The Sciences

Simple and Inexpensive Ways to Stay Warm in Winter

Staying warm doesn't need to cost you a fortune this year.

By Allison FuttermanDec 28, 2021 4:00 PM
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Credit:(Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock)

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With heating costs going up and projected to continue rising, keeping warm is going to be more expensive for Americans this winter. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects the average homeowner to pay 30 percent more for natural gas and 6 percent more for electric heat. Before central heating, people had to be resourceful in finding ways to keep the cold at bay. Here are a few ideas to stay cozy during these long winter months.

Layering

Putting on the bulkiest, heaviest jacket isn’t always going to be enough to keep you warm. The key to using clothes to stay warm is layering. You need a base, middle and outer layer. Start with polyester or silk fabric that can wick away moisture. For the all-important middle layer, fleece, sweaters or sweatshirts are good options. Your top layer functions as a way to block rain and wind; a rain jacket or outer shell works well for this. A useful tip? Go up a size for your outer shell, as it will be going on top of other layers. If it’s tight, you’ll sweat — which will create moisture and make you feel cold. Aside from polyester and silk, layering materials to look for include wool, nylon and Gore-Tex. Avoid cotton, which loses its insulating properties when wet.

Stay In One Room

It’s easier to heat up and maintain a temperature in one room, as opposed to an entire living area. There are several ways to do this without increasing your heating bill. You can turn the heat down in the rest of your home and concentrate on the room you’re in. An electric space heater is an effective option, too — that works in two ways, by producing radiant and convection heat. Safety is key with space heaters, as they account for 1/3 of home fires. Make sure to place them on a flat surface, not on furniture or rugs. Always plug the directly into an outlet, not a power strip or extension cord, and always shut them when you leave the room. Gas, kerosene, and propane heaters are extremely flammable and should not be used indoors. Reversing the direction of ceiling fans and putting a using a door draft stopper are other ways to keep the room warm.

Food and Drink

What you eat and drink impacts your core body temperature, leading to feeling warmer or colder. Believe it or not, cold drinks may actually help warm you up better than hot drinks. That’s because hot drinks cause sweating, and when that sweat evaporates it leads to feeling colder. For this same reason, hot drinks in the summer can serve to cool us off. That doesn’t mean not to enjoy hot soup, or a cup of cocoa or hot tea in winter. It just means that while they might make you temporarily feel warmer, you’re actually better off with cold liquids for heating body temp. Certain spices, such as ginger, cayenne pepper and garlic, all spur a temperature boost. And complex carbs, including oatmeal and brown rice, and take longer to metabolize. This longer digestion process makes the body work longer and may increase body temperature.

Avoid Alcohol

One thing to avoid if you’re trying to stay warm is alcohol. Yes, you’ll feel warmer, but you will lose body heat more quickly. That’s because alcohol causes blood vessel dilation, sending more blood to your skin. Drinking alcohol can also cause your body to reduce shivering, which is a natural way the body keeps warm. Hypothermia is frequently associated with alcohol consumption: Impairment combined with a false sense of warmth can lead people to forgo dressing warmly, which of course can be dangerous when venturing out into the cold.

Bedtime

It’s actually healthier to sleep in a cool room, between 60 degrees and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, while anything above 75 or below 54 can keep people awake. But in cold weather, it can be hard to warm up when you’re ready for bed. In the 1600s-1800s, people used bed warmers to address this problem. They filled a metal pan with hot ashes, coals, or stones from a fire. Then they moved the pan around different parts of their sheets to warm them. Now we have modern alternatives. Heating pads, and weighted blankets are two choices. Choosing the right material for bedding also makes a difference. Flannel is comprised of fuzzy fibers that are not only cozy, but trap air pockets, making it the perfect material for cold winter nights. Whatever sleepwear you use, throw it in the dryer for a few minutes, along with a pair of socks, right before bed for instant warmth.

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