Some simple and affordable techniques can keep your house warm during extreme cold spells, even if the heat needs repair. Many people think of kerosene or space heaters as the logical choice to warm up a room. But heaters can be dangerous, causing thousands of fires and injuries every winter.
Consider these helpful-heat saving ideas instead:
1. Stay near sunlight. If the power's out during the day, gather your family around a window with direct exposure. Even in winter the sun provides welcome warmth.
2. Stick together. A room will naturally stay warmer when people contribute their body heat. Contrary to some movies, you don't have to stay huddled closely together to conserve heat. Just keep people together in one room so their body heat isn't dissipated throughout the house.
3. Make sure all windows and doors are closed. If you find cracks, holes or loose seals, cover them with duct tape as a temporary repair. You can also use tape to seal doggie or cat doors leading outside.
4. Think twice before lighting a fire. Chimney drafts can pull more heat out of your home than the fire produces. The result: a bright fire and a colder house. If you're not using a fireplace, check the chimney for drafts. A lot of heat can go up and out if the flue is left open.
Candles are great for decoration but avoid the temptation to use them when you need warmth or light. The smoke from the candles may force you to open a window for ventilation, costing you any possible heat advantage.
5. Remember that gas stoves and ovens make poor household heaters, especially if you've been sealing your home. Constant use of gas can cause deadly carbon monoxide to build up. Don't be afraid to use a gas stove for normal cooking, but turn it off when the meal is ready.
Don't experiment by bringing in an outdoor heater or barbeque to warm the house. You'll be creating a fire hazard and will probably generate a lot of smoke that will require opening windows, costing you more heat.
6. Close interior doors leading to unused rooms to keep warm air in the smaller area people use. If the heat's off at night, consider having everyone sleep in a warmer central room rather than separate cold bedrooms.
7. Stop cold air from entering or circulating. Discourage people from going outside and letting cold air in as they leave. Keep the refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible, too.
8. Lay extra rugs or blankets on wood, cement and tile floors. Heat can seep out through floorboards and the extra layers will serve as insulation.
9. Use hot water bottles. These were a familiar and effective heat source for cold nights many years ago. If you don't have any, you can try for the same effect by heating water on a stove (or getting it from the shower if the stove is off) and filling pans and containers. Be careful to let the water cool a little before holding it with bare skin.
10. Use your car as a warming center. If it gets very cold in the house, a car heater may provide welcome warmth. Be very careful you have enough ventilation if you take this route. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, move the car outdoors or open the garage door before sitting in the car for any extended period.
Remember, if your main heating system has gone out, your home will stay warm for some time, especially if you have good insulation. So you don't have to abandon house, just call for an experienced heating service and repair contractor as soon as you recognize the problem.