Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Prepare for cold weather

I’ve been resting and taking care of myself while feeling guilty that necessary work is not getting done.  Last night I kept thinking about all the things I should be doing instead of laying around resting.  Winter prepping, food storage, making window quilts, get Christmas quilts finished, customer quilts finished, unpacking more boxes, write blog posts, wash my cold weather clothes, and so many other things.  All things need to be done and all at the same time.  But, which one first?  Catching up after an illness of several days is difficult.

I remind myself I’m only one person.  I can only do so much at one time.  I believe my number one priority right now is my health.  After that I need to get ready for the cold weather ahead.   Yesterday I turned on the furnace.  I hated doing it but I don’t need to be freezing while recovering from an illness.  Keeping warm in winter is a necessary expense.  I’ll do all I can to keep that expense low but I must have it to live.  Umm, I also don’t want the pipes to freeze either.

I called to set up an appointment for our utility company to do an energy evaluation audit on my house.  The audit will include a blower door test to find air leaks.  For the little money the audit costs its a real bargain.  They can pinpoint what is needed for maximum energy savings.  I use the list to do research into costs and start saving for those things.  I don’t know a lot about heating systems but I do believe the furnace in this house is rather old and not efficient at all.  The filter required is costly at about $35 each providing I can find one.  Ordering online will make them more expensive with shipping costs.  Over the summer I’ve been researching HVAC systems for two story houses.  Some new furnaces sound too good to be true.  Right now I’m only researching types of energy star systems, not the price.  I won’t look at actual price until I figure out which type would work best for my house.  I believe in quality over quantity.  A cheap price doesn’t usually provide the best efficiency neither does the newest and greatest provide the best maintenance.  Seriously, why buy and pay for installation on a system that no one local knows how to keep working?  Why have a system with impossible to find or very expensive filters?

The person who does the audit is simply looking for energy efficiency and not selling products so they may have some suggestions about a good three way system.  I’ve been researching three way heat pumps with individual control zones.  Three way means furnace, air conditioning, and water heating combined together.   A heat pump is more energy efficient than a forced air system.  Individual zones means I control which areas of the house gets heat or air.  I don’t need it anywhere except the room I’m in so other rooms could be shut down.  I believe the money saved on utilities will be sufficient to make payments on a new system.

I had planned to make window quilts and cornice boards over the summer.  I say that very same thing every year and somehow the quilts never get made.  So far only one room actually has curtains on the windows.  That’s because I had the curtains at the old house and brought them with me.  I guess it would help if I simply managed to buy heavy curtains and hang them.  I have so many ME projects to do around using less energy but not enough time and not enough money to do them.  The one thing I won’t ignore is the year round canning.  Not only does canning save money on food but it also saves energy.

I have no idea whether this house is insulated or not.  There may be some insulation in the crawl space but I doubt there is any in the walls.  Touching the bare wood floor isn’t as cold as touching an outside wall.

Hmm, that reminds me.  I wrote an explanation of household insulation back in the time of the oil embargo of the 1970s.  When I started blogging back in 2002 I put that explanation on the main blog.  When I started this frugal living blog I added the explanation here too.  Every year or two I include a link for my readers to look at it again.  Maybe you’d enjoy reading it.  This is the link.  Na Na explains insulation.

I’m very interested in what you are doing to prepare for colder weather while keeping your energy bill low.  Probably other readers would like to know too.  Some live in colder places and some live in milder places but we all want to keep utility costs low.  Please leave some comments telling us your winter priorities for saving on heating costs.

26 comments on “Prepare for cold weather

  1. KAYTHEGARDENER
    November 5, 2017

    In my area at this time of year, some hardware stores have plastic window insulation kits on sale that tighten with a hairdryer. I stock up on seeral & tell my elderly clients about them as well.

  2. Laurel Kendrick
    October 31, 2017

    Using an electric blanket during the night. Space heater in bathroom while bathing or dressing. (A few years ago menopause was my heat. Did not turn on the heat poor hubby). In Texas not many cold days during most winters.

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      I hadn’t thought about hot flashes helping keep the utility bill low. 🙂 I like it.

  3. carenowplease
    October 30, 2017

    Glad you are feeling better. You are so right being one person.

    I’ve had to adapt a lot as my arthritis becomes a disability, some days I can’t do anything but rest! I use the mobility cart in the grocery store now, and order online where I can. Today I hired a cleaner and a handyman to get my home together. Was planning to sell but waiting for things to settle down after the storm. Rents have skyrocketed.

    Going to call my heating/ac guy to service the heating, it’s not blowing very warm and we had our first frost yesterday.

    None of this is cheap but I can’t be cold and I want the place in good shape for if/when I sell.

    I’d like to buy new windows if I stay, that would make it warmer and more efficient. Probably too expensive for now though. Plus I have to get ‘permission’ from HOA and the management company and dealing with them is always irritating.

    I will perhaps cut some white foam for the windows for now.

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      I know that feeling well. I have far more sick days than well days anymore. Just when I believe I’m better I find myself down for the count again. Its almost to the point I want to become a hermit so no one brings me an illness when they visit. White foam board is probably going to be my option too for now. Provided I can stay out of the sick bed long enough to get it done.

  4. Kathi
    October 30, 2017

    Oh Anita. I’m right there with you. So MUCH to get done. So LITTLE time and energy. CHANGE furnace filter. Welll that is a good place for me to start. and time to pull out the SWEATSHIRTS and sweaters, etc. Alas, we purchased a “fireplace tv stand” a couple years ago now. Darling LOVES it. ok, I like it as well. he gets so COLD. I can toss on another sweater, etc. that doesn’t seem to “work” for him, so our electric bill HAS increased rather than decreased. Time to ponder changes. sigh.

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      I’ve seen those tv stands. Never having a living room has kept me from looking for one because there would be no place to put it. I can’t seem to get anything done because I’m always stuck in bed coughing and blowing my nose. I get so tired of being sick.

  5. Sandy
    October 30, 2017

    We use fitted pieces of rigid insulation in the upper part of our Windows to try and save some energy. If a room has more than one window we often fit the insulation over the entire window. Seems to help.

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      Will you be doing this in your camper too?

      • Sandy
        November 3, 2017

        On some, as long as we get light too.

  6. sue
    October 30, 2017

    Hi hun, I read your blog alot but don’t comment. I wanted to thank you for your blog and all the wonderful tips that you give us. Your wisdom is wonderful and I thank you for taking the time to share it with us. I live across the pond in the UK. It is very expensive to buy material or heavy thermal curtains, so to save on costs my husband put up a dowel on the inside of our curtain pole. we bought new removal blankets online which are mostly made of wool and sewed a loop at the top and threaded them through and hung them near to the window behind my curtains.They can be drawn back in the daytime and are hidden by the curtains. They are wonderful at trapping the cold air and we have really noticed a difference. we did 3 rooms with large windows, a large front and back door (doubled blankets) for approx £27 ($35). Hugs Sue

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      Sue, what a great idea! Here in the states we call those mover’s blankets. How did you do the ones over the doors? Dowels too? Do you use those doors and do the blankets get in the way? Hugs Anita

      • sue
        November 3, 2017

        Hi hun,I have a curtain pole over the front door with a large curtain, so the dowels were on the inside of these also.My front door has a large window to the left side plus door, so the curtains and blankets can be drawn to the side of the window and don’t affect the door at all. My back door has a curtain pole, I push the blanket to the right side during the day and have a tie back. As it has no curtain to cover it, I blanket stitched red wool around the outside of the grey blanket to make it a bit nicer! 🙂 It does affect the door alittle to open it (as it’s inward opening) but we feel the benefits outweigh the inconvenience as its not used alot. Hugs Sue

        • Anita
          November 3, 2017

          Thanks Sue. I was wondering how it worked over the door.

  7. Lillie
    October 30, 2017

    I hope the audit provides you with some good info. It is apparently 35 degrees here. Strange since we had the A.C. on,up until a week ago. I need to do some more weather proofing here.Meanwhile I am sleeping in my winter getup. Two layers and wool socks. Warm beanie hat for my head. It,s not much to look at but I don’t expect any bedside visitors . I prefer being single ! I had hoped it would stay falling til Xmas.

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      The audit is tomorrow. Mother Nature is playing a guessing game with us. Will it be warm or will it be cold today game. She loves a good joke.

  8. Linda in NE
    October 29, 2017

    I live in Nebraska, there’s only so much you can do to keep heat bills low unless you want to spend at least six months of the year freezing your tush off. The older I get the more I want to be warm in the winter. Good luck with your hope to keep your heat bills low….or try for some federal heating assistance through the Agency on Aging (not sure if that’ts the exact right name).

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      I did apply for the LIHEAP assistance. I got enough to pay for half a month. Not much but its more money than I had the day before. I sometimes wish I could be a snow bird senior and live in Florida for the winter. Or better yet, move to the Bahamas where it stays warm year round.

  9. Julie
    October 29, 2017

    This year to prepare for winter and snow I have shut all the storm windows and put plastic and caulking around a window that needs replacement. At night I shut curtains and blinds and open them during the day. I have been hauling wood and twigs I cut earlier, into the garage, some of which is salvaged from construction trash I find and some is yard refuse. I am currently running the woodstove which seems to raise the house temperature 3-4 degrees higher. I have the heater set at 58F degrees at night and 60F degrees when I get up. Previous years it was always set at 58, so 60F feels balmy. At 60F I don’t worry about frozen pipes if outside goes below 0F as much as I do at 58F. Normal caulking and insulating was previously done and I don’t have the money to replace windows or add insulation currently. I have out the winter rugs now and have made draft dodgers for the space between the screen and regular doors. I recycled a worn out dress for material and filled it with plastic bags when I made them. I have other draft dodgers in use in the house. I have flannel sheets, blankets, and warm comforters for winter. Once in awhile, I like to use the hot water bottle also. For personal dress, I switch the closet out to winter warm clothes.. sweaters, scarves, t-shirts under shirts, socks day and night, flannel nightgown and long underwear. I drink hot tea in winter, and I have a tea cosy to enjoy it warm longer. I still need to put a sleeping bag in the car along with my winter emergency kit and I need to turn the outdoor faucets off. I also need to check my supply of winter salt for the driveway/snow shoveling fun.

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      You are doing all the things I would have done had I not been back in bed sick again. I had to re-wash winter clothes left in the washer when I went back to bed several days ago. Thanks for reminding me, I need salt for the driveway and sidewalk. I put it on my grocery list. I do have the flannel sheet and electric blanket on the bed. I’m way behind schedule getting things done.

  10. Margie in Toronto
    October 29, 2017

    I’m very lucky as heat is included in my rent (this is normal here) so I don’t have to worry about that bill. The heat was late in being turned on this year as there was a problem with the boiler and the mgmt. was slow in getting it fixed. One of my fellow tenants complained to the city and the landlord was issued with a warning right away and everything was fixed within 24 hours. I have turned on the rad in the bathroom as I have a large window in there and it was getting very chilly. I never turn the heat on in the bedroom as I like it very cold – I’ll turn on the heat in the living room within a couple of weeks and later in the kitchen. I live on the top floor and heat rises, plus I face west so I get the afternoon sun. The only spot that is cold is where I sit in my armchair – I get a draft from under the main door so I usually roll an old towel and stuff it in there when I sit down for the evening.
    I do pay separately for hydro so I do try to be good about keeping lights off unless I’m in that room and using the oven efficiently. I’m also looking at reducing the costs of my landline – bundling it with my tv & internet costs – so I’m looking for some reductions there.
    I don’t can but I do stockpile – right now I’m using up items from the freezer – supplementing with fresh & frozen fruit & veg. I really try not to waste food – and now that soup season is here that will help a lot in this area. I am replenishing canned and dry items in the pantry so I’ll concentrate on that area in November.

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      You sure have that right. This time of year is the best time for stocking up can food and pantry staples. Oh, and yea for that neighbor getting the city on the landlord.

  11. Linda
    October 29, 2017

    Our last house had electric baseboard heaters which cost a fortune to use. We replaced them with a heat pump and it was terrible. If you set your thermostat at 72, the air blowing out was 72. That may sound great, but it was always cold in our house. When the outside temp would dive, our system would switch to a different type of heat that was exorbitantly expensive. Now this whole thing was 30 years ago and I don’t know if heat pumps are different now or if that is just how they operate. Do ask questions about these things because we bought our system based on cost efficiency and didn’t know to ask about comfort.

    • Anita
      November 2, 2017

      I’m so glad you told me this Linda. I hadn’t seen any references to comfort levels or type of back up energy in my research. If you hadn’t commented I wouldn’t have thought about them. Thank you. My heater works so there is no hurry about getting it replaced. Gives me plenty of time to do more research.

  12. Jane
    October 29, 2017

    I’m glad that you’re beginning to feel more like yourself. One thing at a time is the only way anyone can do anything, so I hope you don’t overdo it. I understand that it’s difficult, but you’ll get there.

    I had an energy audit done way back when. It was part of a rebate program & the audit cost nothing. I had everything done and the rebate paid for much of it. My house is very old (1855) so it will never be as “tight” as new well-built houses, but it’s not bad.

    I made curtains for the upstairs windows using quilted fabric usually used for oven mitts. I covered that with fabric on both sides. There’s no heat upstairs so they really help. I also had plexiglas inside storm windows cut & I attach them in the winter with wingnuts.

    My furnace is now ten years old, but it’s energy efficient. My step-mother died at age 98 in March this year. I received a small inheritance which I used to buy a new (2008) car and a brand new wood stove. It heats the whole house better than the furnace. I also got a UV system to use for my well water, so I no longer have to go to the next village to fill up water bottles from the artesian well, that I used for drinking and cooking water for 18 1/2 years. I feel like I’m living in luxury now!

    The snow tired are going on the car this week. I’m almost ready for winter. 🙂

    • Anita
      November 3, 2017

      For some reason your comment went to the spam filter. Just found it this am. I’m so happy for you even though a sad way to get new things. The thing I’m most happy about is that you don’t have to haul water anymore.

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