08 June 2010

Snug on a shoestring

The temperature has fallen to below zero. You're freezing. But you're a bit of a greenie and you don't want to hog too much electricity. Oh yes, and you're broke as well. What now?

Winter is here and you are freezing. You can't feel your feet and your nose feels as if it belongs to someone else. But for two reasons you don't want to switch on all seven of your bar heaters - you don't want scary electricity bills, and it's not a very green thing to do, what with our energy crisis and all. So what now?

Get a flu shot. A bit too late now, but remember next year to get a flu shot before the winter sets in. It will cost you about R40 and you can get them at most chemists. This will most probably prevent your annual bout of flu, which can cost you hundreds of rands in medication as well as a few days in bed.

Stock up on the vitamins. In winter people tend to spend more time indoors with others and this heightens their susceptibility to viruses. Boost your immune system before the winter sets in. A daily muilti-vitamin could be just what you need. Also haul out these vegetable soup recipes.

Bedding down. Sort out your winter bedding. A brushed cotton sheet can work wonders on cold nights. Cover your duvet in the same fabric for a really cuddly winter. An underblanket can really make a huge difference. If you have to switch on your electric blanket (if you have one) remember to switch it off once you're in bed and warm.

Batten down the hatches. Much heat escapes from your home through doors and windows that do not close properly. Get a handyman to sort this out. Go to a fleamarket and buy one of those sand-filled sausage-like things to put against the inside of the door. No heater can withstand the onslaught of constant blast of cold air getting in under the front door.

Be blanket-wise. Blankets can be worn - especially if you are at home. It makes much more sense huddling under a warm blanket in front of the TV than trying to heat up the whole room. And when the blanket is paid for, it won't keep costing you, as the bar heater most certainly does.

Raise the roof. Does your roof leak? It might be something really small that could be fixed easily. Lying awake listening to water dripping into a bucket is certainly not good for your health. If it is something big, your structural insurance on the bond might just cover it. Check whether putting insulation in your ceiling might make your house warmer in winter and cooler in summer. This might save you a bundle in the long run.

From top to toe. Check your winter wardrobe. You don’t need all that much to stay warm. And warm clothes are a once-off expense - unlike paying for constant heating. Layers of clothing usually do the trick, as air is trapped in between the layers and then heats you up. Invest in a couple of pairs of fleece-lined socks, thermal underwear, flannel pajamas, a soft woollen jersey and one really warm jacket. A scarf and a pair of gloves to round it off will see you through any Free State morning.

Do the woolly-cap thing. You lose most of your body heat through your head. That's why nature gave you hair - as insulation. But hair is not enough when the temperatures hit zero. When you are cold, your body reduces the circulation to your hands and feet, in order to keep your head warm. So if your head does not require any extra protection, your feet will heat up too. It really works. Try it. Get your gran to knit you a cap for your birthday. She will probably be delighted.

Get the right cover. If you live in a windy area, a flimsy umbrella could collapse like a wooden shack under a tidal wave. Either invest in a sturdy golf umbrella (it depends how windy, since you could find yourself doing a Mary Poppins) or even better, a proper rain jacket with a hood you can pull over your head.

The heat’s on. What do your home heating arrangements look like? If your house is cold, it might be worth investigating the possibility of installing wall heaters. They don’t use as much electricity as bar heaters, and manage to warm your house, without parboiling the inhabitants. Bar heaters can be effective, but can also be dangerous if left unattended and are expensive to keep going. Remember to switch all heaters off if you are leaving the house.

Off the peg. Tumble-dryers should be for emergencies only - they cost a fortune to run. Get one of those fold-out clothes driers that look like dinosaurs. They can be folded up and hidden away completely during summer. There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night and realising that your washing on the line is getting drenched – again. Oh, there is one worse thing -putting on damp underwear on a cold morning.

Let me light your fire. There is nothing as cosy as a fireplace. Buy wood by the bakkie-load, rather than individual packs from the corner shop. It will be a lot cheaper. But for the sake of the environment, only buy wood from trees that are non-indigenous. Keep in mind that the smoke does contribute to air pollution. Gas-fired fireplaces are very economical, if somewhat less romantic than the real thing.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, May 2007)


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