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More Recession Hacking: Five Free Ways to Heat your Home

[Read the Previous Post, Five Recession Hacking Tips for Beginners]

In December, we talked about five simple ways to mitigate the recession, including lending/borrowing, making something out of trash, and finding a free hobby.

This generated a lot of discussion, and some great tips in the comments, including dumpster diving, and a reminder to take full advantage of your local library.

A few people who found our suggestions a bit too simple or obvious. So this post is for you. Five budget-friendly ways (and a bonus!) to keep your home warmer in winter months. These methods may take a bit of work, but can really pay off on your monthly budget for those of us in colder and seasonal climates.


1. Heat your home with wood.

Not possible for everyone, but well worth it if you have the option. We generate most of our heat from wood. The wood is free, because most of it comes from our property. But if you live anywhere near woods or farms, you probably know someone who wants to get rid of a tree. We have burned a farmer’s old apple trees, a fir tree that grew too near a neighbor’s house, and several alder trees cut down by the electric utility because they were threatening power lines. If you burn found/downed wood, don’t worry about pollution. This is basically carbon neutral heat, because the tree would probably have rotted or been pulped if you hadn’t burned it, returning its carbon to the atmosphere regardless.

Construction site trash piles have lots of scrap wood, but it may be more trouble than it’s worth. You don’t want to burn anything that has been treated, painted or glued, or is full of nails.

It’s a lot of work to split and chop wood and kindling, but the exercise is free, and therapeutic. As the old saying goes, heating with wood warms you twice: When you chop it, and when you burn it.

As a bonus, you can use shredded junk mail for fire starter.

If you haven’t got a wood stove, don’t despair, there are plenty of ways to generate “free” heat:

2. Cook in your kitchen.

Bake potatoes, stew soup, make waffles. Home cooked food is cheaper than packaged or restaurant food, and generates “waste” heat that is anything but a waste in the winter. Run a crock pot during the day, and turn on the oven when you get home. Bake extra, and freeze it in casserole dishes for the nights you don’t feel like cooking from scratch.

3. Drain the heat, not the tub

Wait — don’t drain a hot bath or a hot washer, not yet! 20 to 50 gallons of hot water can significantly raise the temperature in a room. So if you’ve taken a bath, let the water sit until it’s room temperature. And if you’re washing a load of whites, let the washer sit, or put it on soak mode, before the drain and cold rinse cycle.

The same goes for cooking — keep your pasta water, or your dish water in the room until it’s room temperature.

4. Recapture heat from your dryer.

Dryers put out a tremendous amount of heat. Most people vent that heat directly outside. If you have a crawl space, consider routing it under your house, where you can recapture that heat as it rises into your floorboards. If you don’t have a crawl space, extend the length of the tube so that it can radiate some of that heat back into the room before it exits the building.

Note of Caution: The longer the tube, the more likely you are to get a ball of lint blocking it. If you do extend the tube, make sure there are no obstructions, and that you religiously clean your lint catcher. You don’t want a clogged tube to become a fire hazard.

5. Weatherize your Home

Yeah, this one is obvious and possibly expensive. But there are cheap and or free ways to make a good start.

Assuming you have a decently insulated roof, the next thing to check is cracks around windows and doors.

We (and by “we” I mean my spouse) sewed three loops in an old duvet cover, and hung it over a glass door. This provides the trifecta of insulation, privacy and light control, without any expense, and with much better insulating capability than most curtains or blinds.

Some sneaky leaks you may not think of checking: Electrical outlets, holes for internet or TV cables, the gap around your bathroom ceiling fan, or anywhere else someone might have cut a hole in your home.

If you don’t mind spending a few bucks to recoup a bundle, here’s a great excuse to buy that $50 laser sighting infrared thermometer you had hoped was in your xmas stocking. Split the cost with some friends and go on a heat leak scavenger hunt.

And the bonus: Snuggle! Preferably with flannel pajamas, a hot beverage and another warm body or two.

So what did I miss? Any better ways to generate or recapture free heat for your home?


  1. Pingback: Recession Hacking: Five tips for Beginners | Happy Mortal

  2. Invite your friends over to play online games with their laptops. Depending on the mix of computers, you could make a dent in the chill.

  3. I like to take long showers with the door open. That with my roommate’s incessant cooking gives a good four degree rise! Cheers!

  4. Careful with crock pots. They suck a lot of electrical juice compared to conventional cooking. Nope, they don’t save you electricity. That said, you can heat the food on the stove and once it is hot enough, put it in the crock pot and it will stay hot a lot longer even when unplugged than in an ordinary pot.

    Good ideas here! 8)

  5. Be careful with tip #5, you still want to have enough ventilation. Dry air is easier to heat than humid air, so a well-ventilated home is cheaper to heat.

  6. Please immediately remove the suggestion to vent clothes dryers underneath the home! Dumping hot moist air under a home or into an attic will cause wood rot, condensation, etc. especially in the southeast. I’ll be glad to email you several photos of major construction damage related to improper venting of dryers and bathroom exhaust fans to back up my statements. My team and I inspect about 200 homes annually and this is a COMMON problem.