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Turn Down That Thermostat… Put on Some Darn Clothing!

Ever since we’ve moved to the Pacific Northwest I’ve had a slight fascination with our electricity bill, well, after we got our first bill anyway. It was a big one! Or, at least, the bill was much more than I expected.

Obviously, these numbers will vary quite a bit from location to location and dependent on a variety of factors such as how you use your appliances and other electronics, how many people are in the house, whether everything is electric or not, as well as preferences for heating and cooling temperatures… which is what I’ll focus on here.

So you understand me, everything is electric, from the water heater to the house heater; also realize that we do NOT have air conditioning but we did occasionally run a small window A/C unit for about a month in August. If you run an house A/C then the numbers could be even worse in the summer months.

Now, during months where we had the heater OFF I found that we were very consistent in our electric usage and averaged right around 32 kWh per day…. that’s 32,000 watts each day. When put that way it sounds horrible. 😉 This seemed to hold steady from basically May through now.

We also had an anomaly week where we used over 100 kWh filling up and using a hot tub that didn’t last very long. Ignoring the hot tub week, I can safely say that we used (on average) in the low 50’s per day or roughly 20 kWh more than when the house heater was OFF. During this time we still used heat somewhat and probably a few electric blankets.

During months where it was coldest–January and February–we ranged between 56-87 kWh per day and roughly averaged in the mid 60’s kWh per day. Though I only have data from January of this year, I’ll assume that November is roughly equivalent to March and April timeframes where we had a wide range of power usage from 47-65 kWh per day and that December is equivalent to January and February usage.

To summarize usage:

Summer and heater OFF = 32 kWh / day
Spring and heater functioning somewhat = 52 kWh / day
Winter and heater functioning nonstop = 65 kWh / day

As you can see, we used roughly double the amount of electricity with the heater on and running full-time than not. At a cost of $0.10 per kWh that’s a difference of roughly $3 per day. Granted, we actually pay $0.09 at the lower tier and $0.11 at the upper tier and so I simply averaged it at $0.10. Anyway, multiplied over the month we would spend an extra $90 or so more than with the heater OFF.

If I assume that December, January, and February (traditionally the coldest months) are all the same then we average $90 more per month during these months than our baseline timeframe of (mostly) summer months: part of May, June, July, August.

The timeframe around the spring and autumn months, which comprise half the year, average about 20 kWh more than with the heater OFF or about $2 per day… or $60 per month.

Now, if I were able to somehow get by the entire year with no heater–likely not feasible–I could theoretically save about $630 over the year (6 months at $60 more and 3 months at $90 more). Obviously, this isn’t going to happen.

What I can do, however, is to cut back our heater usage. Room temperature is considered 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people set there thermostat somewhere in the mid to upper 70’s, it seems to me. Energy agencies–from federal to local–suggest adjusting your thermostat to lower temperatures than that in the winter (to around 68 degrees) which is lower than most people feel comfortable.

I’m advocating going even lower… set it to 55 degrees. This is technically where hypothermia *can* set in. I say *can* because if you bother to put on much–if any–clothing, are relatively healthy, and haven’t been exposed to wetness or a breeze then you probably won’t literally freeze to death. Really. You’ll be cold but you won’t freeze.

You know what I suggest instead? Put on some darn clothing!

In fact, a gripe I tend to have is that all of my family complain about the thermostat setting–it’s currently set at 55 degrees but I doubt it will last if my wife has anything to say about it and she does–because they’re so accustomed to being able to run around in shorts and a t-shirt… literally.

Whenever they complain I tell them to first put on some long clothing, socks, slippers or shoes, and then try a sweatshirt if they must. If that still doesn’t do the trick then we’ll talk about a space heater, heating blanket, and if I must… turning up the heat.

We, as a society, have forgot that we need to learn to “heat the person” again and not literally WASTE both heat and month by heating up the environment. Doing so is perhaps the least efficient way to heat ourselves.

If/when times get tough and people either NEED to cut back on their heating bill because they simply cannot afford it or their utility providers are unreliable then they need to have another plan. Sure, people will learn to make do buy why not learn that lesson now?

Learn simple things like heating the person (with clothing, heating blankets, etc), one room heating (or NOT heating entire floors), the “room within a room” technique to conserve heat, and so on. Learn to “harden” your body against the cold and to not expect or to need as much auxiliary heat.

Doing so could not only make life during a SHTF event more bearable but potentially even save you hundreds of dollars each month if you simply do NOT have to heat the entire house to comfortable levels. Think about it and consider how you can best incorporate these thoughts into your daily life.

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By Damian Brindle

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18 replies on “Turn Down That Thermostat… Put on Some Darn Clothing!”

Right, Andrea. Dress is critical not only to survival but comfort as well. We’re so accustomed to wearing as little clothing as possible and then expecting the ambient air to be warm enough that we’ve all but forgotten how to dress to stay warm… it’s enough to drive me crazy!

I am considered a senior citizen, and I am disabled in multiple ways, yet I ‘tolerate’ the lower temps just fine. IF I feel the cold worse on some days, I add layers, and drink hot beverages. It also helps if you find ‘warmer’ materials to use. Year before last, I discovered the faux fur, or plush, blankets, throws, pillow cases, and even p.j.s, made out of it, another is the faux suede. They even have faux sheepskin linings. These make you super warm. Real wool is great as well. Tea lights also put out a lot of heat, more than most realize. I already have some of the blankets for my newest great-grandchildren, and am confident neither will suffer from the lack of warmth. We, to reiterate, don’t use the heat till it is freezing, or lower. It is feasible to stay warm, at any age, or health conditions.

Thanks, Jonnie. It’s good to hear that some people understand you don’t need to be comfortable in a bathing suit during the winter. 😉 Staying warm and alive is different than necessarily being comfortable.

55F is too low. That’s less than 13C. The elderly, the ill, the young – there are plenty of people who can’t handle spending the day with it that cold. Unless it’s down around -15C (5F) or less, we don’t put on a fire at night, but during the day I try to keep the house 18-20C (64-68F). Once we get our wood cookstove put in, the house will be warmed whenever I cook.

Depends on a person’s tolerance level. If you’re wearing proper clothing and out of the elements (wind, rain, snow) then 55 degrees is certainly tolerable. Yes, it’s not pleasant but it definitely is tolerable.

Living in S. Texas, I keep my thermostat at 78 in summer and 65 in winter. All un-used rooms are closed off and everything is shut off at night. In the summer we use a small window A/C in our bedroom and in the winter, an electric blanket or extra quilts. Since the kids have all moved out, it is just the two of us and we only heat or cool 3 out of 9 rooms in the house…makes a big difference! I agree with you on putting clothes on, when I get cool, it’s a flannel shirt, sweater, sweat pants, etc. a long time before any heat!

My family doesn’t even turn the heater on in the winter, except when the temp is at freezing, to keep the pipes from busting. Also for one hour in the morning, and one hour in the evening, for bathing and dressing in comfort. We, as you say, dress to keep our bodies warm, the rest of the heat, comes from cooking. In fact, the holidays, you can find us outside, cooling off, from the cooking heat, and the body heat, we are soon to be numbered 15, when my greatgrandson is born. This just reinforced, that we were doing things properly.Making sure everyone had good warm clothes for day or for sleeping, and wears them.

We installed Geo-Thermal a couple of years ago. Keep the thermostat at 68 in winter and 78 in summer. Works out great. Average electric bill is $60.00 per mth in winter and 90.00 in summer.(That’s with 18 solar panels also) We use NO PROPANE.
Our neighbors spend HUNDREDS every month on propane in the winter. My wife and I are very comfortable all year. House is 2 story, 2400 sf.
With Fed and State rebates, it was less expensive for geo-thermal than a new heat/air cond. system from Trane. Break even after 9 years.
I highly recommend geo-thermal to EVERYONE ! Best thing we ever did !

The snow flurry started last night here. My heat is setting on 60 degrees. I doubt I could stand only 55 degrees. I won’t touch my heater setting until it’s time to shut it off. I layer to keep warm. I have heavy sweats I wear most of the time with a t-shirt under it and tucked in [very important to tuck in that t]
wool socks with fleece slippers. Not very sexy- but warm! If I get too hot when I am doing housework I replace my sweatshirt with a flannel shirt until I need the sweatshirt again. Don’t get overheated is important as well.
hot drinks and a pot of warm soup should always be on the stove. You can use the soup to stay warm by eating a few teaspoons when you feel chilled. [An old trick from a mountain man] Never down a cup of coffee/tea/cocoa always sip it… this helps your body absorb the warmth and keep you warmer. Eat more spices like cayenne and cinnamon also known to keep you warm.
Keep your feet and head warm and you will stay much warmer…the one time it is proper to for men to wear hats in the house! I have long hair so my head and neck stay warmer…if your neck gets cold and you don’t have a scarf just use a piece of cloth and tuck it into the back of hat…done warm neck. [Even a washcloth can be a neck warmer.]
I put my pajamas/socks/towel and washcloth next to the heater to warm them up so everything is warm when I get out of the shower.
Cold toes or fingers- cut up old socks that the soles are ruined on and place the tubes you made over your toes or fingers.
Use your imagination to stay warm…think survive even in your home! Hope this helps someone! Stay cheerful and warm- laugh and be happy!

Good thoughts, Cherie. I do disagree that you couldn’t stand 55 degrees if your house setting is already at 60. I’ll bet you could adjust rather quickly and without much problem considering that you already understand how to keep warm otherwise. Thanks.

We’ve been following the program on the National Geographic channel. Those individuals live and work in temps well below zero with no ill effect and seem quite acclimated to it. I guess we could do the same with temps at or near freezing. Just have you family watch episodes and they will be thankful you keep the thermostat so high. LOL

I have noticed that when it first starts to get chilly, everyone coomplains about being cold. But if I persist in keeping the thermostat at 68 you get used to it. I can’t take the temp down to 55, we live in a virtually uninsulated mobile home (that we rent). It’s already freezing like living out in the barn. Also, it’s hard to stock up on winter clothes here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area because it’s super hot 80% of the year. We just don’t think about buying flannel shirts or sweat shirts most of the time, but I am trying to change that for my family.

I’ll bet you can take the lower temps over time. As for warmer clothing, just look for good quality clothes online such as on Amazon. You’ll find everything you could ever want!

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