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How should people conserve energy as the weather cools?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on October 10, 2005

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Photo of Christopher Godfrey

“Weather-proofing the windows is the most important thing. They can also wear more clothes instead of turning the heat up. Dress for the weather inside and outside.”

Photo of Tovah Mendelsberg

“Only turn on the heater when you know someone is going to be there. Turn it off when you leave, and on when you get home.”

Photo of Debbie Miller

“Just turn their furnaces down a little bit and bundle up a little more.”

Photo of Scott Garrette

“Don’t heat more space than you need. And if your dryer is near your living space, you can run it at night to take the chill off.”

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b_asinbeer 12 years, 7 months ago

I agree with Debbie Miller. Turn down the heater. I had mine at 65 last year. I'm gonna try 63 this year and see how things hold up (don't blame me, natural gas is supposed to increase again this year). Plus, an extra blanket to keep warm at night and sweatpants and sweater during the day when I'm at home. I'm not a big fan of turning the furnace off when I'm not at home for the day. Takes too long for the house to heat up again.

Hope everyone will have the opportunity stay warm this year, especially with the disasters that have been going on locally, nationally, and globally.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." 9/2/2005

Richard Heckler 12 years, 7 months ago

In addition to thermostat settings stock up on new turtle necks and wool sweaters. If financially possible take out an home equity loan and purchase a 93% efficiency furnace and AC unit cuz these folks that run/own our utilities will continue to manipulate the market.

It may be time for state owned utilites to come into being so we fire the over paid executives and dump their golden parachutes. Hey slumlords how about insulating the ceilings in all of your are wasting natural resources.

gccs14r 12 years, 7 months ago


Only do that with an electric dryer. A gas dryer may asphyxiate you.

KsjKC 12 years, 7 months ago

Ummmm--Run the dryer at night to take the chill off? Does this guy work as an artist or a marketer for GE...?

"Running all your household appliances 24/7 gives your home a feeling of warmth and intimacy..."

"I lower my gas bill by spiking my electric bill into the stratosphere..."

Now, I suppose if you are already doing laundry, nighttime may be as good a time to run it as any other time, but, dude----them buzzers is noisy...

neopolss 12 years, 7 months ago

Tovah should know that turning the heater off can actually be more expensive since the house must reheat entirely. Silly student!

People should try to minimize their activity at home. Lay down, watch TV, veg. The question was how should people conserve energy right?

KsjKC 12 years, 7 months ago


Yes--Yes--Exactly: During the winter time we should all conserve energy by curling up in our dryers wearing panty hose and watching TV...Wait--did I run a bunch of these posts together?

gccs14r 12 years, 7 months ago

It's nice to know that BushCo is succeeding in reducing us to being a third-world country in which the Citizenry can no longer afford to stay warm during the winter. It'll get worse, too, when people discover in a month that Congress has doubled their credit card bills.

Congress has mandated that CC companies collect at least 4% of the balance each month, up from 2%, beginning October 17th. The Comptroller of the Currency has given the banking industry until December 31st to comply.

KsjKC 12 years, 7 months ago I DO wanna go curl up in my dryer...

l_eustacy 12 years, 7 months ago

drive straight through the roundabouts?

Topside 12 years, 7 months ago

Duct tape and Plastic poly sheeting. We're going to seal the place up tight. It'll be real cozy...until we suffocate.

nlf78 12 years, 7 months ago

We weatherproof all our windows and don't turn the furnace up very will probably stay around 68 this winter. But I also called Aquila and set up a streamline payment. I pay the same every month, no matter what the actual bill is. I decided to do that last month, when I heard the bills were going to go up. It's a little more than I want to pay in the summer months, but at least we will be able to afford food and clothing in the winter months!

lunacydetector 12 years, 7 months ago

energy conservation methods of the 1800's applied to and intermixed with modern day life:

Set your thermostat to 55 degrees and buy lots of scarves.

buy some febreeze and wear the same outfit for weeks before washing. Rotate your clothes so people won't notice and your clothes will air out naturally. since the thermostat is set so low you won't sweat as much so you can go for weeks without a bath. undergarment linens can be worn for weeks before rubbing off the dirt and washing so you don't have to wash yourself. don't buy toilet paper because a reusable rag or your left hand (splash, splash) works fine if you wash after each use. hot water allows toxins to penetrate the skin--better to keep the pores caulked with healthy grime plus it might keep you warm. live like the rich and buy yourself some cheap perfume. bring back the chamber pots!

public bath houses could make a comeback. the freestate indoor pool comes to mind.

oh the good ol' days of yesteryear. a virtual utopia full of environmentally friendly putridity, not to mention lice and fleas.

....hmmm...i wonder how much money you could save trying to keep those rich energy companies in check?

christie 12 years, 7 months ago

Can anyone say Wood-Stove?

We installed a Wood-Stove 3 years ago and go out every few weekends and collect wood. It's a great way to get out and keep in shape, and we laugh all the way to the bank with our savings.

Mission Accomplished!

sunflower_sue 12 years, 7 months ago

Well, we burn in a wood stove in addition to our extremely inefficient "all electric" heat. (However, using a wood stove can significantly raise your homeowners insurance.) And, I don't know that a free-standing wood stove is even legal w/in city limits. Fireplaces are not as efficient. Hubby plans on installing a pellet stove in the basement this year and we are considering coughing up the money for a heat-pump system.
My house is kept warmer in living areas (mostly due to the wood stove) but we keep bedrooms VERY COOL. BRRRRR! (But very nice to snuggle, therefore doing a double service as you are forced to go to bed everynight on good terms with the "significant other".) I went into my youngest's room last night and she was wearing her ear warmers to bed and her sleeves pulled down over her hands! I covered her with several more blankets. (Maybe I'll turn the heat on in her room tonight.)

mr_daniels 12 years, 7 months ago

Am old enough to qualify as a snow bird...see you folks! Heading to sunny Arizona for the winter...yes plenty of good tea anyone?

Sigmund 12 years, 7 months ago

Since I have a job and bought Westar, Exxon/Mobil and Conoco/Phillips stock two years ago, I plan on firing up the heater to a toasty 80 degrees. Since I am am a smoker I don't plan on getting out to the clubs or resturaunts this Winter, I hate smoking outside. Perhaps I'll go to the Replay when it's not too windy. That is until the City Commission bans outdoor heaters for wasting energy. I take comfort in the fact as all the heaters in the outside smoking areas consume untold BTU's they drive up the heating bills of all the anti-smoking facists on the City Commission. I can't wait for the City Commission to ban businesses from having outside heaters or setting their thermostats above 60 degrees in the Winter. Cheers!

sunflower_sue 12 years, 7 months ago

Offtotheright, I'm going to assume (based on your ?) that your fireplace is an "insert"...or are you asking if you can put one into an alrealy existing fireplace? Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, standard "in the wall" fireplaces are inefficient as they let most of the heat go up the chimney. Therefore, inserts are put in that have a fan attached to blow some of that hot air back out into the room. This, however, uses electricity to run the fan. (And the fans are usually pretty loud.)

hottruckinmama 12 years, 7 months ago

i thought mr bush was supposed to save us all. but lets see. double credit card payments. way higher natural gas prices. higher fuel prices. damn sounds more like hell on earth to me.

hottruckinmama 12 years, 7 months ago

the powers that be think they are going to save us from ourselves once again. they have mandated that all credit card companies raise they minimum payment to at least 4% which for a lot of people mean that they will double.

Confrontation 12 years, 7 months ago

We kept our heater at 65 degrees last winter, and then received a huge gas bill. So, it was 55 degrees for the rest of the winter. Horribly cold, but our slumlord would not winterize our townhouse. Thin plastic window coverings did no good. Does anyone know what type of tape is best for holding heavy plastic on windows?

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

Lunacydetector: you forgot: after a few days, take your pair of socks and turn them inside-out to keep on wearing.

turn off all your lights, you don't need them if you invest in a miner's headlamp.

save your kitchen grease and turn it into candles/glims along with 'used' shoelaces.

save your household produced methane for burning; to increase this source of energy, eat more beans, peas etc., get a cow .

and, if it only takes one leg of a women's hose to indoor vent the dryer, whatdya do with the other one? use it in a disguise to hold up a bank to pay for more energy.

jonas 12 years, 7 months ago

Sharing of body heat! Warmth for the price of a couple roses and a bottle of wine!


lilchick 12 years, 7 months ago

My folks have an insert for their fireplace. They just run it when they are home and awake, it's not that noisy and does a great job of putting the warm air farther into the house with the assistance of ceiling fans. Then they open the dampers and have a fire burning slowly all day. They used to have the old floor furnace, which I miss, it was great to put bricks on when you got home from school, then wrap in a towel and shove at the foot of your blankets when you go to bed. Toasty feet!!!!

sunflower_sue 12 years, 7 months ago

If this helps:

February 2002
Up in smoke

How economical is heating with wood? Split wood sells for roughly $150 a cord (delivered). If it's a true cord--a stack 8 feet long, 4 feet deep, and 4 feet high--the price is 40 percent cheaper than natural gas or fuel oil for equivalent energy, national average prices suggest. A "cord run," however, is a single stack of 16-inch logs that is one-third the volume of a true cord. A $150 cord run is 75 percent pricier than other heating fuels, assuming the stack of hardwood is 70 percent solid, contains 12 percent moisture, and provides 7,700 Btu/lb.

Burning wood can be inefficient. At best, 25 to 30 percent of the heat energy from a wood-burning fireplace goes toward warming the room. The rest is lost up the chimney. A fireplace insert or a wood stove might reach 70 percent efficiency, but you lose the coziness of the fire. By contrast, a new gas or oil boiler or a furnace is 80 percent efficient or more. Bottom line: A central heating system is typically the cheapest way to heat.

This article was also published in Consumer Reports magazine.

gccs14r 12 years, 7 months ago


A glass-front stove gives you all the flame action you could want to watch, sometimes even giving secondary burn, and allows you to burn hedge, something that you wouldn't want to put in an open fireplace. As for the cost, NG is quite a bit higher now than it was 44 months ago.

For anyone interested in the scoop on stoves, go see Kathy Benedict at Swims 'n Sweeps (formerly Spa, Pool, & Fireside) on Vermont.

gccs14r 12 years, 7 months ago


it was tacked onto the bankruptcy reform bill. They passed it several months ago, but delayed implementation so that they wouldn't get direct blame for all of the pain and suffering it will cause. Who knows, maybe they believe their own press about how good the economy is.

Jayhawk226 12 years, 7 months ago

MBNA has been incrementally raising my minimum payments each month, since July.

My original minimum balance of $75 is now presently at $125.

I do not recall any communication at all as to why the minimum payments have been increasing. I suppose today's information is giving me further insight.

Ceallach 12 years, 7 months ago

mr_daniels: Good for you! Would that we all could head for the warmth of Arizona :)

To conserve energy I use an electric mattress pad (not an electric blanket). The heat rises keeping the sleeper nice and toasty using very little energy. It is warmest across the bottom, gradually cooling through the middle and the pillow area has no heat at all. I love it, gotta get a new one. After 5 years mine is worn out. The mattress heating pad allows me to lower my thermostat at night and still sleep comfortably.

I also have double or triple pane windows. They not only conserve energy but they greatly reduce street noise.

even_money: I agree, those draft stoppers are great at the doors -- if you can manage to get them in place when you leave:)

sunflower_sue: After my husband died I was unable to maintain either the wood stove or the wood supply so I had to go back to gas heat. Regardless of the price difference, I nearly froze to death the first couple of winters. Without the radiant heat everything was sooooo cold!

gccs14r 12 years, 7 months ago

"The amount I have to pay on a credit card bill is the calculated minimum (which is doubling) plus the interest for that month (which is not changing)."

Yours is the only card I'm aware of that calculates the minimum payment that way. Most of them are two-cycle average daily balance with the minimum payment either 2% or 1/48 of the balance after interest has accrued. The 1/48 people won't see a doubling, but it's close enough to be academic. In any event, it's about $160 billion a month that is moving from household discretionary income into the banking system when the banks are already awash in cheap money and households are already stretched to make ends meet.

Sigmund 12 years, 7 months ago

Well Im not sure I'd agree the banks are "awash in cheap money" as the Fed has been tightening the supply of money to fight the threat of inflation. Both short and long term fixed rates on home mortgages, for instance, have been rising. Nor would I completely agree that households are already "streched to make make ends meet", although I do agree that U.S. household discretionary income is likely going to shrink. Best protection for a consumer is to pay off their credit card debt monthly.

In fact, it is very likely going to get a lot worse for consumers with credit card debt. If you don't know why, you're at risk. Visit Frontline at and watch free online "The Secret History of the Credit Card" to find out when and how they can legally double or triple your rate, even if you are current with your payments to them! Hey they have done it to others, why not you?

sunflower_sue 12 years, 7 months ago

gccs14r, just put that out there and was sure to include a date 'cause I knew the info was a few years old. (I couldn't find anything more recent and chose not to put out info from someone that was trying to SELL something). Anyway, like I said in my first post: already have a wood stove and already have an uninstalled pellet stove. My house is all electric with radient heat in the ceiling (about the most inefficient thing there is). Heating bills are a killer (even with keeping the house cool and supplimenting with wood). I just never was fond of my "insert". I found the noise of the fan annoying. I think free standing stoves are better (if the fire code lets you install one).

Ceallach, I agree that w/out my hubby, I probably would not be able to keep up with the wood supply needed to burn in my stove...or just wouldn't want to. Hard work, that!

A dog or cat curled up in the lap is always a good way to get some free heat (but then I'm not taking into acount the cost of maintaining the animal). Maybe they are inefficient, too. :)

Jayhawk226 12 years, 7 months ago


The "Secret History of a Credit Card" program was great! I remember it first aired a few months ago and I wish that I had taped it for my students.

I do advise others to check it out, if you have a chance.

bankboy119 12 years, 7 months ago

gcc, the reason that they raised the payment in the first place is so people did not have to pay so much in interest. If you look at your interest rate and then calculate how long it would take for you to pay off your credit cards making just the current minimum payments, some would take as long as 17 years, that's ridiculous. And that is of course assuming you put no other purchases on the card. The government raised the minimum payment so that in the long run people will not pay as much interest to the companies there by having more money to spend for themselves....that's if people would ever get out of the "now" mentality. Sigmund is right though, the best thing to do is stay out of debt or at least not add anymore to it.

thunderbuns 12 years, 7 months ago

I got one of them there wind-up heaters........

Sigmund 12 years, 7 months ago


You and your students can watch "The Secret History of the Credit Card" free online or you can purchase DVD or VHS tape with a credit card (ironic, no?). This particular program first aired in November of 2004 and was repeated earlier this year. It won a 2004-05 Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism (quite a feat considering how consistently good all Frontline documentaries are), and teacher and student guides are available for free as far as I could tell. An economic bargain if ever I have seen one.

The program is engaging, accurate, and just a bit frightening. Given the impact credit and credit scores will have on your students ability to thrive in our current economy, one of the best uses of a couple of class hours I can imagine. I hope you are able to work it in somehow. Here is link to the website:

Liberty 12 years, 7 months ago

Might try putting a natural gas vent free heater in the basement on a wall mount arrangement. Then when running it (on thermostat) leave the fireplace vent open upstairs for ventilation to constantly bring in fresh air slowly through the cracks in the house. It saves nearly 50% on bills and it does not require electric power to distribute the heat (the cold air will go downstairs to the heater naturally and the heat will rise) and you stay toasty warm and you do not loose humidity (in fact you will probably maintain 40-50% humidity during the winter, unlike a normal forced air gas unit; it will dehydrate the air in your house rapidly. A 30,000 btu wall unit will heat a house of about 1400 sq. ft or so. If it gets real cold, you still have the big heater to assist. A wood burning fireplace in the basement would do well too.

oldfashiongirl 12 years, 7 months ago

Scott: You're getting bamboozled by your turning the dryer on at night comment. It is not so ridiculous. I lived in Rotterdam, Holland for years and our electric meter had a day rate from 6:00AM to 10:00 PM, higher, and then a nite rate from 10PM to 6:AM, much lower. I did my ironing, vacuuming and baking and washing my clothes during that time. Would that they do that here!

Credit Card debt. I pay off my credit card (one) every month and I get 1% back as a cash bonus for items I charge, which is about everything.

I am almost 80 and have not paid one red cent in interest charges, except for my home mortgage which I doubled up on payments and have paid cash for all my houses, cars, furniture, etc for 30 years or more. Don't owe anyone anything. Have even prepaid my burial expenses and headstone.

Ceallach: You asked about cornbread. No, I don't put sugar in it and only use coarse yellow meal. Here is my dad's recipe for "Cornbread hoecakes:

1 c. yellow cornmeal, 1 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/2 t. salt, 1 egg (beaten), 1 c. buttermilk, 1 T. bacon drippings. Mix first 4 ingredients, add remaining ingredients, mixing well. Heat a cast iron skillet till very hot and add oil or bacon grease. Place batter by spoonfuls to make 3" cakes. Cook about 3 minutes and turn one time and cook another 3 minutes. Have lots of butter nearby to slather on! Enjoy!! For "cornbread dressing I double the recipe and put about 1 t. of the meal in my hot pan to give it a crusty, crunchy taste before adding the batter. Bake at 450 degrees for about 35 min. till browned. Cool and crumble and add to your other dressing ingredients.

Jayhawk226 12 years, 7 months ago

Sigmund, I thank you for your added information....much appreciated!

Liberty 12 years, 7 months ago


The approx. cost of the heater is 225 federal reserve notes. The btu rating on most avg. home heaters is 100,000 -150,000 btu. Calculate how long your heater stays on during a typical winter day. Remember that it is using power to run the blower motor and consuming natural gas at that rate (it also burns gas when the motor is not running during warm up). In comparison, the wall unit uses 30,000 btu max and reduces to 10,000 btu as the house warms. You will find that the wall unit is comparable to a hot water heater in consumption rate but it runs longer. It also uses no electric power.

I'm sure it will be different for every house, but I find that it works quite well. The only thing is the thermostat is not perfect at maintaining the temperature upstairs. You may have to adjust it up or down until you find the best setting. After considering the electricity saved and the gas consumption reduced, I have found that I am ahead using the wall unit and the main unit for backup.

Liberty 12 years, 7 months ago

I might also add, that since the wall natural gas heater unit does not use power, it is a good unit to have if the power goes out due to an ice storm etc. You will continue to have a source of heat (as long as there is natural gas available) while others that need a blower to distribute the heated air will freeze. I nice feature to have on hand... :-)

bearded_gnome 12 years, 7 months ago

OFG, nothing beats cornbread stuffing! you keep on!

we put waterchestnuts, tons of garlic, and of course sage in ours.

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