by Judith S.
A few years ago I moved from Florida to South Carolina, and bought a 100 year old, 2 story farmhouse in October. The house did not have any heating system, and because of the age of the house I was afraid to use the fireplaces. One room had a small wood burning stove, and I purchased a small space heater for the bathroom.
Those fireplaces --- I placed a piece of plywood in front of each one - so the warm air wouldn't rise right up the chimney!
So for my 45th birthday in November, this single woman bought a chain saw and I started cutting my own firewood. I would collect pallets from where I worked, and deadfall wood from my acreage. Wood was not the problem. The house, being as old as it was, did not have good insulation. A major source of heat loss is around doors and window frames (especially in older houses). I purchased a large roll of "clear" plastic from a building supply place. I hung this over a spring tension curtain rod at every window. (I have used the same plastic and rods every year since for the same thing) The plastic helped create an air pocket between the window and the curtains. I laid small throw rugs or towels along the window sill. I also used tension rods to hang plastic on the inside of my screened porch, creating an air space between the outside and the kitchen door.
Remember air pockets don't need to be big (look at thermal windows!) just an inch or so, can really make a very noticeable difference between a room you want to keep warm and a space that doesn't need to be kept warm.
Since I wasn't using the upstairs, I closed it off, by laying plywood over the stairwell. Spring tension rods (actually spring tension shower rods, 'cause of the weight of plastic/material) in the opening with plastic or fabric, from the ceiling to the steps, creates that air pocket.
I places a rolled up throw rug at the threshold of the front door.
An old fashioned thing to do -- hang curtains (sheets, blankets, etc) in doorways, especially if you can close the room off -- again creating an air pocket. Spring tension rods, again are very helpful. It doesn't matter if the curtains don't go all the way to the floor--warm air rises.
If you are in a house, there are probably vents in the foundation. I used small pieces of insulation, and leftover hard plastic (from an old florescent light fixture) and cut both to fit each vent. I use these same insulation and plastic pieces every year. This will help protect pipe under the house. You will need to remove them in the spring, opening the vents up again.
I made it thought the first winter, basically living in that one room with the wood burning stove (I even cooked on it!), and I was pretty comfortable all night long. I have a heating system, now, but I keep my thermostat at 60 degrees, and one tank of fuel lasts pretty much all winter -- 'cause I still do all the things I did when I didn't have a heating system!
My Story is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story to share please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with "My Story" as the subject. You don't need to be an accomplished author. Just someone who has learned how to save money.
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