Winter is not a fun time to have the furnace go out on you.


Yes, it certainly helps to have perspective, as I kept telling myself: modern heating over the last century has come a long way. Instead of having to chop wood all weekend (or conscript your children into doing it), we can simply flick a switch or turn a dial or press a button and select how warm we want our home.

Most of the time.

When the furnace goes out, and you don’t have a hearth or a Franklin stove to gather your family around (thanks to the obsolescence caused by said furnace) then all these advances in domestic technology don’t keep you warm at all.

You can, however, hack your house to keep it warmer.

When our furnace went out last winter, the Huntress Clan had to find ways to keep ourselves warm with what we had. I’d like to say it was because we were cheerfully celebrating our ingenuity, but really, when it’s below freezing outside and inside, there isn’t much else you can do but find ways to warm up.



1 – Boil water on the stove. The steam expands quicker than hot air from the coils, and you can get more heat from one burner with boiling water than you can with all four burners on high with nothing on them.

2 – Do like the English do, and drink hot tea at sundown. Keep the kettle on (see hack 1) and keep drinking hot tea.

3 – Buy a space heater and keep the receipt. After the coldsnap passes, you can return the heater, for a net cost of only the electricity you used.

funny-winter-sad-owl-meme4 – Run extension cords around your house to keep your space heaters on different circuits. Keep battery-powered lights on the path to your circuit breaker box, so if you blow a circuit, you can see your way to the breaker box.

5 – Drink Ginger tea with cayenne pepper. If your immunity is low, eat raw garlic. Spicy foods that stoke your inner fires are better than cooling foods that calm you down.

6 – Eat soup for dinner. Nourishing, thick stews are best. Don’t diet – overeat instead, because temporary fat will help to keep you warmer.

7 – Dress in light layers, and change your undermost layers 2-3 times per day. If you sweat at all, even a tiny bit ( very possible with lots of layers), the moisture will stay in your clothes, and actually make you colder as the temperature drops.

8 – Take a hot bath or shower once a day. Shock your system with excessive heat. Just make sure to dry off completely. I’ve found late afternoon to be the best time for a hot pick-me-up.

9 – Keep your feet warm. They are the first to get cold and easy to forget. Cold feet can make you grumpy without knowing why.

10 – If you have a draft coming from a loose window, cover the window with foam or a blanket. Then cover that with a plastic shower curtain to make it airtight.

11 – Smaller spaces are easier to keep warm. Sleep in the smallest room, and if possible, sleep as close as you can to the ceiling. Heat rises, so the floor is the coldest place to be. (Just make sure you have adequate ventilation for breathing.)

12 – Do something extra nice for a homeless person, if you see one. Buy them a cup of hot tea, or donate a blanket or some socks. You’ll be warming your own heart, as well as theirs.

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland


As Autumn Leaves by Neil Simone