Thursday, October 20, 2011

Are You Freezin' Yer Buns?

Here in Zone 5b in Ohio, we have been blessed with a really mild fall, almost as if Mother Nature is apologizing for the three months of March weather followed by two months of August weather that passed for a growing season this summer.  I haven't seen a real frost yet (although one is due this weekend), and we have had spells of 80-degree weather in October.

But now it is chilly in earnest, and it is funny to watch the Facebook posts to see when my friends turn their whole-house heat on.  "I give up!  I'm turning on the heat," they all seem to post.

However, our heat is still off, and I hope to keep it that way for a while, as do many other hearty and potentially slightly-crazy bloggers.  This territory of "keep it off as long as possible, then keep it as low as you can" definitely belongs to The Crunchy Chicken, who every year sponsors her Freeze Yer Buns Challenge, in which she asks for commitments to keeping the heat off, then keeping it set to the lowest levels that still allow for livable conditions.  For the past several years, I have played along with 65 degree day temps and 57 degrees at night.

If you are playing along this year, let me suggest that the way to minimize that heat bill is to heat the smallest possible space you can stand.  So here's my strategy:

Heat Yourself:  In graduate school, I lived in an apartment building for which the heat was included in the rent, and believe me, I used to pride myself on being able to wear tank tops in January in that place.  Now that I'm paying for my own heat and not feeling so cavalier about such resources, I bundle up.  As I write this, I am wearing a pair of yoga socks over a pair of fleece socks, and my feet are nice and toasty.  So, your first job when the temps dip is to put on a sweater, just like Dad told you long ago.  "What, do you think we're made of money?  Put on a sweater!"

Heat Yourself and Your Immediate Environment:  I can't say enough good things about fleece quilts and lavender bed-warmers, warm mugs of cider and hot bowls of soup.  These heat your body and keep heat in the immediate environment, like a bed or a couch.  If there is anything to be said for winter, it is the joy of cuddling up with your spouse or pet under a quilt and reading a nice book.  So, don't think of it as a frugal move -- it is an indulgence!

Collect Heat from Passive Sources:  If anything around you is creating heat, we want to capture that for the room or house.  So, open the curtains on south- and west-facing windows if it is sunny, vent your dryer indoors if you have a good layout and set-up for that, and catch up on your baking (leave the oven door open after you finish).  If you take a hot shower, open that bathroom door to the bedroom so that some of the heat rolls out (a little humidity probably won't hurt you either, especially when the heat really does come on and dries out the house).  Try to avoid passing up free heat and then paying for heat later.

Heat Just a Room:  I work from home, and I write, so most of my work-time is spent at a desk.  There is no need to heat 3,000 square feet of house when what I really need is a space heater at my feet.  We also successfully heat the family room with our wood-burning fireplace insert; by closing the doors to the family room/kitchen area, we can have a cozy little evening and weekend retreat and not ever turn on the whole-house heat.  Then, we microwave a bed warmer or two and escape up into a cool bedroom that is made pleasant by the bed warmers and fleece quilts.

The Analysis:  Freeze Yer Buns Edition

Fast:  Speed really isn't a factor here.  Preparation is.  If you are ready to employ these strategies, you will.

Cheap:  That's the name of the game here!  Avoid turning on that heat, and avoid the bill that comes with it.

Good:  Remember, it isn't deprivation.  It is extra money (or needed money); it is a game; it is an indulgence.  You aren't depriving yourself, you are making a lifestyle choice for your own benefit.
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  1. I have a low voltage electric blanket that I love. I'm able to turn the thermostat down 5 degrees when I use it at night. I do have an unrelated question for you that I hope you can answer. I recently read your comment on another blog about refusing mammograms. I am also healthy and wish to refuse them. My issue is that I can't seem to find a health provider who isn't brainwashed by the industry. How specifically do you say no? Do you explain why? Do you avoid scheduling appointments? What do you say in order to be left alone? Any insight is appreciated.

  2. Stephanie:

    Thanks for the visit. Let me answer your question generally here for the benefit of anyone who might be reading, and then if you want to take this offline, email me at jcpatterson (at) prodigy (dot) net.

    (For those of you who might be joining this conversation in progress, let's stipulate that I would have a mammogram if I felt the risk factors were sufficiently against me that my ROI for imaging was positive FOR ME. Individual decisions, and let's keep this from becoming a heated debate, OK?)

    I am lucky that my physicians have been pretty accepting of my role in deciding what will best maintain my health. If you encounter someone who insists that you be imaged (or anything else) or else you will be kicked out of the practice, it is time to go. I know this is hard if you have any other issues, like needing a prescription, or if you have other family members there.

    For me, if my doctor brings up a mammogram, I listen to what he says and then say I probably won't do it, but I appreciate his advice. If he seems insistent on writing a referral, I allow that and take the referral -- I feel like it allows him a little CYA in the form of having the recommendation in the record, but I know I don't have to obey it, any more than I have to take a medicine he prescribes if I don't feel like it works for me.

    If you have someone who insists, I recommend (and recommended to my mom, who encounters this occasionally) that you just calmly say something like, "I probably won't be doing that, because I don't feel that this is the right thing for me. But I appreciate hearing your advice on the issue, and I'll take it into consideration."

    That said, I've made my mistakes too. I once got bullied into dental xrays that I didn't want because I was already in the chair, with the bib, and the dentist came in and yelled that she wouldn't see me if I didn't get the xray and pretty much swung the xray machine over to me. My lesson for myself was to remember how vulnerable we get when we are wearing that bib or gown, and remember that I'm in charge of what happens to my body, even if someone in "authority" thinks I am wrong.