Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter is coming

... or actually, it's already here with all that accompanies it - power shortages, leaks in the roof (the repairs done at the end of last season are now being tested) and high heating costs.

I like the house we live in, truly I do, but it has some inherent construction flaws which can never be fixed. One such flaw is planning; I have no utility room, for instance, and that's a big drawback for me. Another is insulation. We can try to improve, and have made some improvements, but for as long as we remain here, we will always be very quickly influenced by the weather outside. It will be cold inside the house in winter, and hot in the summer. 

So... it's cold. And rainy. And dark. What can one do, besides turn on the air conditioner and the heaters and let them work at full blast, along with lighting lamps all throughout the day? This extra toll on the appliances and lights will be seen in the electricity bill at the end of the month. Electricity usage, along with food, is another important variable of the household budget - the everyday decisions we make (turn on the air conditioner, run another load of laundry) are soon displayed in the bill we get.

A nice solution when it's cold is to just get under the blankets with your kids and a good book, and cuddle and read stories. This is personally my favorite one, but it has its downsides (housework still needs to get done...). So what else do we do to keep from shivering?

* Dress warmly. It may sound trivial, but for many people, wearing layer upon layer of clothes is seen as an inconvenience. So, the choice is yours: are you willing to have your electricity bill skyrocket so that you can walk around in winter wearing nothing but a T-shirt around the house? This doesn't sound like a good trade-off to me, so right now I'm wearing warm pants, a warm skirt over them, a long-sleeved T-shirt, two sweaters, knee-high socks and warm slippers. If it gets even colder, and I assume it will, I will pull on another pair of socks, or perhaps warm stockings.

* Have a cup of tea. A nice hot cup of tea is good to warm both body and soul.

* Have something bubbling on the stove. Winter is a great time for soups and stews that simmer for a long time, making the kitchen cosy and warm - and for baking too (the oven uses up electricity, of course, but if you have some baking to do anyway, you might as well do it on a particularly cold rainy afternoon). Everyone can then gather at the big kitchen table, play games, work, read, do lessons, and enjoy the warmth. And of course when you get a bowl of thick steaming soup with some fresh bread, it gets even better! 

* Move around. On a rainy day, you don't just get cold because it's cold; it also has to do with the fact that you are cooped up inside, without the chance to do your usual vigorous yard work. So find something to do around the house that will get you moving and your blood flowing. I like to do ironing on rainy days - besides the activity, the iron itself is hot, and I like to warm my hands on the hot just-ironed fabric. If you have nothing else to do, just turn on the radio and dance around the living room.

* Light candles rather than turn on the lights. Sure, candles cost money too, you'll argue; but it so happens that candle-making is a hobby of mine (though I haven't made any new candles in a while), and I have a big supply of candles I had made which aren't quite nice enough to be given as gifts. So I lose nothing if I light them in the middle of a dark rainy day. Besides, candles provide warmth as well. If you have a stock of old dusty candles you haven't used in a while, you can take it out and give it a try. 

* Go to bed early. The longer you stay up, the longer you will need to keep the house warm and lit. If you can, go to bed early, put on warm pajamas and socks, and snuggle under a couple of thick blankets. Try to make the best of the natural daylight this way. Besides, in the winter we tend to sleep more, so the earlier you go to bed, the easier it will be to get up in the morning.

* The water heater. My personal downfall is that I just forget to turn it off. We really need to set up a timer for it, such as we have for the Shabbat hot plate. Also, if one day it rains and I know with a fair degree of certainty that tomorrow we're going to have a sunny day, I may skip showers for one day and take advantage of the solar heater the next day. I mean, it's winter; it's not like we're stinking sweaty like we might be after a hot summer day. If I knew I could just turn the water heater on for an hour or so, I'd do it, but because I know how bad I am at remembering to turn it off, I try to avoid turning it on to begin with. 

Wishing everyone a nice cozy winter and lower electricity bills! 


Winkel's Crazy Ideas said...

Winter has set in here too. I automatically dress warmer when the temperatures drop, instead of turning up the heat. We are very fortunate to have a new house which is well insulated and a lot of free wood. The wood burner goes all day in the winter. During very cold winters there have been incidents of legionella bacteria growing in hot water heaters due to people turning the heat down in them, so l am a bit dubious whereas that goes. Candle making is really fun, friends save their candle ends for me so it is virtually free too :-). Pam

maria smith said...

I'm for dressing warmer too. I don't like running the heater either. I hate the dust the heater generates and how dry it makes the air. My best green cleaning tip to add some moisture to the air, some warmth to my home and to make the house smell wonderful is to boil some orange peel, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks and cloves. It's wonderful!

Undersharing said...

I moved from the cold Northeast US to Australia, which has a climate more similar to yours except with probably more rain. Nothing is insulated here! I was shocked to see how um, 'well-ventilated' buildings are.

It's also common not to have AC or heat. A lot of people will buy a separate AC unit but the energy costs are so high that I can't imagine doing that. About a year ago it got up to almost 46 degrees (116 F) and I spent as much time as I could in the office and then had a sponge and the fan ready when I got home.

For the winter, the best I can do is dress in ridiculously warm house clothes with a fleece bathrobe. I never had a hot water bottle until I moved here and now I'll never live without one again. If I'm really cold I can tie it into the front of my robe. I stay a lot warmer with it than with the standard electric blankets that most people use and I think it uses less power to fill it twice a day than using a blanket all night.

I haven't plastic wrapped the window like I used to in the US, but it's a cheap way to seal up a lot of drafts. Do they sell the window wrapping kits in Israel?

Lady Anne said...

Anna, have you considered an in-line heater? I know it's another expense, but it simply heats the water as it runs through it, so you're not heating a 30 gallon tank just to take a shower. We've always had one, and they are great. They hang on the wall, so it frees up floor space.

We also have a lot of "leakage" around the windows and doors, caused by a minor earthquake a year ago. I have a tension rod over the kitchen door, and took one pair of heavy cotton tab-top curtains (the fabric is called Duck in the States, laid the two panels on top of each other and then threaded the rod through both sets of tabs, so I had a double layer of fabric. Pulling this over the door *really* helps cut down the drafts.

living from glory to glory said...

Hello Anna, My Hubby told me he heard it snowed there today!
We have a wood stove so we stay very warm. I do not like to be cold, so I feel very blessed to have a wood stove. Thinking of you :)
Blessings, Roxy

Mrs. Anna T said...

Maria Smith, we did just that last Friday, only we used tangerine peel instead!

Undersharing, I'm sure they sell pretty much anything at Ace, and if not, we can buy anything from ebay...

Lady Anne, last night my husband reminisced about in-line heaters and how great they were when he was at a boarding school in Jerusalem. It might work for us, but it's something we need to discuss with our landlord.

Roxy, it didn't exactly snow where we live, which in retrospect is a good thing (I feared for the pipes), but it snowed very near us, and it was close to freezing point here. Just prove you have to eat your own words sometimes ("yeah, winters here are pretty mild... it never snows, it never feezes...")

Miriam said...

In case of fearing the pipes to freeze, let them tap (leak) through the night.