Falling temps signal the start of sweater season, holiday baking extravaganzas, and pumpkin spice everything, but they also bring an unfriendly guest: sky-high heating bills. Americans spend anywhere from $600 to $2,000 to heat their homes in the winter—natural gas is typically least expensive, while electricity puts the biggest dent in your wallet. It’s enough to make us wonder: What ever happened to a good old (read: cheap) wood fire?
Whether you’re stuck in a drafty office building all day or simply want to slash that heating bill, there are plenty of low-tech ways to keep warm without cranking up the thermostat or busting out the space heater.
1. Have a hot bev.
Drinking something warm raises your core body temp. But there’s a little-known, crucial caveat: You have to be bundled. The hot bev makes you sweat, and if that sweat is allowed to evaporate, it will actually make your colder. You’ll want to skip the hot toddy too. Don’t be fooled by the warm, fuzzy feelings you get with the first few sips: Alcohol actually lowers your body temperature.
2. Become a baker.
Just because you’ve vowed to stay away from that thermostat dial doesn’t mean your apartment has to feel arctic. Luckily your home has another heat source: the oven. Using it will heat up your kitchen quickly. Plus you’ll be left with a fresh-from-the-oven batch of chocolate chip cookies to combat any residual chills.
3. Light up.
Obviously, lighting a fire is a good way to keep warm, but you don’t need a roaring bonfire to heat things up. Light a few candles around your immediate workspace or at the dinner table to keep those finger tips toasty. You can even DIY your own tealight heater. The added ambiance doesn’t hurt either.
4. Get close.
Cozying up with your special someone is a surefire way to warm up. For optimal heat sharing, ditch the layers. It may seem counterintuitive, but skin-on-skin contact is the most efficient way to share body heat—it’s also the most fun.
5. Break out the hot water bottle.
Skip the electric blanket, which will jack up your electric bill, in favor of a more low-tech bed warmer: the hot water bottle. If you don’t want to run to the drug store to buy one, you can also heat up a package of dried beans or rice in the microwave for a minute, wrap it in a pillowcase, and slide it between your sheets for a few hours of warmth.
6. Cover your floors.
Nothing gives you the chills like walking around on freezing floors, and no amount of fuzzy socks can really protect you from that ice-cold bathroom tile in the a.m. Cover any bare floors with rugs this winter, and you’ll be walking warmer all season.
7. Get a move on.
There’s a reason you start sweating when you exercise. Physical activity raises your heart rate, gets your blood pumping, and raises your core temperature. Human thermoregulation and measurement of body temperature in exercise and clinical settings. Lim CL, Byrne C, Lee JK. Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 2008, Dec.;37(4):0304-4602. Just because you’re taking a rest day doesn’t mean you have to sit around like an ice sculpture. Go for a walk, do some jumping jacks, or use this as an excuse to finally clean your bathroom. Moving around in a confined space will warm you up in no time.
8. Pitch a tent.
Canopy beds make any bedroom feel like it’s fit for royalty, but they were also designed to keep you toasty as you sleep. They help trap your body heat before it escapes to the rafters. If you don’t have a canopy bed, you can still use the same principle—just throw the covers over your head. Creating a confined space will keep you nice and cozy all night.
9. Let the light in.
Use nature’s heater to your advantage by keeping your curtains open whenever the sun is up. Conversely, close ‘em at nightfall. The thicker your curtains are, the more effectively they’ll act as insulators and stop heat from escaping.
10. Get steamy.
Humid air feels warmer than dry air, so keep your humidifier running throughout the day during the winter. You can also add a little humidity to your home by showering with the bathroom door open and letting your clothes air dry—every little bit helps.
11. Do the laundry.
There’s nothing like clothes fresh out of the dryer to keep you warm. Use the freezing temps as your excuse to finally do that pile of laundry, then bask in the post-dryer warmth.
12. Cover your cap.
Science has proven moms everywhere wrong—you don’t actually lose most of your body heat through your head. Cardiovascular and ventilatory responses to dorsal, facial, and whole-head water immersion in eupnea. Gagnon DD, Pretorius T, McDonald G. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 2013, Sep.;84(6):0095-6562. But you should still listen to the woman and throw on a hat when it’s cold out—a chilly scalp does cause your core body temp to drop faster than it normally would. So put on your favorite beanie and stay toasty for a little longer.
13. Strip down.
Your doors that is. They’re a major source of drafts, especially in older houses or apartments that tend not be super weatherproof. The good news? Weather stripping (or sealing) isn’t that hard to do as long as you’re ready to channel your inner handyman.
14. Reverse the fan.
If you’re up for a little science experiment, you can harness the physics of your ceiling fan in order to keep warm. Since warm air rises, you can use your ceiling fan to push it back down towards the ground. Simply reverse the direction of your fan and keep it on low so it doesn’t stir up a big breeze.
15. Line your radiator.
If you have a radiator—especially one mounted on an outside-facing wall—you’re probably losing a lot of heat to the chilly outdoors. Line the space between the wall and the radiator with heavy duty tin foil to keep the heat where you want it.
16. Think warm thoughts.
You know that incredibly annoying thing your parents told you every time you complained about the cold as a kid? Turns out they were on to something. Researchers have shown that core body temperature can be controlled by the brain. Neurocognitive and somatic components of temperature increases during g-tummo meditation: legend and reality. Kozhevnikov M, Elliott J, Shephard J. PloS one, 2013, Mar.;8(3):1932-6203. Excuse us while we daydream about white sand and sunshine.