Early Retirement Extreme

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26 users responded in " Keeping warm during winter "

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KevinW said,

I am glad you mentioned migration as an option. I have this scheme of sailing North-South to always be in a comfortable latitude. I can’t imagine a more efficient or enjoyable means of wind-powered temperature control.

Paul said,

the ultimate is a bottom floor apartment. Of course, its noisy on the bottom floor, so thats the catch. I really don’t like noise, so I plan to move fairly soon.

Jacob said,

@KevinW – There’s some kind of “loop” that boaters on the east coast do between Maine and the Caribbean.

jenn said,

I love my microwaveable “Bed Buddy” heat-pack. I microwave it before bed and leave the heat off all night long. Of course I live in Los Angeles so my house rarely gets below 50 degrees …

Kathleen McDade said,

If you spend most of your time (or most of your evening) in one room, a space heater can be a good option.

Matt B said,

Good point, Kathleen. A majority of people spend most of their time in one general section of their house so, why heat the whole thing. I live in the NE so, I just have to be sure I don’t turn the central heat down too much during winter, or I’ll be dealing with frozen pipes…Time for me to start thinking about moving into an RV, eh?

Moneyblogga said,

I totally agree with you on this Jacob. I never saw the logic behind forced-air-heating a McMansion. I would always figure, “heat one room and sod the rest”. I have lived by this principle for several years. I haven’t even turned the furnace on for the past two years now. The amount of energy it used and hence the expense it created was not feasible. Especially when any one of four kids kept leaving the front door wide open. We heat one room with a wood fire and tell anyone who’s cold to go put on a sweater.

Litha said,

I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life, so I have plenty of experience being cold and staying warm. I’ll have to check out Filson, never heard of it before. Up here Smartwool is the popular choice. It’s as soft as cotton and machine washable, but 100% merino wool.

In addition to the advice Jacob and others have given, I would add two:

1. Put something on your head, even a cotton bandana can make a big difference in how warm you feel.

2. Heat your bed, not your house. As Jacob mentioned, when you are up and moving it is easier to stay warm. It’s when you stop moving that you begin to feel cold. I use an electric mattress pad, but there are other options (including Jenn’s recommendation) all of which are cheaper than heating the entire house.

Pat Ritchie said,

A nice option for a larger house can be programmable thermostats. These allow you to turn the thermostats down in unused rooms when you know you’re not going to be around.

For example I have my bedroom set to heat up before I go to bed, then cooler while I sleep. Then heat up again just before I get up and then way down for the rest of the day while the room is not in use.

Saved me a bundle so far.

Chad @ Sentient Money said,


I’m not sure why the bottom floor apartment is the ultimate. I could just be missing something.

Heat rises, so the bottom floor apartment does not seem to be the best. A mid-floor apartment with apartments below you providing heat, while apartments above you provide insulation would seem to be the best.

steve said,

Heat does not rise. Heat moves along a gradient towards cooler areas, equally freely along the x,y, and z axis.

*hot air* does rise, however.

steve said,

Jacob, your line of thought is much like my own when it comes to heating.

The most efficient way to solve the heating problem is to insulate your body. This is what people who traditionally lived in the cold, and who lack extensive fuel for heating, understood. (Of course, now they all have western homes and propane, but that’s another story). The next thing to do would be to raise the temperature in a small area, room, or suite of rooms in a larger dwelling. And heating the whole house to 67F is just an historical absurdity whose era will likely be over within the next 20 years, unless something really spectacular happens on the technology front.

Last winter I went out to Old Navy during the Christmas shopping season. They. like all other retailers, were having trouble moving their winter clothes because of the unusually warm weather in December 07.

I went and spend about $200 on a set of polyester fiberfill vests, sweaters, and one winter coat. My thinking was that these clothes would be my “heating budget” and would serve as that for years and years, whereas heating oil once burnt is gone forever, leaving a CO2 offgassing debt into the atmosphere that we pay for in the future.

I dropped the ambient temperature in my house to 52F when I am gone, and up to 60 when I came home, but only in the kitchen which is where I spend most of my time in the early evening.

Normally at home in winter I wear my down or synthetic fiber vest, perhaps a hat, and two loose layers on my legs: a pair of Champion athletic pants and, over that, whatever slacks I am wearing. On my feet, smartwool socks and slippers.

After a year of this, I am used to it and during a cold snap my bedroom has been down to 46F. (I leave the upstairs unheated, except in a severe cold snap that makes me concerned about the pipes. Keep in mind this is an 1880s farmhouse that is large, much larger than I need. It is being divided into a 2 family this winter.) I have a pair of Wiggys sleeping bags that are zipped together in my bedroom and would be comfortable down to 20F or less, and if we lost power I could be Ok down to zero with minor modifications.

Over time, you get used to the lower temperature. Like you say, just start moving around, or add a layer of clothes. Really you don’t need that much, a down vest over a sweater is plenty. What is weird is going out into the rest of the world where 70F is the standard temperature and people complain that they are cold even at that temperature.

Jacob said,

Heat radiates or conducts towards cooler areas … along the negative gradient (because the gradient is positive from cold to warm). Heat can also be advected, like a hot wind, or convected in the case of rising hot air or a pot of water on a stove. In that case it rises because it is less dense than colder air, like a hot air balloon without the balloon. Since we’re getting technical, I think that the one thing that annoys me with central heating is this: It advects warm air in, yet you still have a negative radiative balance from the cold walls, so even if the thermometer says 60, it feels colder towards the walls. The walls never really get heated because air has a poor conductivity.
Homes that are heated with radiators typically have the radiators against the wall. Hence the heating is mainly radiative and eventually the entire room and not just the air has the same temperature.

Jacob said,

Last year we kept the rental house at max(55F,outside) due to the pipes. Indeed, walking into a 70F house is almost like walking into a heat wall. Very stuffy. Actually I think it’s worse in the summer … when people keep their homes ridiculously cold.

We try to keep the RV warmer (65F) due to mold and underside tank issues. It is much smaller though. During the day I remove all curtains on the sun side and we can get it up to 75 on passive solar.

retirebyforty said,

Hi everyone, I finally have something useful to contribute!

My guest post on how to make a kotatsu table at BFS.


Of course, you can adapt used items and make this at a much lower cost. 🙂

kakskiv said,

In my opinion the best way might be to improve the heat insulation of your home.

krantcents said,

Living in Los Angeles, heat is less of a problem. I use a setback thermostat set relatively low in winter and high in the summer. A sweater seems to work.

Darwins Money said,

It sounds so simple but we’ve started just wearing sweaters in the winter. It seemed absurd that because I’m an American and energy is relatively cheap, that I wear short sleeve shirts in my house in winter. I now keep the t-stat a couple degrees lower and no short sleeves allowed.

ice said,

I’m in the Peace Corps in Armenia. It’s interesting here – their houses tend to be large stone constructions with huge rooms and tall ceilings. In the summer it’s great because there is no need for AC. But in the winter it often feels warmer outside.

My host family heats one room of their house using a Persian gas heater. The other rooms are left unheated. Usually the temperature in the heated room in somewhere in the 50s, while the bedrooms, kitchen, and bathroom are in the mid to low 40s.

My solution has been sleeping in a sleeping bag under the covers of my bed. I also use an electric space heater (radiator type) when I’m in my room. Finally, I just wear tons of layers.

It’s crazy, but seeing your breath inside is normal here!

StacyW said,

Warm drinks is another efficient way to warm up, even just warm water.

oji said,

Covering the head is a great idea. Don’t forget the feet, especially if you live on a slab.

If you get cold sitting around, a blanket across the legs/lap.

Snuggle up. Touch relieves stress and makes for good bonding with the kids, spouse, pets, etc…

Go outside for a while and do something active. Inside will feel wonderful afterwards.

Mustafa said,

Paying heating bills is not entirely a choice if one lives in the colder parts of canada. Even after dressing in many layers of warm clothing, starting with a base layer and thermal underwear heating maybe required if the outside temperature is -30 C. This is true specially at night as one is not as active. One solution is to use an electric blanket instead of heating the whole bedroom. A good part of the heating bill is energy used to heat water. It is possible to shut off the hot water boiler and heat water on the stove, mix it in a bucket and bath with that in a tub using a mug to pour water. Showering uses more hot water and can be cut out completely during winter months. However washing dishes is more difficult as it can painful to touch running cold water if the pipes aren’t already frozen due to lack of heat.

Mustafa said,

Moving south to the United States is better but as an international graduate student held up by the Canadian system of red tapes waiting for permanent residence papers and not being from a “first world country”, also being refused US Visa, this is not an option.

I do think Canada is becomming Saudi Arabia of the North. Economy is increasingly oil driven. While the federal gov’t has slashed permanent resident applicants, more are comming as temporary residents or slaves bonded to an employer. They get deported for even complaining about safety at work. The provincial immigration system does’t even allow for movement from one province to another.

Nick | Millionaires Giving Money said,

Great post, I’m always looking for new ways to insulate the home so it’s warmer than the previous year. It’s now dawn on me after reading this excellent article that it’s better to keep myself warm rather than my entire house. I’m going to invest in some quality woolen clothes and move around more at home.

Shobir | Find Some Money said,

Great article, I’m going to stop wasting money insulating my house and spend more on buying clothes that will keep me warm. I wish everybody thought as rationally as you do. Most people would probably think of this as scrimping but were actually saving money, going easy on consumption and saving the environment. Excellent post.

mel said,

Thank you for all the great suggestions. My personal thermostat doesn’t work very well and I have trouble staying warm in winter. After reading this post, I went through the closet and found a nice old coat that just needs some repairs so I can wear it to work. I’m glad I learned to sew and mend. I won’t need to buy a new coat this year. Army surplus sounds good, too.

About half the radiators in our small house are not working and we are trying to find out how to get them going again ourselves without hiring a repair person. Meanwhile, I love the idea of using sleeping bags in bed. I usually wear lots of layers and a knit hat indoors during the day. My husband laughs and says it looks like we exist in different climates. He wears short sleeves all year.

Thank you also for your kind acceptance of everyone who wants to learn from you. We are too old to retire young, but I used to worry we wouldn’t be able to retire at all. Now we have cut our spending so much, things are looking up and I can sleep at night finally. With your tips, we have even cut our grocery bill in half and are making healthier choices.