We’ve seen a few “how to save money and energy on home heating this winter” roundups this year, and they mostly boil down to the same thing — weatherstrip your windows and put some damn socks on. We can’t argue with that advice, but isn’t anyone thinking outside the box? Assuming you already know to wear layers, draft-proof your house, close off rooms you’re not using, and turn on a fan, here are some other chill-banning tips you can try.
Stoke that woodstove, Half-Pint: It’s time to put your money where your tweed vest, handlebar mustache, and penny-farthing bicycle are: Turn off the central heating and get yourself a wood-burning stove. Wood pellets are cheaper and more efficient than gas or fuel oil, plus they’re renewable. For maximum hipster cred, burn wood you grew yourself in your community rooftop garden. (If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, go ahead and burn wood there — we’re not dictators. But check out these tips for making your fireplace maximally efficient.)
Buy a Heatball, for art: For passively heated homes and apartments, the radiation from incandescent lightbulbs is an important source of warmth (along with sunlight, body heat, and whatever other heat generators can be trapped inside). But the E.U. has passed a law phasing out traditional lightbulbs in favor of compact fluorescents, thus throwing a cold wet blanket on passive heating — and leading two German engineers to remarket incandescents as perfectly legal home heating elements called “Heatballs.” They’re calling this mild protest “action art,” and their guiding “theses” include such Denglish gems as “Heatball is the enlightened view of what is essential,” “Heatball has become satire through the absurdity of reality,” and (my favorite) “Heatball is like Hamlet, who presents a mirror to his cynical stepfather.”
Engage in some creative architecture: Maybe for the time being you’re stuck in your apartment, huddled around your space heater. (Mother Jones has some tips for making sure that space heater isn’t wasting money and energy, by the way.) But a girl can dream, and here’s what she can dream about: Building beautiful homes and outbuildings heated by compost, thermal mass, and the good old greenhouse effect. Is one of these going to be the affordable, efficient home of the future? We don’t know yet, but we like that folks are thinking. Meanwhile, you can also retrofit an existing house to take advantage of thermal mass and other sources of passive heating (like heatballs!) — our own Umbra gave some stellar advice on that a few years ago.
Weatherstrip your windows and put some damn socks on: OK, yes. Making your home more air-tight and layering up are actually really good ways to save on energy costs. Fine, Mother Earth News, FINE. But you can still have fun with this one, not to mention engaging in a little recreational upcycling: Try insulating with bubble wrap, or making your own self-heating long johns.