Living without central heating revisited.

Hello Dear Reader,

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking to Julian Worricker on the ‘You and Yours’ lunchtime programme on BBC Radio 4. I will tell him and all the listeners about life without central heating. In preparation, I thought I would tell you all first. 

I will start with the caveat that it is easy for us. We are both young, fit and healthy and live in the South West and have a milder climate than many people. We don’t get months of snow, we don’t get freezing weather every winter and in fact, ice and snow are the exception and not the norm. We also live in a south facing house (for now) with big windows and we trap a lot of solar gain. We also live in a rural area and have affordable access to logs by the tonne, delivered to our door. I fully understand that this is not easy for everyone. 

However, once upon a time, our central heating was set to come on for a few hours in the morning and evening and now it doesn’t come on at all………………unless it snows and it’s sub zero. But, as I said, that’s rare here. Initially, it was hard and we felt the cold and it was difficult. Now, I skip round the house in normal clothing and I don’t feel the need for heating on most days. 

I digress! Living without central heating revisited. To start, I need to clarify, that I don’t live without heating. We burn wood on our stove and that predominantly heats one room. The surrounding chimney breast, walls and the chimney breast and walls upstairs also warm up and there is a considerable thermal mass which stays a fraction warmer and therefore warms the rest of the house. Heating with wood makes you realise the energy that goes into warming a house. It makes you aware that a tree grew, gave out oxygen, died and had to be cut down and then needed sawing a chopping. All that work makes you use the wood wisely and our wood boils our kettle, heats our house and dries our laundry. If you have the option of wood heating, it’s some how connects me to the real world which does not rely on the flick of a switch.

Living without central heating means we layer ourselves and the house. I buy sheets from charity shops to make curtain linings to hang behind my curtains. I usually double layer the curtain linings which makes a massive difference to thermal loss. We hang door curtains to keep another layer between us and the cold and insulate our home to make sure we don’t lose the heat we’ve chopped and stacked for. 

Sorry to state the ‘bleedin’ obvious’ but blankets or quilts on sofas and arm chairs are a great way to keep warm. Wrap yourself up and keep the cold at bay. I didn’t knit this but bought it from a charity shop and it’s so snuggly and warm. It’s just another way of keeping the warm without central heating.

When it’s cold, make sure you have plenty of hot drinks. This is the season of soups and stews and hot filling and comforting food. It’s also the season of the last blast of sunshine so get out as much as possible and stay as healthy as you can to stave off winter illness. A good walk in daylight every day is the best way to top up Seratonin levels and that in turn helps us stay positive and healthy throughout the winter. 

We make the most of the heating we have and burn our wood economically and certainly don’t have a roaring fire but keep our stove ‘ticking over’. We also make sure we dry our laundry in front of the fire and loaves to rise in the warmth of the living room. 

We find it easy now to live without central heating. We are used to a cooler house. We are used to wrapping up and wearing (taking a look at myself here) socks, slippers, warm trousers, tee shirts and cardigan. In the winter, we keep extra thick jumpers and cardigans to hand and put them on when we come in to keep us warm until the wood stove is alight and heating our living room.

Here’s a thrifty round up.

1. Heat one room if you can’t afford central heating – a plug in oil filled radiator on a low setting will keep one room adequately warm.

2. Use quilts and blankets on your sofas and arm chairs and let them swaddle you and keep you warm. They are fun and cosy.

3. Line your curtains – you can buy or make these. Mine are made from double layered old sheets. But, even buying them will save you lots of money and keep your house warmer.


4. Hang door curtains – I made ours by cutting a wide curtain in half and upcycling it into a long curtain and re stitched the heading tape – I lined it with a duvet cover from a charity shop.


5. Close your curtains as soon as it is dark. When we walk the dogs in the evening, we can see into houses and those families are wasting heat. Shut up those curtains and it will help to keep the house and you warm and insulated.

6. Extra blankets on your bed and get to bed early. I’m the wife who always wants an early night. I like to get into bed where I’m warm and know I need less heating as our body heat keeps us warm. Now is the time to get the extra quilts and blankets out and air them in readiness for  winter chills. A light weight fleece blanket will look stylish on the end of your bed and provide an extra layer on cooler nights. 

photo courtesy of chezlarsson.com






7. Stay healthy and active. Through out the winter, I have time off work and it would be tempting to light the fire or turn the heating off. I make sure I use the day light hours to do all the outside jobs such as gardening, cleaning the car or windows. Also, try and get a walk in daylight every day as it will keep you healthy and improve circulation and help you stay warmer.




8. Wear layers. Start with good base layers. Wear 70 denier tights under your trousers, or wear a pair of leggings under your trousers. Gents, you could look for leggings for sport and these can be bought quite cheaply and wear them under your trousers. If you have lycra sports shorts then you could wear those under your trousers. Don’t put away your summer t-shirts and sleeveless tops just yet but wear them under shirts to provide another layer. You can also wear t-shirts over long sleeve tops and they can look like tank tops and can look really fun and stylish. I would also invest in a long and snuggly thick wrap around cardigan that ties at the waist……….. a kind of wooly dressing gown. 

9. Eat well. This is the time of year to dig out your soup and stew recipes. Cook them in your slow cooker and keep bowls ready to re-heat in the microwave, stored in your fridge. Keep yourself warm from the inside.

10. If you see blankets or quilts on offer, then buy them. You can often buy them in charity shops or car boot sales. Especially the cellular blankets that are light weight and trap the warmth. 



I’m sure lots of you will not have succumbed to any heating at all this year and it will be a while yet before you do. Let me know about all the ways that you keep warm. I know some of you will have snow from All Hallows’ Eve until spring whilst some of you won’t have a winter at all. Let me know if you don’t use central heating. Who else makes do with heating in one room? Who knows they have the heating on and walks around barefoot in a t-shirt…………’fess up! 

Here’s another chance to listen to me on Radio Cornwall – Click HERE! Move the cursor to the last hour.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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35 thoughts on “Living without central heating revisited.

  1. Fab post frogs, we just have the heating on for an hour in the morning and the same in the evening to air the place, (we delay putting it on until maybe November time) and we have a log burner in our smallest room we shut our front room for the winter, windows are too big and drafty. Blankets and jumpers, hot water bottles during the day aswell under the blanket we are wrapped up in helps if I get too chilled. We are used to this now and do not feel overly cold but when I visit my parents I am roasting, too hot it makes me feel ill, they have their heating on nearly all of the time during winter, as soon as I get there I turn the radiator off in the bedroom I am staying in as I am not used to it.

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  2. Great Post!

    We compromise and keep the heating on but the thermostat on a low temperature – 17c. As we have young children when the temperature dips at night and the house gets cold, they tend to wake up – no matter how many layers we put on them. So this way I can sleep easy that we are not wasting heat but using it carefully. In the day we stay in one room and use an electric heater to heat the room rather than put the heating on. We always have extra layers & blankets on our lamps.
    I think we acclimatise better to the outside temperatures living this way. I can't imagine those who keep their house toastie warm and then have to walk outside into minus figures – I'm sure they feel the chill more than me!

    Stacey (from MortgageFreeJourney)

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  3. I have only run the central heating to test it and then forgot it was on the timer so it came on the next night..eek! Other wise we do as you do, hot water bottles are brilliant under blankets and so far no one has succombed to a cold-i get sick in overly hot houses. Currently i am checking on window seals-you can buy cheap draught excluder tape and i put it around the inside of windows and doors in the house. We also have a lovely sausage dog( of the draught excluder stuffed variety) he gets a lot of use in winter as well. 😀

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  4. I don't have central heating in my house. A small propane heater at one end of the house and a woodstove at the other. The propane heater is the “supplemental” heater; I might turn it on for a few hours daily if we have several bonechillingly raw days in a row at the end of Autumn, before I start burning wood. I generally don't build a fire until it's really cold and I'll be keeping the stove going constantly til Spring.
    In terms of tips for staying comfy, one thing I've learned is to avoid getting cold in the first place. I tend to go barefoot, which means that I also spend a lot of time trying to “thaw out” again after a quick trip to the kitchen late at night, for example. Silly, right? I have to make a point of wearing slippers indoors, and pulling on my boots even if I'm only stepping out onto the porch for a minute.

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  5. We have a fuel range. We burn coal,wood or turf.it keeps our kitchen lovely and warm. It also heats the water and we start potatoes to cook on the cooker and when they come to the boil we transfer to range

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  6. both me and my husband have a blanket folded up in a coffee table box in the evenings a couple of weeks ago when it went cold we didn't put the heating on like our neighbours and friends we wrapped up in our blankets , old fashioned wool blankets bought from jumble sales for 50p each, in the winter i wear sox and we use hot water bottles under the blankets to put of putting the heating on , then when it is cold we turn it off after our evening meal as you always feel warmer after a good home cooked meal reverting back to our blankets when it gets colder again as if its too hot in the bedroom we can't sleep anyway.

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  7. I was brought up in the chilly North, so don't feel the cold too much. We have our heating on for a couple of hours each day but only in the coldest few months. Husband and I both exercise religiously and you're right – you feel the cold much less if you keep fit!

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  8. Like another commenter above, I have my thermostat set to 17C and use the central heating very sparingly. While I don't like to be cold, I was brought up without central heating and taught to put on more layers, use a hot water bottle or snuggle up under a blanket. I really cannot understand folk who spend the winter in T-shirts and shorts, with the heating cranked up to 25C or higher. They must have more money than sense!

    I would like a wood burner and am saving up to have one installed, but I have to say there are some plus points to using central heating sensibly in that you can put it on for half an hour to take the chill away then switch it off again, whereas once the fire's lit it's lit.

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  9. Thus is his is my first autumn in the UK after living in the tropics for the last 17 years. We are in a rented house which isn't well insulated and I know I'm going to have to layer up and keep active. I'm also going to make draught excluders, get some cosy throws, make extra curtain linings, and cook warming soups and stews. We wills use the central heating as we don't have a wood burning stove, only an electric fire, but I have signed up for the best possible fuel deal, and switching came with M&S coupons set aside for Christmas treats.

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  10. I don't have a central unit or fireplace or wood stove. I use two space heaters (electric). This year, I will use only one and move my bedroom in an attempt to stay warmer and also use less electricity. I wear all sorts of clothing to stay warm and wrap in blankets. I dislike warm rooms anyway. The oven sees lots more use in the winter.

    I won't turn any heat on until the end of November. It will get cold in here, but that is a personal goal.

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  11. Anywhere from -20C to -40C in the winter. We have a newer high efficiency gas furnace, new doors and have started replacing windows. As much insulation and weather stripping as possible. We have a programable thermostat, so we can have it cool during the night and warm up just as I get up to have a shower before going off to work. We also have a newer EPA approved wood stove and burn lots of hard wood during the winter months. Great backup incase of power failures during a storm.
    I walk to work everyday, and wear microfibre long johns under my dress pants and good warm boots, coat and mittens when it is really cold. Covering your head really helps too.
    I try to do baking in batches on the weekend, as it also helps warm the house. I have lots of quilts on the beds and make sure to close all the curtains to keep the heat in.
    We have already had several nights below zero. Time to bundle up.
    Barb from Canada

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  12. I believe our winters are considered mild (an hour from Melbourne), but I am still thoroughly chilled to the bone for about three months of the year and plenty of about another three months with bursts of warmer weather interspersed. We have ducted, central heating, however our energy prices have risen ridiculously in the last two years so I am changing some of the things I do to stay warm. I now refuse to heat the house for the 45-60 minutes we're up in the morning before we all head out. I wear long-sleeve thermal singlets, socks, boot-style slippers, jumper AND sit under a woolen knee rug in the evenings!

    Unfortunately our house was not well designed. Lots and lots of windows and not very good curtains mean the house is not as warm as it could be – that's a task for a day when we have a little bit of money to deal with the problem. When we have a power outage we use the fireplace, but because our house is largely open plan you have to be sitting on top of it to be warm enough.

    One of our more recent purchases was a wool doona, rather than a feather-filled one. It is so much warmer and the filling stays in the place it's meant to be.

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  13. For the first time we have central heating. I have yet to figure it out. Until now we lived in very small houses heated by fireplace. The last was so small we begun to swet after the fire was Lit for 1hour. So it was a constant hot-cold situation. Now I was thinking of putting the heating on for my clothes to dry. I'm thinking of investing in a dehumidifyer for winter. For helping my clothes to dry and prevent molding. Will make door curtain. Decision made. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  14. I've never seen a door curtain, that is a good idea. We have more hot weather than, cold, but that makes us unprepared when it is cold! Another tip I would add is to use your woodstove to cook as well, even if its just to keep a kettle of water hot for drinks, as that makes use of the energy too.

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  15. Since I live in Queensland our game is to not use the cooling on hot and wretchedly humid days. I was surprised when I Swiss exchange student was cold here. We rarely heat and think little of it but the poor girl did not know how to cope.

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  16. I live in a hot climate but can I just say I love the way you share your tips- was telling my non blog reading friends about you and how you make blankets for Romanian orphans.

    Keep up the good work x

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  17. Dear Froogs,

    Yes, its getting that time of year again.

    Personally, we tend to draw the curtains before it gets dark to keep out the cold.

    It would be really helpful if you could do a tutorial on sewing and double lining curtains. It looked as though you had some special tape with hooks. Perhaps there are other good ways.

    I know that some people double line with black cloth facing outwards but rather than sealing the window with the curtain they leave a bit of a gap top and bottom and the warmth from the black cloth draws air up over it and out the top and so creates a convection current. I don't suppose it would work in deep winter when there is no heat from the sun but at other times it might be a way of warming a room that wasn't needed to be lit in the day time. A spare room or a south facing room when you are out during the day.

    For stoves, if you can get hold of some old furnace bricks, it is easy to make an internal “hearth” inside a woodburner then put a cast metal pot inside and cook things in that. Filling up the fire with bricks uses less wood. The pot on the top is good for softening dried chick peas and other things as they just simmer away. Stews, chutney and jam do well simmering like that.

    Cast metal bowls are good for the stove top. Citrus peel in one on there acts as a room freshener and when dry is great tinder. A big beach stone on there an hour before bed time is as good as a hot water bottle, wrapped in a towel. Those black cast iron Japanese tea pots look pretty swish and isn't it just so luxurious to have boiling water always there in a kettle? Any water at room temperature in the morning is used for watering plants so as not to shock them with cold.

    We find lots of wood in the country like you. But, if you can do it, you need not be cold in London. As in the country you have to be a bit organized to have some where to neatly saw and chop up wood. We have an old tree trunk as a chopping block; that, a breeze block and a heavy axe make short work of pallets.There is lots of fallen wood in parks and of course the skips and pallets and thrown down old Estate Agents' signs.

    The corrugated plastic of the agent's sign is really durable useful stuff for making and insulating things. Who would have thought of estate agents as being an endlessly renewable resource … Better take your sign with you for your home making fire in the new place … !

    Thanks, Jon

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  18. We've never had central heating–none of the houses we've lived in had that. When we lived in Alaska for 9 years, we had a Monitor stove that ran on oil. There were also electric heaters in each bedroom, which we did not use. But the guy who'd built the house insulated it REALLY well–double-paned windows and walls several inches thick. No sun in the winter to provide the passive solar heat, but would use 500 gallons of oil or less each winter (from Sept-March). Now we live in a small apartment in Maine, and we do get lots of passive solar heat as the sun streams in the living room and bedroom. We have another Monitor stove–this one runs on propane–but we use hardly any each winter and don't even turn it on until December. When we do, we keep it set at 50F. Since I am a knitter and crocheter who uses odd balls and skeins of yarn that people give me or I find at a thrift shop, I can make a lot of wool accessories to keep us warm and do it frugally–socks, hats, shawls, afghans, cowls and more.

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  19. I think we've had the heating on once so far this autumn, to keep the toddler warm. I must confess, the chill in the house when I got up today at 7am was almost enough to make me put it on again. In the depths of winter (round here they really are depths too!) we set a timer and only have the heating on for an hour in the morning and maybe 2 hours at night. I sit under a massive blanket most nights.

    When the downstairs neighbours have their heating on we can piggy back off them, which is one of the few advantages of living in a tiny 4-in-a-block.

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  20. Last winter we lived in a different home, different city, no central heat. It was so cold…for Southern CA. and snowed several times last winter, a bit unusual. We wore extra clothing, added curtains to the doors, extra coverings on the windows. It became clear early on, that the wall heater was not doing the trick. My son about froze, so we got him a space heater….electric went from $35 to $120 in one month's time. Ended up using the gas oven to heat the house 30 minutes before going to bed, and yes, it was turned off before retiring. But the worst part was my intrinsic asthma. Some nights even under four quilts, I thought I was going to die. You see, when it is very cold, I start to cough, and that can set off an asthma attack. I have no desire to go that route again, so we will be using the central heating this winter. Extra money be damned, I will not risk my health.
    jill

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  21. I suppose damp isn't an issue, so I'd be interested to know how you prevent it. As a student I lived in several houses without central heating (one had a solitary gas fire in the sitting room) and most of them had some form of damp :/

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  22. We have no central heating and by that I mean we have no radiators etc not just that we don't switch it on. When it is very cold we have heaters but they are only on if someone is in that room. I don't see the point of heating a room if no-one is in it! Yes it gets cold but put a jumper on and put a blanket over your knees if you are sitting down. We don't need the house to be at 28 degrees all the time. It's not good for you for a start. When you go out you will really feel the cold. We hardly ever get ill either. I am concerned about the effect it has on the environment as well as my bill xx

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  23. I'm in the US Midwest and while it has been a mild autumn so far, there is a frost warning tonight for some of the areas far outside the city. I live in a ground floor flat (on a concrete slab), and I keep my heat very low (58-60F) all winter, but I usually don't turn it on at all until at least mid-December, unless the weather is unseasonably cold. I can't have the heat (natural gas) totally off, as the pipes risk freezing otherwise. I have a lovely heavy down duvet I stuff into a flannel cover that helps keep me toasty at night. Lots of hot teas and soups.

    My body temperature runs to the hot side, so the colder the better as far as I am concerned. I actually go without socks until quite late in the year. I am usually much hotter than many other people, so at work, I'm in a thin shirt while others are bundled up. I rarely turn on the heat in my car, as well. One good thing about being single is that I can keep things as cold as I like at home!

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  24. Hiya in our house we've not needed the heating on yet. we only have central heating so hoping to hold out as long as we can. we are in lancs. In winter I heat the living room each day in morning and evening and take the chill off the kids bedrooms for an hr at night. Other than that we heat the bathroom for bath nights (3 little kids in one bath together). I make blankets so we have loads, hot water bottles and have hot choc when we come in soaked from the school run. The kids get dressed downstairs in the morning and I warm their clothes on the radiator in the living room. Clothes are dried on a pully down airer in the kitchen and after cooking I leave oven door open to use the heat. Kitchen is like an icebox in winter as no heating in there even if we wanted to use it.

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  25. Due to a period of poverty, I have been steadily shaving the temperature downward all winter. I now have the thermostat set for 9 degrees C during the day, just in case it gets really cold. Mostly, the temperature hovers around 12 degrees. My saviour is a small electric blanket draped over my work chair. It costs about the same as a lightbulb to run and keeps me warm when I am working at my computer, which is really the only time I now notice the cold. The best thing about the electric blanket is that you don't have that awful chill you get when you emerge from under a cover into a cold room. I can't recommend it highly enough. I have shockingly poor circulation, so have always had to layer up in winter anyway, but I'm amazed to be living, perfectly happily, without heating in SCOTLAND. It makes me wonder how on Earth we thought we couldn't live well unless the thermostat was set to 20 degrees… 🙂

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