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7 Smart Ways to Stay Warm This Winter

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

If you live in a first-world country and aren’t homeless or in poverty, you probably don’t have to worry about freezing to death during the winter. Once it gets cold out, just make sure you wear warm clothes, limit your time outside, keep the heat on and make sure your home is well insulated. It’s not rocket science.

But there’s a difference between staying alive and staying warm. Just because you’re not going to freeze to death doesn’t mean you won’t get a bit chilly during the winter months. Here are a few gadgets and tips that will help you stay warm and toasty when the weather gets nasty.

Photo Credit: Birdies100

Heat Yourself

What’s more efficient at keeping you warm: Heating the entire house or heating just yourself?

Common sense dictates that it takes a lot less energy to heat the air directly surrounding your body than it does to heat the air in your entire house or apartment. And the easiest way to do that is to put on warm clothes when you’re around the house. As an analysis by Low-Tech Magazine points out, the human body generates plenty of heat, the majority of which is lost through the skin. Simply putting on insulating clothes prevents this heat loss and encases you in a cocoon of warm air, allowing you to lower the thermostat. In fact, according to the report, lowering the temperature by a single degree leads to energy savings of around 10%.

Whether you wear pajamas and a sweater or nestle yourself in a Snuggie, the easiest and cheapest way to keep warm around the house is to bundle up.

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Nest Thermostat

Of course, not everybody likes having to bundle up around the house all winter, preferring to keep things balmy and dress as usual. Still, a sophisticated programmable thermostat can keep your living space toasty while still conserving energy.

One particularly eye-catching gadget is the Nest, a fancy thermostat that was designed by one of the “fathers of the iPod” and shares that device’s minimalist design philosophy. The main appeal here is the built-in artificial intelligence software that learns your habits and preferences, automatically determining how hot you like it, when it’s OK to cool things down for the evening, and what time you like to wake up in the morning. It even senses when you’ve left the house for an extended period of time and adjusts so that it’s not heating an empty home. And it’s Wi-Fi enabled, allowing you to control it from bed using an iPhone or Android phone.

The bad news is that the Nest, which retails for $250, is currently sold out for 2011, but the company promises more units will be available in 2012.

Photo Credit: nest.com

Space Heaters

One compromise between heating the whole house and simply bundling up is to get a space heater, which allows you to simply heat up a single room rather than an entire floor or household. I have to admit I’ve had poor experiences with space heaters in the past; the cheaper ones tend to bring a smell like burning metal and occasionally overload the circuit breaker, and I once melted the sole of my shoe on one while attempting to warm my feet.

Space heaters are getting better, though. I had a chance to test out the Dyson Hot, the space heater version of the company’s bladeless Dyson Air Multiplier. The device warms a room quickly with a jet of hot air, has a built-in thermostat and can be set to oscillate. And best of all, it comes with a remote control that allows you to control all of heater’s functions from bed.

If there’s a downside to the heater, it’s the price tag: It costs $399, which might be too rich for your blood. One lower-cost option is the Vornado Touchstone 500, which can be had for a little more than $100. While it has a remote control that allows you to turn it on and off and control the fan speed, it doesn’t oscillate and lacks a thermostat.

Photo Credit: dyson.com

Bundle Up When You Work Out

If you want to keep in shape through the winter, we suggest buying a treadmill or joining a gym. But if you’re an exercise addict who feels the need to go running outside in sub-freezing temperatures, there are certain dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

The Mayo Clinic points out that it’s actually possible to dress too warmly for your workout, which will cause you to sweat and in turn make you cold. The solution is to dress in layers so you can shed clothing as you heat up. The Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding cotton and instead wearing a synthetic material like polypropylene, which draws sweat away from the body.

Make sure you protect your extremities, too. The Mayo Clinic suggests you wear a pair of gloves, don a hat and consider buying sneakers a half-size too big to allow for thick wool socks.

Photo Credit: Tim Wilson

Heat Safely

Most reasonably sophisticated space heaters will automatically turn off if tipped over, and also have an automatic turn-off feature in case they’re left unattended for too long. Still, 25,000 fires are linked to space heaters every year,  so there’s still the potential for misuse. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends placing the space heater on a hard, level surface and keeping it away from drapes, furniture and other flammable objects. Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves carry their own set of risks – namely, carbon monoxide poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends having your chimney and flue inspected by a chimney cleaning service to make sure you’re not blowing smoke and deadly carbon monoxide back into your house. And make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector with working batteries.

Photo Credit: shay sowden

Cover All Exposed Skin

The percentage of heat actually lost through the head is often wildly exaggerated, with some people claiming that about half your body heat is lost this way. The British Medical Journal reviewed the available literature on the subject and found that heat is lost through the head at the same rate that it’s lost through any other exposed skin. The misconception arises from the fact that the head is often the only part of the body actually left exposed, so a person who is hatless but otherwise bundled up will by default experience the most heat loss through his or her head.

The lesson? Every part of your body should be covered up when you venture out into the cold, from your head down to your toes.

Photo Credit: Howie Le

Drink Hot Stuff

You can heat yourself up from the inside, too. Drinking tea, coffee, hot chocolate or simply hot water will give you a boost of heat if things are a bit chilly around the house and you can’t stomach turning up the heat.

Want a stiffer drink? While we hate to recommend against drinking beer, an ice cold brew might not be the best beverage if the thermostat is turned down low; likewise, room temperature red wine might be a better choice than chilled white wine. Want something even hotter? You can spike your coffee with coffee liqueur or put mint schnapps in your hot chocolate, and if you’re serving for guests, you could find a recipe for mulled wine or spiked hot cider.

Photo Credit: Alexis Lamster

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