Seven hot ideas for cold-weather living

What feels better than curling up under a nice blanket? Indian weaver Neeru Kumar makes colorful hand-woven throws out of wool and silk.
Deb Lindsey | The Washington Post
What feels better than curling up under a nice blanket? Indian weaver Neeru Kumar makes colorful hand-woven throws out of wool and silk.
By Jura Koncius, The Washington Post
Posted Jan. 14, 2012, at 7:27 a.m.

As January settles into its frosty routine, homeowners enter the cycle of chill. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for about 56 percent of the energy use in a typical house.

Most people think they must lower the thermostat to an uncomfortable level and suffer to save energy and money. Others blow their utility budget to stay warm. We have some ideas on another approach: Take action to make daily life in your home more enjoyable while the wind blows, using an army of caulks, space heaters and electric mattress pads.

There are lots of choices. Yes, you could zip on a fleece vest or surround yourself in, gulp, a Snuggie. Or you could stick with natural fibers. When Karl Spilhaus feels a draft in his 1890s house, he puts on a camel hair sweater. “Wools, whether sheep’s wool, cashmere or camel, are the warmest fabrics around,” Spilhaus says. The president of the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute, Spilhaus is a nationally known textile expert. He says clothing made from the hair of animals that survive on cold mountains traps air and creates an insulating effect. That’s a good thing to remember, whether you’re shivering atop a mountain or shivering in your uninsulated sunroom.

Plenty has been written about the merits of replacement windows and attic insulation, but there may not be a budget for those this year. Here are other ideas to survive winter weather.

1. Get a smarter thermostat

Most consumers don’t know how to use their programmable thermostat, say the developers of Nest. Nest is the new thermostat that programs itself by learning your preferred temperatures, detecting when you are away and turning the heat to a level you specify. It senses when you return and turns on heating or cooling. Designed by a team led by Tony Fadell, a former Apple senior vice president, the Nest gives thermostats a design upgrade: The elegant round shape and clean lines finally look appropriate for a product that usually hangs on a prominent wall. “If something is ugly,” Fadell says, “it won’t be treated with respect.” $249.

2. Warm up your robe

Imagine stepping out of a shower on a freezing-cold morning and wrapping yourself in a warm robe. The Brookstone Towel Warmer looks like a tall trash can but acts like a toaster: You can pop in bath sheets, blankets, hats or mittens for a 10-minute toast. “This product evokes a lot of emotion from our customers. Just read the reviews on the Web site,” says David M. Figler, a Brookstone merchandise manager. “I warmed up my wife’s bathrobe this morning; it feels like you just pulled out a towel from the dryer.” $79.95.

3. Heat from the bottom up

The Soft Heat Removable-Top Mattress Pad is a washable warming pad that keeps sheets from feeling cold as ice while protecting your mattress. The poly-cotton pad can be preheated before bed. The queen, king and California king sizes have heat controls for either side of the bed, so both sleepers can set different temperatures. It fits mattresses up to 18 inches deep, and when summer arrives, you can remove the warming pad. Prices range from $128 for twin to $248 for California king.

4. Upgrade your space heater

Over the years, the space heater, a popular alternative heating source, has morphed into a safer, smarter and more stylish home appliance. A new model from Vornado has technology that senses the heat around it and communicates with the heater to maintain a desired temperature. The unit has a digital touch-screen control and a cool-touch outer case that never heats up, according to Brian Cartwright, a Vornado spokesman. A hand-held remote senses the temperature of the room, then tells the unit to heat up or cool down to maintain the perfect comfort level. But be careful: When you buy any space heater, it is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Always keep portable heaters away from furniture, bedding and curtains. Vornado model TVH 600 is $209.99.

5. Wrap yourself in a luxurious throw

Mia Worrell, co-owner of Timothy Paul Bedding + Home in Washington, D.C., says the advent of freezing weather always brings customers looking for beautiful and cozy blankets. “People come in and say, ‘I need something to keep me warm while I’m reading a book or taking a nap,’ ” Worrell says. Her recommendation this season is a colorful hand-woven throw, which would add style and warmth to a living room, bedroom or family room. The one-of-a-kind wool and silk throws are designed by Neeru Kumar, a well-known Indian weaver. $250.

6. Study these draft-dodging tips

Pascale Maslin, founder of Energy Efficiency Experts in Washington, spends her days doing house audits that help people reduce utility bills and carbon footprints. We asked her for five DIY tips for making houses more comfortable.

7. Pay attention to your leaky windows and doors, even if you don’t replace them

Matt Dirksen, a project designer at Case Design/Remodeling in Bethesda, Md., has these suggestions for plugging up leaks that bring in cold air: printed on March 28, 2017