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5 Low-Tech Essentials for Keeping the House Warm


5 Low-Tech Essentials for Keeping the House Warm

January 3, 2014

My family of four lives in a sweet cottage built almost 100 years ago in the Napa Valley. It has great bones and many original features (double-hung single-paned windows, for instance.) Charming in the summer, it’s chilly in winter. In our first December here, I quickly discovered a gaping gap under the front door that allowed cold air to rush in. Sealing up the house and keeping warm became a mission. Here are a few tips I learned along the way.

700 700 kolor draft extruder 2

Above: A neon knitted Draft Extruder from Kolor.

1. They’re low tech, but draft extruders are an easy solution and require no sticking to frames. Gray felt extruders are on my DIY list.

2. Rubber foam insulation tape: it’s not glamorous, but it does the trick. I tracked all the sources leaking cold in from the outside and armed with a roll of white tape, sealed the gaps under the doors, the inner door frames, and the sections of the windows that were wonky. The tape typically comes in black, but if you have white frames, seek out some white foam. Sponge Rubber Foam Tape is available at K-Mart for $4.99 or Double Sided Foam Insulation Tape is $19.99 from Eco Foil.

3. In addition to tape, we added a white door seal bottom. Easily stuck to the bottom of the door, it adds an extra layer of insulation (and is barely noticeable). The Silver Cinch Door Seal Bottom is $10.47 from Home Depot.

700 bag pretty rug

Above: Not just for doors: consider DIY draft stoppers for your windows, such as the No Sew Hairy Draft Stopper. Spotted on the site Bag of Pretty, this is nothing more than a faux fur rug rolled up and placed at the base of a window pane or at the bottom of a door.

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Above: A wool blanket repurposed as a window shade, made by Matt Pierce from Wood & Faulk for ReadyMade.

4. Keep the curtains. In a very impulsive but aesthetically-driven move, I took down all of the curtains with their heavy rails and replaced them with simple white roller blinds. The effect was a much cleaner, lighter look–and a heating bill that doubled. Yes, doubled. Love them or loathe them, curtains keep a house warm. My plan next winter is to install wool blanket shades using leather straps, like the design above, in all the bedrooms, then take them down when the weather gets warmer.

5. Heated Rugs: Decidedly low tech, a heated floor mat hidden under a rug is a great way to warm up a small space in a room. Cozy Winters offers Rug-Heat mats sized from 2 by 3 feet to 5 1/2 by 8 feet; prices run from $149 to $299.

Finally, It’s not rocket science, but think about heating the parts of the house that you are actually using. Shut off any rooms that are not used, closing vents or turning off radiators. It’s what people in castles and grand houses do. Still cold? I like the way the Japanese combat frigid winters by bathing in a scorching hot bath at the end of the day, a stress buster and an effective way to head to bed feeling warm.

What did we miss? If you have any ingenious solutions for keeping the house warm, please let us know in the comments section below. Thanks!

If you want to see more snappy ideas for living smarter, check out our 5 Quick Fixes posts.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on February 2, 2013 as part of our On the Mountain issue.

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