17 ways to keep warm without cranking the heater

Living Well | Tianna Nadalin | Posted on 30 April 2020

Working from home? Here’s how to keep warm without cranking the heater this winter.

As the chill sets in and so many of us are confined to (freezing) home quarters due to social distancing restrictions, it's all too tempting to crank up the heater. 

RACV’s Emergency Home Assist service has seen a spike in callouts in recent weeks to inspect or repair faulty heating systems, as stay-at-home Victorians are turning up the heat for the first time in months. 

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 hottie (hot water bottle, that is), these energy-saving tips will help keep you snug as a bug without blowing the budget.

Young woman sitting at table with a cup of tea

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


1. Rug up

It’s no wonder you’re feeling the chill; 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 or snuggie and snuggle up on the couch. 

2. Control the thermostat

When it comes to heat settings, 18 to 20 degrees is the magic, not to mention most efficient, number. Every degree warmer than this can increase your energy usage by 10 per cent and, given heating and cooling already account for 60 per cent of an average household’s energy bills, that extra cost can quickly add up. If you have zoned systems, heat only those rooms you are using and close 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 are 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. 

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 shower head to reduce your water wastage. Plus, the less water you heat, the less energy you use.

6. Close the curtains

In an uninsulated home, windows, doors and floors account for about 40 per cent 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 the warm air in.

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.

8. Keep heating vents clear

If your heating vents are obstructed by high-pile rugs or covered with couches (or someone sitting on them), not only does it mean the warm air won’t reach you, the heating system has to work harder, thereby using 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 maintenance is key to keeping them running optimally.

Chocolate chip cookies

Get your bake on and heat up the house at the same time.


Mugs of hot cocoa with chocolate dripping over the sides, surrounded by dark chocolate shavings and dates

Warm up at night with a cup of decadent hot chocolate.


Good book and blanket on couch

Rug up with a blanket and some hot tea.


9. Drink more tea

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 check your tootsies into a toasty, duvet sanctuary.

11. Get your bake on

If you’ve always wanted to learn to bake 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 and, 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 (here are 27 ways to get fit indoors), 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 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 up from the inside. So go on, have that afternoon coffee. 

15. Load up on complex carbs

Craving carbs? Brown rice and other complex carbs make you warmer 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, and the other involved ’vase breath’, a breathing method causing thermogenesis, a process of heat production.

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.

Home emergencies can happen to anyone. Keep calm with RACV Emergency Home Assist