Tips for Keeping Your House Warm

by evelynsaenz

Outside temperatures are plummeting! How can you keep your house warm? Drafts, cold floors, freezing pipes? Here are some tips from snow country...

Growing up in Vermont we were always used to winters being cold. We block the drafts, run the water and bundle up. But if you live in the south where it rarely gets very cold you may not know of some of these handy tips.

Best of all, most of these tips can be done with things you already have around your house. So rummage around for some old towels, cardboard and follow me.

We will block those drafts and keep your house toasty warm even on the coldest nights.

Photo Credit: The above image is from Pixabay.

Drafty old Windows

Tighten up Old Windows.

In my old Vermont farmhouse, I still have some single pane windows.

If left to their own devices they flop around leaving space enough to see outdoors. Windows put in nearly 200 years ago have been painted many times and no longer are smooth on the edges so they don't come together as well as they used to.

To keep the two sashes as tight together as possible I rip off a bit of cardboard and shove it into each side of the window. This cuts down on most of the draft and works well for most of the winter.

When it gets extremely cold, however, I add towels.

I use rolled up hand towels on the window sill where the top and bottom sashes meet. The towels block the bitter cold and prevent drafts from coming in.

Now hold your wrist a couple of inches from the edges of the windows. Do you still feel drafts coming in?

You can use strips of cereal boxes, folded in half to push into the sides of the windows to keep out even more drafts if necessary.

Keeping Warm in the Winter

Wrapping Up to keep out the Drafts
Cold Girl
Cold Girl

Drafty Old Window

Single Pane Wooden Window
Old Window
Old Window

Which kinds of windows do you have in your house?

Storm Windows

Cover Single Pane Windows with Storms or Replace with Thermopane
Handyman Installing Storm Windows

Closing and Opening the Curtains

Frugal Tips for Keeping Your House Warm

Another simple way to keep your house warmer is to close the curtains at night. If you don't have curtains on your windows and extreme weather is predicted you can even hang blankets or sheets over the windows to help keep in the heat.

Once the sun comes up you will want to open the curtains to let in the light and if the sun is shining, even on extremely cold days, it will help to heat your rooms.

Heavier curtains will help to retain more heat. Consider adding a blanket to a window with sheer curtains until the cold snap breaks.


Close the Curtains at Night

Open the Curtains to Let in the Sunshine
Young Girls at the Piano, 1892

Draft Dodgers

Old Towels to Keep out the Drafts

A rolled up towel works wonders at keeping drafts from coming in at the bottom of doors.

Years ago when I worked at New England Solar Energy Association we sold what were then called Draft Dodgers. These were taken from an old New England tradition of rolling up old towels and sliding them up against any doors where you could feel a draft coming in. 

Usually these towels are placed in front of outside doors but sometimes, it you have rooms that are not heated, you may find that it makes sense to place a towel in front of that door as well.

I keep my winter coat hung on the front door doorknob in order to keep some of the cold air from coming in along the side of the door.


Draft Dodger

Keep Out the Cold
Rolled up Towel Under the Door
Rolled up Towel Under the Door

Make Your Own Draft Stopper

Do you use Draft Dodgers?

Combat Winter Drafts

Cheap ways to keep warm this winter

Rugs and Warm Floors

Rugs are warmer than Bare Floors

Rugs on the floor will help to keep rooms warmer and feel warmer on your feet. Move rugs from rooms you are not using into your main living area to keep that room warmer until the outside temperatures rise.

Having your floors covered in rugs will insulate the room from cold air below and keep your feet warmer. Don't forget to put on heavy socks or two pairs of socks and slippers. Keeping your feet warm will help you keep the rest of your body warm.

If you notice drafts coming in near the edge of the room where the floor meets the walls, rugs can be pushed up against them to keep out cold air there as well.

Frozen Water Pipes

by AL-MUQDAD AL-MAAWALI Used under Creative Commons
Frozen Water Pipes
Frozen Water Pipes

How do you keep your pipes from freezing?

Freezing Pipes

Keep the Water Pipes Warm

The biggest danger when the temperature drops well below freezing is freezing pipes. When water freezes it expands and can burst your pipes. 

The first thing I do to protect my water pipes from freezing is to open the cabinet doors. Then I go to the refrigerator and take out the thermometer that I keep there to make sure that the refrigerator is working at the right temperature. 

I put the refrigerator thermometer under the sink near the water pipes as they go down under the floorboards. This lets me know if the temperature is getting dangerously low to the point where I need to go to step two.

If the temperature is getting below 40 I start running the water every hour. I run it until the hot water feels good and hot. Then I run the cold water as well to make sure that it is still flowing normally. 

Every hour I check the temperature. If it is getting close to 32 I begin running the water in the pipes. It doesn't need to be full blast. Just keep it running a little. That should keep them from freezing.

You might think that running a space heater near these pipes would help but the problem is not in the cabinet but rather in the space under the floors where the temperatures get colder still. Only heating your basement or cellar would help here. 

If your pipes do begin to freeze you will notice that the water doesn't flow well. Just keep running the water and the water that runs through will begin to melt the ice. 

If no water comes through you will know that somewhere the water in the pipe has frozen. 

Locate the place where the pipe has frozen and use a hair dryer or heating pad to warm the pipe until the water begins to flow again.

DO NOT USE open flames or blow torches to thaw out frozen pipes. Doing this is one of the main causes of house fires.


The Wind Blows Through the Cellar

Keeping the Cellar Warm

My cellar has a stone foundation with a dirt floor. Plenty of holes for drafty cold air to come in.

When I first moved into the house you could see daylight through all the holes between the rocks and feel the draft blowing in with your wrist when held up to most any spot along the edge of the cellar walls. 

I bought some pink fiberglass insulation, the kind that comes in rolls, to put in the attic. I had some left over so I put on some gloves (Fiberglass insulation is very itchy) and started pulling off tufts of it to stuff into all the cracks. On sunny days it was easy to see many of the holes but I also used my wrist to find others. 

Stone Cellars Can Be Drafty

Block the Wind with Insulation
Stone Cellar
Stone Cellar

Is your cellar or basement draft free and toasty warm?

Shrink Your House

Close the Doors

Close off as many rooms as possible so that you only have to really heat a small area. 

My house has 13 rooms including 8 bedrooms. I love having all that space most of the year but when it gets extremely cold I begin to shut off sections that I don't really need. 

I close the doors and place towels at the bottom of the doors to keep the cold from drifting across the floor. 

I also close off all the upstairs bedrooms. There are old stovepipe holes that go from the first floor to the second floor that help to let heat up to those rooms when someone is staying there but if no one is visiting I cover those holes with rugs, shut the doors and close the doors to the stairway. 

I could sleep upstairs all year long the way we did when I was a child but I like to be a bit warmer so I move downstairs so that there is no need to go upstairs at all.

Shrinking the size of your house means that you won't have to heat as much and thus it will be easier to keep your house warm.

Do you shrink your house in the winter?

Draft Dodger

Keep the Floors Warm
Woodlore Breeze Blocker

Be energy efficient and stop the cold breezes leaking through drafty doors and windows with breeze blocker.

View on Amazon

Keeping Warm at Night

Sleeping in a Four Poster Bed

Another way to stay warm on cold nights is to use curtains or heavy blankets to create a warm space around yourself as you sleep. 

  • Set up your four poster bed
  • Make pockets for rope to be threaded through along the edges of five heavy blankets.
  • Push clothesline or other rope through each of the hemmed edges you have created.
  • Tie the clothesline to each of the four posters.
  • The fifth blanket gets pockets on each of the edges and is used to create a ceiling for your bed.

Four Poster Bed

Keeping Warm at Night

Quick Tips for Winterizing your Home

Keep the Cold Air Out

Here are some quick and easy tips for keeping your house warm when extreme cold hits your ares:

  • Make sure that all doors and windows are closed
  • Rolled Towels under doors
  • Cardboard pieces to Hold Loose Windows 
  • Close off unused rooms
  • Open cabinet doors to keep pipes from freezing
  • Use your wrist to feel for drafts
  • Stuff bits of insulation in holes in the cellar

Tips for Staying Warm When Stuck in the Snow

Staying Warm in Extreme Cold
What do you need to keep in your car when driving in the winter? Here is a list of essential, emergency items every driver should have stored in the trunk in case of emergencies.
Vermont is a delightful place to stay for the weekend. Come stay at Evelyn's Bed and Breakfast in Royalton, Vermont.
Updated: 12/30/2017, evelynsaenz
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How do you keep YOUR house warm when the cold winds blow?

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frankbeswick on 01/06/2015

Late 2014 we purchased a multi-fuel burner. We burn birch logs and smokeless coal-based fuel. It warms the living room well, and I notice that when I get up in the morning the ash is still slightly warm, so the burner must be radiating heat during the night, enabling us to wake up to a warmer living room. I can use the wood ash on the allotment as a soil enhancer, making for efficient recycling; and we can use scrap paper as kindling, which saves us money.

We are not advised to burn scrap wood from pallets, etc, or softwoods, which have too much resin. But birch burns hot and quickly. I start with wood and then when the fire is really hot put in pieces of coal-based fuel, as this will glow for quite some time.

As I am over 60 I am entitled to £200 [about 360 dollars] a year from the British government for winter fuel. I used my allowance this year to put towards the installation of the burner.

sandyspider on 01/05/2015

All good tips for winterizing your home.

frankbeswick on 08/31/2014

Another historical suggestion for warmth at night is the old fashioned four poster bed. It had a ceiling and curtains, which were drawn around the sleeper at night, which acted as extra insulation.

I do not heat my house during the day in winter, but when writing at home I wrap a blanket around my legs. I also take the chill off the air by using candles, which warm the air.

Raintree on 08/30/2014

I think everyone I know is watching the heating bills these days. Our home is quite warm generally and not huge so we don't shut any rooms off. We do put the rugs back down and draw curtains and have lots of lovely throws around to cosy up in.

Frischy on 01/22/2014

Great ideas here, Evelyn! I haven't been able to figure out how to get my drafty old house warm. I just moved here, right on time for the second polar vortex. We are freezing in this house! Your tips are helping a lot. I am also stuffing pieces of quilt batting anywhere I feel a draft coming in. It is helping a lot! Thanks for all of the terrific tips!

evelynsaenz on 01/08/2014

Mira, I hope you come visit some day. Have you ever been to Vermont?

Mira on 01/08/2014

Evelyn: Wow, that sounds like a keeper then. And yes, shrinking it down in winter and opening it up in the summer makes perfect sense.

evelynsaenz on 01/07/2014

Lori, I have started replacing the old windows. I have 10 thermopanes. Four with wooden storms. One Aluminum storm window. And 18 single pane windows covered in frost. One of these days I may get them all replaced. It will keep the house warmer but I may miss the beautiful patterns that Jack Frost makes on the old ripply glass.

Lori on 01/07/2014

Well, we have more in common than I thought. My house was built in 1857. I just replaced the original windows 5 years ago but the stone root cellar is still freezing cold! great tips.

evelynsaenz on 01/07/2014

Thank you Virginia. I have heard that it is hard on a house to close it up unheated for the winter. Do you ever find any problems when you return?

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