Monday, January 25, 2010

Cold Houses

First, thanks to all of you who commented below. It means a lot to me.

And now -- the NY Times ran an article about people who don't heat their houses at all. This article is about extremists. But to some of our friends, we're almost as extreme.

For those of you who haven't been following along here for very long, we live in a 101 year old house. It has 11 1/2 ft ceilings, lots of leaky gaps here and there, no storm windows, a rather inefficient electric furnace downstairs (upstairs has a nicer gas one), and while the attic is nicely insulated, we have have no plans to mess with the downstairs walls and their lack of insulation. To heat our house to what many Americans consider normal levels, would cost a fortune.

We don't have a fortune, since we've invested rather heavily in children instead. Therefore, our thermostat stays set at 60 in the winter. We wear warm clothes and slippers and when I set butter on the counter to soften for baking purposes, it doesn't soften appreciably. We also have a wood burning fireplace, which would never serve to heat the house, but on really cold days, does provide a little extra warmth and a warm atmosphere by which to sit and read. So far none of the children have turned into ice cubes.

Actually, believe it or not, you acclimatize. I have never been one to love the cold, and yet now when I visit a house heated to 70 in the winter, I find it a bit stifling. If I had my druthers, I'd probably bump the thermostat up a few degrees, but I like maintaining relatively low electric bills better than not having to wear slippers and a sweater.

I know we're a bit extreme, although not as much as those mentioned in the NY Times article, but I also have a few friends with old houses who keep their houses at 58 or 59, so we're not the only crazies out there. What about you?

17 comments:

Diane said...

Once upon a time, I kept the thermostat at 63 when I was home and up, 58 when I was at work or asleep. Actual temp in the house was several degrees cooler, due to where the thermostat is located.

Nowadays, it's set at 65 or 66, then down to 62. But right now, gas is cheap...electric costs, on the other hand, have me seriously considering using more candles.

amy said...

Our house was built in 1981. John has replaced insulation, and even insulated areas that had none. That being said, we keep our thermostat at 63 during the day, and at 60 at night. We just wear more clothes in the winter! And when we do venture into warmer houses, it can be very hot!

Andy said...

We keep ours mostly at 68 in the winter, but sometimes down to 65 or even lower.

But, as you know, ours is a small, well-insulated house. I have trouble with it feeling too stuffy rather than too cold.

Becky said...

We tend to keep ours around 68. We ran into difficulty with babies not sleeping due to cold but I do have high hopes that as the babies get bigger and can manage blankets and comforters (as well as a bit of hot in the summer), we will be able to turn it down and up to be more in line with the seasonal temps. That said, I could be completely wrong about this, but I had the impression that they tend to keep houses colder in GB, especially in Scotland so perhaps you could claim you are being "old world" rather than crazy?

Lisa said...

We're crazies, but were even crazier before two years ago when we installed central heat in our 98year old house. We keep the thermostat around 66 and supplement with wood heat now, but in the "olden days" we had one radiant heater in the central room of the house that was theoretically supposed to gravitate up through a hole in the ceiling to the second floor above (HA! It was always arctic upstairs.) Downstairs,we supplemented with wood heat and walked around in the winter with icicles dripping from our noses. The kids will likely use stories of those days to buck up their own kids someday, but I'm glad now to have a nice boiler. Still wear sweaters now, but at least everyone circulates around the house instead of hanging over the woodstove or radiator all day. &:o) I'd have to truly be starving to turn the heater all the way off. And then I'd resort to food stamps -- or eating dryer lint ;)-- before I turned the heat all the way off.

Earth Girl said...

The thermostat is set at 63 but we have a wood fireplace insert that makes several rooms warmer. Our bedroom runs about 60 and the master bath was 54 when I put a thermometer in the tub. The problem is that my husband would want it this cold in the summer too!

Michelle Smiles said...

When I lived in the north, we kept it at 66. But down south, the cold seems colder (crazy I know) so we keep it on 71 - I say it is for the children. LOL

Sarah said...

We keep the house at 65in the winter. Although I will bump it up when the inlaws visit.

VanderbiltWife said...

In our lovely, drafty 1950 rental house, we're staying at 68. I am REALLY cold-natured, but it's not too bad since it's so crowded with furniture. :)

I'd prefer 72, but hey, I'd rather not pay the gas bill for that.

Herb of Grace said...

Our situation is similar, although since our house is soooo small (less than 900sq ft) our little parlor woodstove heats it nicely :) The thermostat stays an about 68, but the central heat rarely cuts on till nightime. At night we set the thermostat on 65 and have a nice big ol' down comforter on our bed. Cozy!

BettyDuffy said...

Just smiling and reading...in my coat!

Congrats on your good news!

Meredith said...

I enjoyed that article.

I can't believe you keep it at 60 degrees! We set ours for 64 at night, but use down comforters on all the beds. I like that cold air, warm body contrast.

Good thing you can find so many Icelandic sweaters at Goodwill!

Jordana said...

For full disclosure purposes, I suppose I should mention that when it gets really cold outside and the emergency (ie extra expensive) heat runs all the time on 60, I actually turn the heat down to 59. But that's as low as I can tolerate.

nicole said...

We very irresponsibly keep our house around 68 degrees, year-round. So, in the winter, we don't use the heater much, but then, we are on natural gas and it is not all that expensive. In the summer, on the other hand, we really pay for keeping our house cool. It is probably one of our biggest indulgences. But, since I've been pregnant a lot of the years we've lived in this house, I say it is worth it. :)

Lenise said...

I'm a cold wimp. Particularly now that it's been TWO years since I've been pregnant :S. I'd keep it at 68 or 69, but my husband actually turns it up. He grew up in DETROIT. ???

We usually turn it down to 65 or 66 at night, but it's warmer upstairs anyway, since the attic's insulated. I just wish we had a bathroom upstairs! Isaac finally accepted that he has to sit on the potty some days (waits as long as he can!). Of course, there's no insulation over the kitchen/bath ell, so it really is kinda cold there.

Kim said...

Wow! I like the cold, but 60 (or your rare 59) is quite uncomfortable to me. But it might not if I dressed warmer. The only concern in my house would be the fish. I don't heat their tank, but I could possibly leave their light on for warmth. Would have to clean the tank more often, but that would be cheaper than running the heat more often. Maybe I should try doing "cold days" where we lower the heat on certain days of the week to get used to the idea. I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to get used to. Might give it a try.

Do you do the opposite in summer?

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