How to stay warm this winter without spending money

My problem: How to stay warm this winter without spending money. The house is cold and heating it is expensive. My frugal-living philosophy tells me you don’t need to spend money to be green, despite what all the retailers say. But can I?

What if I can’t just buy stuff?

You see, if I had more money I could head off down to the DIY store and buy solutions. I could feel good buying stuff, and feel good because this will obviously do lots for the planet, despite my having just bought something that had to be made and transported and stored and displayed and sold and transported home. All that carbon burnt, money spent whenever I buy anything. However, I cannot afford to go buy insulating stuff, partly because I live on an island, to which all that stuff must be transported with diesel powered ferries, which pushes up the price. Partly because it would be a 30 mile drive in a car to the store and we have given up the car too. The main reason I cannot buy stuff from the DIY store is because I cannot afford it. Food comes first and there is not enough left to buy insulation material, no matter how much it might save in money and carbon in the long run. I am reminded how it is easy for the poor to remain poor like this.

My solution: cardboard insulation

I’m going to insulate this house without spending a penny. I’m going to make this house warmer and also reduce my fuel bill, and I’m not even going to leave the house to do it. No need to waste time and money and carbon going shopping. Instead, I’m off into the garage, the shed and the attic to find what I need, MacGyver style. This is what I found:

  • scrap of bubble wrap left from packaging
  • cardboard boxes
  • newspaper
  • nails
  • polystyrene off-cuts
  • an old rag
  • silicone sealant and
  • some wool

Feel how warm they are to the touch.

Cold testing with your hands

The best way to work out where the most heat is being lost is to use my hands and feel surfaces. If they make my hand feel cold they are conducting heat away faster than my heart can replace it (give it 30 seconds).

Hand feeling window pane

Hand feeling window pane

What I found was the double glazed windows feel cold. Also, can I feel cold air – drafts? Yep. So whilst I cannot fill the loft with more fibreglass insulation or fill wall cavities with foam, I can do something. Now.

It feels good to take action

This is great, feels fun and I get a thrill from taking action, instead of being helpless. I may not have the best stuff but I can do a lot, this afternoon, instead of joining the Black Friday / Christmas shopping chaos. Over the next couple of posts I’ll show you what I have done to make the house warmer and have fun doing something to improve things. I tell you, it feels good!

The window before insulation

First, this is the way I sorted window insulation in the kitchen, our one and only heated room. The window, double glazed, south facing. Light fades at 4pm.

The kitchen window, double glazed

The kitchen window, double glazed

As the light fades there is nothing to see outside, so I can block the glass until morning. Thick curtains will help, shutters will help, triple glazing will help. All cost money. Necessity is the mother of invention :)

Getting dark outside, nothing to see :)

Getting dark outside, nothing to see :)

After insulation

With just 2 inch thick polystyrene scrap, cut to fit, a cardboard box, trimmed to size and a couple of tacks to hold the cardboard in place, we get:

Insulated window

Insulated window

Result – warm room!

What a difference

The effect is so dramatic I can feel the difference instantly, and the room remains warm, despite the stove being on for less hours than in summer. Once the stove goes off at 6pm the room now remains cosy until past midnight.

Making it look pretty

Next step, to decorate the cardboard, trim it to a better size and make the job look nice but for now, we’re toasty. Then I’ll show you how I draft proofed the doors, windows, for free.

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4 responses to “How to stay warm this winter without spending money

  1. in the land of oppertunity its sad to have become disabled and having to resort to any means to stay warm years of hard work that resulted in nothing resourcefulness is an escape from depression

  2. Unparalleled accuracy, unequivocal clarity, and undeiablne importance!

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