Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to Stay Warm in a Cold House

Would it freak you out if I told you that we set our thermostat to 56*... if we have it on at all? Yep. It's true. We are, inadvertently, one of those cold house people. I think it was a "thing" a while ago - like a hipster thing. But the truth is... I just don't like our furnace.

There's nothing wrong with the furnace - it's kinda new and it works like a charm. I just don't like it. It never really feels warm to me. Plus, it goes without saying that we are cheap. Real cheap. Cold house cheap. We have one of those heating oil furnaces - not natural gas/propane. Heating oil. That's pretty much just diesel. If we watch our P's and Q's we only have to fill the tank every other year. So neither of us like to run it much. Even on these extra cold days the furnace is off. If we turn it on then we only run it for 30 minutes or so.

So are you totally freakin' out, man, that we would voluntarily have a cold house? Wondering what's wrong with us? Or are you one of those people who has the furnace cranked up to 75* and are complaining about your heating bill? Or is your gas company telling you to "conserve" or else? Not us. We just go about it a different way.

Down here by the wood stove it's a balmy 70* degrees and I'm starting to look around for my shorts...so it's not like the whole house is cold. For once this ridiculous late 1970's split level house is good for something. The wood stove is downstairs, surrounded by cat puddles, and the heat rises to the main level and keeps the house mostly warm. If you like mid-50's.

Right now I think it's about 58* up there but that's because I've been having a baking day. This works out perfectly for us because the dogs stay upstairs and they like the cooler temperatures. Having big snow dogs means an evening laying by the fire is their nightmare. In the summer they push and shove to get the spot over the air conditioning vent so none of them are interested in the furnace blasting. And to tell you the truth, both of us like to sleep in a cool bedroom - if we had our druthers we'd be very happy sleeping in a meat locker. So this works out for us.

We just make adjustments when we are in the house - especially upstairs. First, dress for success. Both of us just layer up. I usually have fleece leggings, wool sox, shoes, a heavy tshirt, and a flannel shirt....and my secret weapon.. a hat. Yep. I know who you are and you are laughing but go ahead... nothing make the noggin happier than rockin' a warm knit hat. Honestly it's miraculous. Go ahead.. try it.

Next, make sure you are keeping the cold out of the house so the warm can take over. Get those doors and windows sealed. Then get some heavy drapes to really block out the cold. But be sure to get all the sunlight you can - so open then during the sunny parts of the day.

We aren't really "window dressing" people... and frankly for most of the windows the only ones that can see in are the chickens. So sometimes we improvise with heavy blankets for the bare windows if it's going to be really cold.

Then, as Mavis says, "Use all the heat you pay for." I like her tip of peeping open the oven when you are done baking. However, I like to say that first you should have a baking day - strategically on the coldest days.

Get some bread going, start some snacks, make pizza (with that 500* oven preheat..), and to really hit it out of the park - make a really big roast or a slowly braised dish. Really swing for the fences and get a turkey and roast it up. Turkey? Sure! Why not? Or a big ol' pork roast - that's good too. Anything to keep the oven going and as a bonus - you get dinner. And snacks. Put what you don't eat right away into the freezer and then when you need cookies - they are there waiting for you.

Next, bring on the bodies. In extreme situations, pile everyone into the same room. I almost never have the dogs sleep in the room with us but one nite a couple months ago they were all in there with me. I can tell you that 450lbs of dogs generated enough heat to make the bedroom at least 15* warmer than the rest of the house. When they say a "three dog night" they are not kidding. Note, none of these dogs were actually ON the bed with me.

However, regardless of being dogless at night I almost always have our oldest and boniest cat, Teddi Grumpkins, to keep me warm. The cats tend to pile on us when the fire downstairs gets low... or if they want something. Or if I sit down somewhere. So get cats. Lots and lots of cats.

And last... you just kinda get used to it. We are cool weather people naturally so it's easy for me to be in a coolish house. When we go to other people's houses we think it's just really weird if it's too warm.... like 65* or more. Now if you weren't used to it and woke up one morning to see it was 51* then it might be too weird for you but we aren't overly concerned. About 56* is pretty normal. But downstairs by the wood stove is usually pretty nice...and that is where you will usually find me. 

Happy Tuesday everyone! Are you keeping warm in a cool house?


Sunnybrook Farm said...

Areas of our house are as cool as your place, we have a farm house that has been added on over the 200+ years. The wood heat is way better than oil or propane furnaces that we have tried. It is something that you get used to though the fall days are difficult depending on how fast it cools down. I find houses that are kept in the 70s uncomfortable after being in our cool one.

Ashlee said...

I'm right there with ya. We don't totally forego the furnace, but keep it relatively low (who really keeps it at 75???) with our pellet stove burning when we are awake.

These really cold days are killin us though, and even with the stove burning the furnace still runs almost constantly. Can it be spring yet????

Heavens Door Acres said...

We too have a split level home, and the wood stove is in the downstairs, *family room* Our furnace is set at 65. It does come on sometimes.... during the night when the fire goes down...nothing a good pile of heavy blankets can't cure! We heat with propane...and fill our 500 gal tank every other year...some times we can skip 2 years! Burn baby burn...keep that fire going!

Kelsie said...

I'm fortunate to have a natural gas furnace, but I'm stingy and hate paying high bills, so I have the heavy drapes and the insulated-to-death attic and the weatherstripped doors AND we leave the thermostat at 64 during the day and 61 at night. With woolen things, blankets, kitties, and hot drinks, we stay plenty warm. I was painting in someone's house yesterday, and her heat was set on SEVENTY FIVE. Because it's so cold out, the poor furnace couldn't keep up, so I blasted all day. The room I was painting upstairs was somewhere around 85 degrees and I truly thought I might pass out. My house isn't as "cold" as yours, but it's definitely cooler than a lot of people I know!

Patty@inStitches said...

When we were on the farm we had an all electric (I know INSANE) house and the cost was over the moon to heat. So we installed a wood stove in the dining room, one you could cook on, and we loved it! Rooms that needed more heat (bathroom, baby's room) we left the door open, but the rest of the house was shut off. When you spend your days outside (we had a large farrow to finish pasture raised hog operation) no matter how low the temperatures get anything above 40 feels pretty good!

Vera said...

We have not had any heating on this year at all, apart from keeping the bathroom warm, and putting an electric fire on for a few minutes occasionally. We used to have a swelteringly hot house back in the UK, with gas fired central heating on all the time when it was chilly. Here, in SW France, we don't, and are much healthier as a result. But we do have an electric blanket on the bed, and that I would not do without. Don't mind feeling cold during the day, but definitely must be warm at night!

Unknown said...

I spent 4 years of university living in cold drafty houses, we never paid for heating. We used to just sit on the couch with blankets over our knees, all huddled up together. I would go to bed in woolie hat and gloves. OK it didn't snow, so it wasn't as cold as your place, but we had plenty of frosty mornings and constant wind. Covering windows and blocking drafts makes a huge difference. I so glad now that we have the wood stove and can keep the house at a comfortable temperature (ie only need one layer of woolen jumpers). Being constantly cold is very unpleasant.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thats just what i think, SunnyBF.. wood is such better heat.

yes! it can be spring, Ashlee! ugh... can't come soon enough!

HDA, we just really like the wood heat. AND saving all that money from having to fill the tank.

Kelsie, i would have died.. but maybe they thought it would dry the paint faster??? wow!!!

PinS - i want a wood stove to cook on.. oh yes i do!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

yep, Vera, totally agree about a snugly warm bed. i'm so excited about your wood stove. cant wait to see how it works out.

the right house really makes the difference, Liz. :-) and i know that we should be saying to you, "keep cool" right now. :-)

David said...

we keep ours at 69 when we are awake end 58 when sleeping or not home. I'm really surprised, the gas bill for January was only 125. New windows and increased insulation in the walls/attic made a huge difference. I've had a really nice wood burner in the past and look forward to one in the future.

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