Here in the northeast, we’re being warned to expect exorbitant heating bills again this year. The pessimists out there think fuel costs for this area will top even the predicted average of more than three thousand dollars for the heating season. And the heavy frosts we had several nights last week were a stark reminder that the really cold weather isn’t far away.

We’ve done what we can to make our house more energy efficient. Over the past several years we have added insulation, storm windows and storm doors, caulked and replaced weatherstripping, and insulated electrical outlets. Last year we even added an additional layer of thermal plastic to all of our windows and this made a real difference. We have turned down the thermostats, turned off the hot water heater overnight, and made countless other changes or improvements in our effort to keep our heating bill as low as possible.


The field next to our house

One of the best decisions we ever made was to purchase the large stove that has been the focal point in our kitchen for the past several years. Although the stove looks exactly like an 1850’s black and chrome cookstove, it is actually an authentic reproduction of that era stove only with energy efficient features. Every year as soon as the cold weather hits, we fire up this stove and keep it going night and day until the warmer weather arrives in the spring. The stove easily supplies enough heat so we never need to even turn on the thermostats in any of the other rooms on that floor.


Our wood-burning cook stove

This stove’s cast iron cook top and the fairly roomy oven mean I can still bake and get meals even during power outages. And because the stove has a water reservoir, it also serves as a limited source of immediate and continual hot water all the time (as long as we remember to keep the reservoir filled!). Plus a couple of canners of water kept on the stove can mean “free” hot water for the washing machine or for washing dishes.

The ceiling fans we have installed in every room have saved us a lot of money too. We initially chose fans to help keep the rooms cool in the summer, but they’re also great for distributing heat in the winter. It is amazing what a difference one of these fans can make when the airflow is redirected downward, and that is as simple as flipping the tiny switch that is located between the light fixture and the blades on every fan.

All of our bedrooms are on the second floor. This year we’re going to try turning the thermostats in those rooms way down or off and using individual radiant space heaters to help lower our heating costs even further. I’ll let you know how that one turns out.

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Stacie

Hi, I’m Stacie. I’ve been reading your blog for a while and like it very much.

I’d love it if you posted a picture of that stove!

Grace

Awesome advice on the stove…..a picture plz???

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Here’s the post about the wood burning cook stove in our kitchen… a description of the stove and a photo!

Joel

Do you know how effective the extra plastic film is? I have film (the kind from Ace Hardware – apply with the adhesive strip and then use a hair dryer to shrink it so it’s sheer) and can apply that to the wooden window frames on the interior of the house.

We currently have two single panes in each window, aluminum frame. The house is incredibly well insulated – we actually have to leave one or two windows cracked even on the coldest days otherwise there are problems with mildew.

But I’ve always been curious to how effective the plastic is, in an instance where there are already two panes. I guess it can’t hurt …

Jen

I wish you all the best in the cold season. I can’t say I envy the bills you may face but I certainly envy the views.

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Joel, I don’t have any numbers about the savings, but we found that the plastic film on the inside of the windows really made a difference, even with two layers of glass already there. We had an almost three-week spell of horrendously cold weather last year, and that is when we added the plastic. The difference was amazing.

Slawebb

That sounds like a great stove. Saves money when you cook on it, too! What kind is it? Where did you buy it? I live in VT so I understand the cold. Might be a harsh one this year.

Melsky

In addition to the plastic film I put several layers of heavy curtains over our windows and that helps a lot. I used materials I got mostly in thrift stores.

We are looking to buy a house and I want to get a wood stove for it.

Alissa

Hi Shirley,

We use wood to heat our home as well. Our woodburning insert is in the centre of the main floor of our house, and, like you, all of our bedrooms are on the second floor. We installed a register in the ceiling above the woodburning insert, which allows heat to rise upstairs to the bedrooms (and the cool air comes down the stairs). It makes the upstairs just comfortable enough that we don’t need any additional heat. We prefer our bedrooms cooler than the rest of the house anyway, so it works great for us.

Jane

We have no heat at all upstairs. The oil furnace in the basement has vents going only to the ground floor. With the woodstove going in the keeping room, the heat rises up the stairs and keeps it toasty warm upstairs. The furnace heat doesn’t go upstairs at all.

I had plexiglass indoor storms made for the two main upstairs windows which I attach with wingnuts and use plasticene to seal the edges. It works reasonably well, but actually not as good as the shrink-wrap plastic that I used to use! I also made curtains with fabric covering both sides of quilted material for more insulation. The downstairs windows have their original storms. This house is over 150 years old, so I’ve added all the insultation, etc., possible.

I’d love to have a cookstove and am also going to save my pennies for a pellet stove.

Michelle

A trick we’ve used in our rather old (built in 1907) wood frame and siding house is to hang quilts over the windows. Not only does it help to insulate the windows (and walls for that matter) better, but it provides a great way to display treasured family quilts. I’ve even considered making a couple quilts specifically to fit our windows with stained glass patterns and a thinner layer of cotton so that sun light shining through will help accentuate the design. The same idea also help with interior doors and arches that might lead off into less often used spaces like spare bedrooms or pantries. Anyhow, I really enjoy your blog. Hope you enjoy these suggestions. Summer’s a great time to start piecing quilt tops for the coming winter. :)