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5 Tips to Keep Warm during Winter without Paying More

With winter approaching and the energy prices increasing, most of us are concerned about keeping warm for the cold months. Whether we’re trying to reduce energy consumption because we are worried about reducing the effects fossil fuels have on the environment, or simply because we refuse to surrender to the energy industry’s ever increasing prices, creative solutions are available. Most of the following tips illustrate a few simple principles about energy and the human body.
winter warming
Image: flickr.com/photos/jamelah

Warm people, not spaces

The energy zoning principle can be applied to simple household problems: use heat only where – and when – it is required.  Should the heat be turned on in the entire house if only one room is occupied? Of course not, that would be money literally thrown out the window. In fact, most traditional houses lose heat through windows and walls anyway, so it would take a huge amount of energy to keep a large uninsulated, floor-to-ceiling windows living room warm for just two hours while the family gathers over dinner. We must acknowledge that people, not the space, need to keep warm, therefore we shouldn’t worry about heating spaces, but keep the family members comfortable. Secondly, we should find the spaces that are already warm and try to make the most of them.

Gather around  in the kitchen

In a typical family evening scenario, heat is already generated in the house when mom or dad cooks supper. Why shouldn’t all the family temporarily move to the one room in the house that is warm without any extra effort? Cooking also brings family members closer together, so this can become a nice family tradition that everybody will remember over time and, at the same time, keep everybody warm and comfortable. Apart from this, as discussed in the following tip, the kitchen is also the place where we get most of our fuels.

Fuel your body properly

The human body is literally a heat engine, similar to automobiles, trains or airplanes. It feeds on fuels – in this case, food and drink – and does physical work, releasing heat. This means that, leaving the environment aside, humans can keep warm by eating the right fuel. The harder it is for the body to digest food, the longer it works, therefore the more heat it produces. Warm and dense food, for instance cream soups or high-protein meals keep the body’s metabolism busy for a longer time, keeping us warm.

Put the engine to work

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, like any engine, human body produces heat when engaged in physical activities. One MET (Metabolic Equivalent of Task) value or 58.2 W/m² is defined as the energy produced per unit surface area (square meter) of an average seated person resting. The surface area of an average person is 1.8 m² (19 ft²), therefore when sitting on the sofa watching the TV, an average person produces roughly 100 W or 1 MET – think of 100 W light bulbs to get a feel of what a MET means in terms of heat. Obviously, moderately intense activities produce more heat: for walking, 3.3; exercise such as sit-ups or push-ups around 8.0 MET. If we needed any further motivation to do sports, this might just be it – to keep warm.

Warm specific body parts

This tip is another application of the “solve the problem at the source” principle. The reality is that most people do not feel as if their whole body is cold, but suffer from local discomfort. It’s as easy as this – if your back feels cold, put a sweater on. If your feet are cold – and this is the most common problem for people with bad blood circulation, especially smokers – heat some water and take a foot bath. Also, clothes obviously have different insulating properties, but more important is what are they actually insulating. If a person already has cold feet, putting on a thick layer of wool socks will actually not help them, as the temperature of the feet is below comfort level and the socks will keep it constant. In such case, it is much better to take a hot shower or foot bath and then immediately put warm clothes on. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy new clothes. Any old sweater can be easily transformed into a pair of nice warm socks that you can wear around the house, reusing one of the resources you already have.

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