inches wide and 56
inches tall, cover a sheet of cardboard that
size with aluminum foil and during the day use
it to reflect more light into your south facing
windows. Don’t cover south-facing windows with
plastic, as that will cut down the amount of
sunlight coming through the windows. You can
get some free heat in the morning from
east-facing windows, and in the afternoon from
west facing windows, but put up your interior
window curtains, shades, or shutters as soon as
the sun stops shining directly through them.
Most of your heat will come from your
south-facing windows. If you have a
south-facing door with a glass storm door over
it, that will also collect free heat.
Even MORE ideas for free
There are about a gillion
different designs for solar air heaters that are
easy and inexpensive to build. The best free
source of such info is
Bundle up your body!
Dress for the
season indoors. Wear several loose layers of
clothes. Clean clothes keep you warm better
than dirty clothes. Don’t forget a hat, even
when you are indoors and when you go to bed!
Put blankets and quilts on sofas and chairs, so
people can bundle up while they are sitting
around. When you go outside, beware of wind
and wet. Keep dry. Wet clothing loses its
ability to insulate, and can suck heat right out
of you. Stay out of the wind as much as
Heat less of your house.
Organize your household so you can live in fewer
rooms. Keep unused rooms closed and close any
heating vents in those rooms. It is easier to
keep a room warm when several people are inside
it, than when there is only one. Where
possible, “zone heat” – heat only the area
occupied by people, when the people are there.
Caulk and Weatherize.
Do all the obvious places – windows, doors, but
also think about less obvious places. If there
is no insulation in your attic, you can do a lot
of caulking up there. A good book on this
subject is “Insulate and Weatherize” by Taunton
Press. The rule of thumb for your attic is –
anywhere in the floor of the attic that two
pieces of wood come together, lay down a bead of
caulk or use some insulating foam. Read the book
for more details. It is available at most public
libraries. Inside your house, use a burning
incense stick to find places where air is
infiltrating. When you find a little incoming
breeze of cold air, plug up the hole with caulk,
foam, insulation, whatever.
If you have no insulation,
start with your attic. It is easy for amateurs to
insulate their attics without using a contractor.
Cellulose insulation can be blown into the attic.
Most places that sell the insulation also rent the
blowers. This website,
, has instructions on how to install cellulose
insulation. Before you do the insulation, however,
read the Taunton Press book and do a good job
caulking the floor of your attic (which is the
ceiling of your inside rooms). Most people will
benefit by exceeding the recommended thickness of
insulation. In Oklahoma, 9 inches is recommended in
the attic, we installed 13 inches. Cellulose
insulation can also be blown into wall cavities.
You make a hole in the top of the wall cavity (the
area between two wall studs) and fill that cavity,
then move to the request. You can generally only
get 4 inches of insulation in a standard wall.
After we filled our exterior walls, we built new
walls, 5.5 inches inside of our existing exterior
walls, and filled the new walls with insulation,
giving us 9" in the walls. My rule of thumb is
insulate your walls to whatever depth is recommended
for the attic, and then increase the attic
insulation by about 30%. Low income home-owners can
benefit from government programs to help them
insulate and weatherize their houses. A good place
to start is ask your city government or energy
utility about such programs.
What if I am a renter?
Put heavy objects against outside walls, especially
book cases and books. Hang layers of quilts and
blankets on the inside of your exterior walls. Look
for places to rent with lots of south facing windows
and ask the landlord about levels of insulation. You
may be ahead by moving to a new apartment or house
with better insulation and more south facing
Don’t pour any heat down the train to keep the sewer
warm! When you take a shower, put the stopper in
the tub. Let the water cool before you drain it. Air
dry your freshly‑washed clothes inside the house.
Don't pour hot cooking water down the drain, let it
cool first. These practices will add humidity & heat
to the inside of your house that would otherwise go
down the drain or out into the cold back yard.
At Night. . .
Turn the thermostat down or the heater off and pile
on the blankets. Dress warmly for bed in sweat pants
and shirt, socks, and maybe even a cap (depending on
how cold it will get and how low you set the
If you have bare
floors, put down area rugs. You can layer these for
even more insulating effect. Area rugs can also be
placed on top of carpet to increase the insulating
Food helps you keep warm..
Drink lots of water, and eat good meals with lots of
carbohydrates for fuel. Winter is a great time for
warming and nourishing soups and casseroles.
Use less of it by
installing low‑flow shower heads and faucet
aerators. This can cut your hot water requirements
as much as 50%, saving 14,000 gallons of hot
water/year/family of 4. Low flow showerheads go for
as little as $10 at a home supply store and they are
easy to install yourself. Insulate the hot water
pipes. Insulate the hot water tank with a special
"jacket" made for the purpose (typically $10‑20 at
home supply stores), or wrap it with insulating
materials. Do not cover the top or the bottom, the
thermostat or the burner compartment of the tank.
Lower the temperature on the water heater to 120
degrees or less. Take quick showers, not baths.
You can make a
simple solar heater: get a 5 gallon plastic bucket
with a tight fitting lid, and paint it black. Fill
it with water and set it in the sunlight for a few
hours. Voila, easy and free five gallons of hot
Your grandfather was right:
Turn off the lights
when you're not using them.
Compact flourescent bulbs work in regular light
fixtures, last longer and use much less energy. They
cost more, but they use 75% less energy than regular
bulbs & last for 1000s of hours. Use less electrical
lighting during the day when natural light is
available. Use more "task lighting" ‑‑ smaller
lights focused on what you are doing, rather than
the entire room.
Wash clothes in cold water. Wait until you have a
full load, don't do small loads. Instead of using
the dryer, air dry your clothes. Get some racks to
use for indoor clothes drying when its raining or
too cold outside.
The best thing to do with your dishwasher is
disconnect it and sell it to somebody else. Washing
dishes by hand should be a family affair ‑‑ when
many hands pitch in, the work is less tedious and
gets done faster. At minimum, don’t use the heat
Avoid spending money for small batteries. For $30 or
less, you can get a solar powered battery charger
and some rechargeable batteries, and go solar. Or
you could use a recharger that runs on household
current. Small batteries are expensive ‑‑ the fewer
you have to buy, the more money you have for other
things. A good source for solar-powered small
battery charges is
Gadgets and Ghost Loads.
Many modern appliances and gadgets have "ghost
loads" ‑‑ they use power all the time, even when you
think they're "off". When an appliance isn't in use,
make sure it is turned completely off, unplug it if
necessary ‑‑ especially the television (which
consumes lots of energy). One way to deal with this
is to plug them into an extension cord that has an
on‑off switch. Use the extension cord switch to turn
it off and on, and you will avoid wasting power via
the "ghost loads" in the appliance. Be wary of
bringing more electrical gadgets into your house and
scrutinize what you already have. Do you really need
all that stuff? If you have a water bed, drain it
and replace it with a regular bed (a waterbed heater
can use as much electricity as a refrigerator.)
While you still have it, insulate it well during the
day or it will try to heat your whole house. Never
use the television for "background noise" while
you're doing something else; a radio consumes less
power. Sell your garbage disposal, or don't use it.
Compost your vegetable food scraps for your garden.
Sell or don't use your garbage compactor.
Don’t leave your computer equipment on 24/7. It is
a myth that turning computers on and off is hard on
This information is
provided as a public service, and has been compiled
from credible sources, but responsibility for use of
this information is with the reader. Use it at your
own risk. Your mileage may vary.