17 ways to keep warm without cranking the heater

two hands holding a blue mug

Tianna Nadalin

Posted May 26, 2022

Feeling the chill? Here’s how to keep warm without dialling up the heater this winter.

As the days grow shorter and that winter chill sets in, it’s all too tempting to crank up the heater to warm up the house.

But before you dial up the thermostat, consider that heating is one of the biggest power guzzlers in your home. Those extra running costs can add up and, before you know it, your energy bill has snowballed.

Don’t let the winter frost bite into your bank account. From reversing your ceiling fans to going to bed with a hot water bottle, these energy-saving tips will help keep you snug without blowing the budget.


17 winter warmth tips without cranking the heater

1. Rug up

It’s no wonder you’re feeling the chill if it’s Arctic outside and you’re wandering around the house in a T-shirt and bare feet. Warming yourself is cheaper and easier than heating your whole home, so instead of cranking up the thermostat, try putting on a pair of thick socks, slippers and a jumper. Better yet, wrap yourself up in a blanket and snuggle up on the couch. 

2. Control the thermostat

When it comes to heat settings, 18-20° is the magic (not to mention most efficient) number. Every degree warmer than this can increase your energy usage by 10%. Given that heating and cooling accounts for up to 50% of the average Australian household’s energy bills, that extra cost can quickly add up. If you have zoned heating, only heat the rooms you're using and close the doors to empty areas.

3. Reverse your ceiling fans

Heater on but still have cold feet? Hot air rises, so sometimes all you need to do is give it a little nudge in the right direction. Most ceiling fans spin in an anti-clockwise direction to create a breeze in summer. In winter, you want to reverse this so they're turning clockwise at low speed to help push the hot air back towards the ground.  

4. Take shorter showers

While this applies year-round, keeping your showers short and sweet is especially pertinent in winter, when standing under the hot water until your whole body resembles a sultana is particularly alluring. To make stepping out into the frigid air a little less shocking, try towel drying in the shower (after you’ve turned off the tap, of course) while it’s still nice and steamy. 

pug wrapped in a blanket on a dirt path

Tea, hot water bottles, blankets and cosy knits are key to keeping warm without the heater this winter.

5. Install a low-flow showerhead

If you’re not going to cut down your shower time, at the very least install a low-flow showerhead to reduce your water wastage. Plus, the less water you heat, the less energy you use and the more you'll save.

6. Close the curtains

In an uninsulated home, windows, doors and floors account for about 40% of heat loss. But don’t fret if you don’t have double-glazed windows. Dressing for the weather doesn’t just apply to people. Window dressing in winter can help mitigate the effects of the cold. Keep your curtains open during the day to allow maximum sunlight into your home, then close them at night to trap in the warm air.

7. Start weather-proofing

If your windows are closed but you can still feel frosty air in the home, investigate the source before turning up your heater. A possible draught source could be a poorly sealed window or door. Consider a draught snake for a quick, effective fix, or seal up chilly leaks with caulk or weather-sealing rubber strips from your local hardware store.

8. Keep heating vents clear

If your heating vents are obstructed by high-pile rugs or covered with couches, not only does it mean the warm air won’t reach you, but the heating system also has to work harder and use more energy. Keeping air filters clean is also important. Dirty filters can greatly reduce the heating efficiency of a reverse-cycle air conditioner, so regular heater maintenance is key to keeping them running optimally.

9. Skip the tipple

That glass of whisky or red wine might feel like it’s warming you up, but it’s actually reducing your body’s core temperature. Alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, which is why you might feel flushed after a cheeky tipple. In doing so, it overrides one of your body’s key defences against the cold: vasoconstriction. If you want to drink your way to warmth, opt for herbal tea or hot chocolate instead.

10. Use a hot water bottle

Nanna really did know best. Instead of relying on energy-guzzling electric blankets to warm your bed, the tried and true hot-water-bottle-under-the-covers is still one of the easiest and most effective ways to warm up when you’re winding down. Slip your little hottie (New Zealand slang for hot water bottle) in between the sheets a few minutes before you’re ready for bed, then pop your tootsies into a toasty duvet sanctuary.


white chair on wooden floor in front of electric heater

Using your heater or fireplace may be the most convenient option, but it's not always the most efficient.

11. Get your bake on

If you’ve always wanted to learn to bake cookies or a hearty beef pie, or to master the art of perfect pork crackling, winter is the ideal time to unleash your inner Martha Stewart. Baking and roasting are seriously satisfying cooking methods. As well as getting a delicious dinner or delectable dessert out of the activity, using the oven has the added benefit of helping to heat up the home.

12. Get moving

One of the easiest ways to get warm during winter is to get your blood pumping. Going for a brisk walk, run or bike ride, doing a virtual Pilates class or HIIT session, or even cleaning the house can help you work up a sweat in no time.

13. Spice up your life

Counteract the winter chill by eating more... chilli. A 2008 study by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology found that these fiery peppers don’t just make you feel hot: their active chemical (capsaicin) can directly induce thermogenesis, the process by which cells convert energy into heat.

14. Pro-caffeinate 

Shivering in your slippers? Why not pour yourself a cuppa? Caffeine has been shown to increase your core body temperature, thus helping to warm you from the inside. So go on, treat yourself to that afternoon warm drink with these tips on how to make a great coffee at home

15. Load up on complex carbs

Craving carbs? Brown rice and other complex carbs help warm you up because they’re harder to digest. Sound too good to be true? A 2011 study found that thermogenesis increases after carb-rich meals.

16. Visualise it

If you are what you think, then think yourself toasty. Scientists at the National University of Singapore found that core body temperature increases can be achieved using certain meditation techniques. One technique saw participants visualising flames at the base of the spinal cord to reduce heat loss. Another involved ’vase breathing’, a breathing method causing thermogenesis.

17. Drink cold water

Tea might make you feel warm but, though it might seem counterintuitive, drinking ice-cold water can actually warm you up as it causes your blood vessels to tighten.

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