13 Ways to Keep Warm When It’s Freezing Outside

13 Ways to Keep Warm When It’s Freezing Outside

How to keep warm was something much on my mind this week. And on the minds of pretty much everyone here in central Ohio. We’ve just been through an absolutely freezing week and a half. The temperatures were single digits or lower; one night it was -10F when we drove past the bank sign (it shows the time and temperature) on the way home, and it got colder from there.  We even ended up bringing our last 2 chickens inside to live in a box in the kitchen until it warmed up – we’d had 3, but one froze to death.

Even inside, it was seldom above 60 F (15 Celsius).

Some of the cold inside the house was our own faults (more on that later). There were a few things I meant to do to help keep the house warmer, but kept putting off. Until it was time to really, really regret procrastinating.

There are a lot of different things you can do to keep warm.

Things that Involve Planning Ahead

Close Up Drafts

Seal Windows

If your windows are old – even if they are not – seal them with plastic and double-sided tape. This closes off drafts. Your heating bills will be lower, and your heaters more effective.

Have thick curtains. I do have this – most windows have thick curtains (a few have thinner curtains, and the room with my plants and crafts doesn’t have curtains but does have plastic), and the curtains are larger than the windows. This cuts down on drafts too; for light, open the curtains. For an extra layer of warmth, close them.

De-Draft Doors

This next tip isn’t very pretty, but is effective – hang a warm blanket over doors. Especially doors that you use seldom. We hung a large blanket over our back door; we don’t use it as much, and it was the draftiest door. The blanket helps a lot; it’s long enough that we can roll up the bottom for a draft blocker at the bottom.

Have draft blockers. You can buy (or make)decorative ones, but if that’s out of your budget (or you need one quickly for a sudden freeze), roll up a towel, blanket, or small rug and firmly place it at the bottom of the door where the draft is. We have a rolled towel at our front door now. The blanket trick won’t work for it because of the way the door opens – we want to be able to get in and out of the house – and the impromptu draft blocker has helped.

Find and Close Other Openings

The fan in your bathroom might be letting in a chill. The dryer vent to the outside probably is as well. The small holes in the walls where the cable or phone line come into the house can also let in cold air. You won’t be able to block these completely – a blocked vent on a running dryer could catch your house afire – but you can lessen them, or block them when not in use, in the case of the dryer vent.

Have Heat Sources

If possible, get space heaters to have for emergencies. I have family that keeps a spare kerosene heater in the shed that they can bring in if the power goes out and the furnace no longer works. Have heating pads and electric blankets. If you plan ahead, you can usually find these on sale or in thrift stores in the spring and summer; you’ll get charged a premium if you wait till it’s 5 degrees outside to look for a spare heater.

Stock up on Warm Clothes and Blankets

Get sweaters, long underwear, wool socks, flannel pajamas. Make sure you are equipped and able to layer up when it gets chill. Have blankets, flannel sheets, quilts, shawls, and fluffy house shoes organized before winter; they are more expensive if you are looking in January than if you are stocking up in spring or thrifting in July. Layers of warm clothing are essential when you are planning ahead for ways you can keep warm.

Save the Water

Water needs to keep warm as well – at least the pipes do. Make sure your water pipes are wrapped in heat tape and the heat tape is plugged in. Be sure that none of your water access pipes or wastewater/sewage pipes are directly exposed to the cold. Frozen or burst pipes will ruin your winter.

Be Sure Your Thermostat Works

I just found out yesterday one of the reasons we were so cold this past week. Our thermostat uses batteries, and they were going dead. It’s possible some of the in-a-pinch things I’ll describe in the next section would not have been needed if I’d remembered that and changed them out so that the furnace was running efficiently. Check your thermostat’s batteries!

Things to Do When It’s Already Cold

Whether it’s cold and your furnace or baseboard heater or what-have-you is not cutting it, or if you are just trying to keep the thermostat set low to save money, there are a lot of ways to keep warm. Remember to use common sense when using these – if you hang blankets, don’t do it near a heater. Avoid house fires; that is not the way you want to warm up.

Layer Up

Put on an extra pair of socks. Never, ever be barefoot. Wear a hat indoors. Add a sweater. Add leggings under your pants or skirt. Drape a shawl or throw around your shoulders. Wear fingerless mitts. Add layers of clothing; you will feel cozy even if it’s very chilly.

Close Rooms

Close the doors to rooms you don’t use. If you have central heating, close off or cover the vents to those rooms. Spare bedrooms, unused bathrooms (used bathrooms when you’re not actively wet and naked in them), laundry rooms, storage – block them off with doors or by hanging blankets. Make the heat you have more effective (and less expensive) by not heating extra rooms.

Put Warmth Inside of You

Keep your core temperature up by literally taking in warmth. Drink hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Eat hot soup. Eat spicy foods – chili will warm you up in more ways than one.  Holding your warm cup helps keep your hands warm, and the steam from the tea kettle, pan, or coffee pot will help warm the air and add much-needed humidity.

Add Water

Stay hydrated yourself; it keeps your metabolism working well. And freezing weather often lowers the humidity, making it feel even colder than it is. You know the summer saying, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”? Yeah, that effect goes in the winter too. Keep a crockpot of water heated, or a tea kettle. If you’re a little handy, move your drying vent so that it blows inside – you can sweep up the lint, and it will add warmth and humidity.

Use the Stove

In an absolute pinch, you can heat up your oven and open the door to let heat out. This is not an efficient way to heat, but it will help bring the inside temperature up a bit. We did that a few times this past week when we woke up and it was 50F inside. (Older mobile homes are NOT well insulated.)

Even without having to use the stove as an impromptu heater, this is a good time to bake dinner. Make bread. Bake cookies. Roast potatoes. And when the food is done, be sure to leave the oven door open while it cools to make the most of that heat.


Whether with a family member, housemate, friend, or pet – snuggle up with something warm to help both of you keep warm. Share body heat and warm up relationships at the same time!  If you don’t have cuddly pets or people, snuggle up with blankets, a hot water bottle, extra pillows, or stuffed animals. Any extra fluffy, warm items can help keep in body heat and help you keep warm.


These are the ways we’ve been keeping warm this winter. Comment with any extra tips you have, or with questions about winter coping.

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