Introduction: 7 Winter Life Hacks to Keep You Warm

Picture of 7 Winter Life Hacks to Keep You Warm

It can be hard to stay warm when the temperature outside drops to -20ºF. So here are a few simple life hacks that can help keep you a little warmer this winter. 

Step 1: Automate Your Coffee Maker

Picture of Automate Your Coffee Maker

There are a lot of appliances that you can automate with a simple outlet timer. One of these is a coffee maker. All you have to do is fill your coffee maker with water and grounds and set the timer for 15 minutes before you wake up. Then you can enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning. 

You can also use your automated coffee maker to prepare, hot chocolate, oatmeal, ramen, or soup. The only difference is that you will want to put your ingredients in the pot instead of in the filter. 

Unfortunately this will not work with all coffee makers. Make models will not turn on automatically when plugged in. For best results use a basic coffee maker without any control circuits. 

Step 2: Use Ice to Trick the Thermostat

Picture of Use Ice to Trick the Thermostat

If you live or work in a building where the thermostat is locked and you can't change the setting, you may be able to trick the thermostat into turning on the heat. 

A thermostat only senses the temperature around the thermostat itself. This is one reason why different parts of a building are often different temperatures. So if you put ice near the thermostat, it will think that the room is colder than it really is and turn on the heater.

WARNING: Do not put an ice cube on the thermostat. Do not do anything that will get moisture in the thermostat. This can cause it to short out and break. Then you will freeze to death and it will be your fault. 

Step 3: Prewarmed Bed

Picture of Prewarmed Bed

There is nothing like climbing into a warm bed at the end a cold day. So when you are getting ready for bed put an electric blanket under the covers and turn it on low. That way when you go to get into bed it is already warm. 

Always be aware of any potential fire risks when working with an electric heater and be safe.

Step 4: Prewarmed Clothes

Picture of Prewarmed Clothes

If you know what clothes you will be wearing the next day, place then in your dresser and put an electric blanket on top of them. As soon as you wake up, turn it on. This works best if you can reach the control without getting out of bed. Then when you get up and go to get dressed, your clothes will be warm like they just came out of the drier.

If you have an electric blanket that turns on automatically when you plug it in, then you can set it up with an outlet timer to have it pre-warming before your alarm goes off. But as always, be careful to avoid any potential fire risks.

Step 5: Let a Hot Shower Warm and Humidify Your House

Picture of Let a Hot Shower Warm and Humidify Your House

When you take a hot bath or shower, don't drain the water. The water has a lot of heat that would just be going down the drain. Let the water sit and cool to room temperature first. That way all the heat stays in your house and the hot water will help to humidify the dry air in your house. 

Step 6: Use Pipe Insulation to Fill Gaps Below Doors

Picture of Use Pipe Insulation to Fill Gaps Below Doors

One problem that is often encountered with older houses is large gaps under the doors. This can result is unwanted drafts. They sell products such as "draft blockers" to fill in these gaps. But why pay $10 for a small piece of shaped foam. You can get similar results from a piece of pipe insulation. Just open it up and wrap it around the bottom of the door. It should tightly seal the bottom of the doorway and prevent drafts. 

Step 7: Dead Battery Hand Warmer

Picture of Dead Battery Hand Warmer

Alkaline batteries will usually stop being able to power your electronics long before they are empty. One way to use that last bit of energy is as a hand warmer.

Once your battery is mostly dead, use a 1 ohm resistor (or an equivalent length of wire with at least 1 ohm of resistance) to bridge the terminals. This will slowly drain out the last of the stored energy and release it as heat. This can make a very low powered hand warmer. It won't make a lot of heat, but every bit helps. 

Safety Warnings:
Only use alkaline batteries. Never use other battery types. Lithium batteries can actually explode if they are discharged too quickly. 

Only do this with 1.5V batteries. Never use higher voltages such as 9V or 12V.

Only do this with batteries that are mostly dead. If you use a fresh battery, It will release much more heat and could burn up the resistor and burn your hand. For new batteries you would need to use a 10 ohm resistor.


John L made it! (author)2016-01-28

The first thing I thought when I first read about this article in my Email, was that there was going to be a dryer filter for venting all the warm air out of the dryer, in the house and not outside. I had just updated my old system, since I recently replaced my old washer/dryer combination, and wanted to see what others may have come up with.

Sigh, no such luck here. There are a couple of things here I like. For instance, not draining out the shower water in order to let the heat escape, is a good one. Also, using a timer for those coffee makers which haven't an inside timer is another. But ice on the thermostat, pre-warmed bed and clothing, has drawbacks. During the winter, I keep the home at 68-69F, because a cooler home causes the metabolism to speed up and burn more calories. If things are too warmed, the body will not shed the same number of pounds.

I'm not sure about the used batteries, but the best one is the shower/bath idea. I like it and will do it in the future, instead of letting the hot water drain out.

Here's my idea of how to recycle heat that would otherwise be wasted.

The hot air enters the wooden box from the top left, where most of the dust clumps fall into the 4"x12" container at the bottom of the box. After that the air escapes through the electrostatic filter into the laundry room, right off the kitchen. It really does a great job, as long as there is more than enough area for the air to flow freely. If not, the heat will build up and the heater thermostat will cut itself off.

I have gone through three washing/drying cycles, and almost all of the lint has fallen into the water. The rest has accumulated on the side of the filter that is against the corner, due to the air being shot out of the pipe. Also, the filter can easily be removed and cleaned with a water hose.

DadNerd (author)John L2016-01-29

Please make an instructible out of this. Great idea. Why waste all that heat to the outside air. Just remember to pipe it back outside in the summer.

OTP1 (author)DadNerd2016-02-01

In the summer, I suggest you do the same as us. I have go a really fantastic combined wind AND solar washing dryer. I put two poles in the ground about 20-30 ft apart and attached lines between them and then hung the clothes on the lines and attached with little things I was able to buy called clothes pegs. !!!

grannyjones (author)OTP12017-09-27

Line drying works just as well in winter as summer. You bring in stiff jeans, and when they defrost, they are soft and dry--PLUS--the house air is not so dry.

DadNerd (author)OTP12016-02-01

Haha. Nice. Will have to consider that. Problem is, you are at the mercy of the weather.

DadNerd (author)DadNerd2016-01-29

Question though. You say nearly all the lint falls into the water. What water are you referring to?

John L (author)DadNerd2016-01-29

Oh shucks, I forgot to mention that the 4"x12" container has water in it(3/4 full) where the lint will land and be absorbed into the water. Sorry about that: my fault.

For your information, the two most important tool in anyone's shop(table saw and air compressor) were used in making this. All of the wood came from scrap material I had in the shop. I purchased the 4"x12" tray for $1 at Dollar Tree, with the hinges/latches and air filter, over at the local Lowes hardward store. I used only about one third of the original filter in this one, and have the remaining parts stored away for future use. If the size of the filter isn't big enough to allow free airflow, I will increase the size of the box and use it for a larger air filter.

DadNerd (author)John L2016-01-29

Is the water there to prevent the lint from catching fire?

John L (author)DadNerd2016-01-31

No, its there to capture the lent and let it drop to the bottom of the container. By capturing lint, it is not able to get caught in the air filter, and help keeps the filter unclogged longer. When the container gets filled up with lint, just remove it, dump it out into the commode, flush, and then refill from the sink.

mom7478 (author)John L2016-07-07

If you still have your dryer drum, kids and time you could make a merry go round. My dad made one out of ours 50 years ago and we would sit one at a time and let the others spin us on a stationary base. It was great fun.

mnmama (author)John L2016-02-11

Great idea as long as it an electric dryer please. Gas dryers send carbon monoxide, and other things you don't want in your house, out the vent. Safety first all!

d ata (author)John L2016-01-30

Do NOT try this with a gas drier. There are products of combustion which may make you very sick or kill you dead. Instead with a gas drier install a long aluminum vent pipe between the drier and the exhaust. The pipe will get hot and raidiate the heat into the room.

AndreS238 (author)2017-02-07

Great hacks! Thanks for sharing. Here is another one to deal with cold feet at your computer:

HollyMann (author)2016-10-02

Wow. I love your tips here. Also, I like your voice. I would have never really thought of leaving the bath water in to utilize the extra heat. I live in IL and have lived in WI most of my life - and I'm starting to think about these things now. It seems like fall is non-existent and we move from summer to winter in a blink of an eye! Another thing you can use besides the electric heating pad, is a rice pack heating pad. I made an Instructable on how to make them. The other day I accidentally did something to mine - dropped it in the toilet. :((( It was horrible! I am about to make a few more of them. They are filled with plain white rice and you just heat it up in the microwave for about 30 sec. to a minute. They help me a lot with stomach aches too - to use it on that. Or sore muscles...but mostly, to warm up my bed or keep me warm! Thanks for the Instructable and tips!

Charley 68 (author)2016-03-02

You forgot one very important tip. Stay inside with the heat on! ;)

Daisydo (author)2016-01-29

Here are some no-electricity- required hacks I've been using to feel a little warmer at home:
Layers! Not only is this a great idea for clothing, but also for blankets. I've got 3 on my bed now. And it's easily adjustable, if you feel too warm, just fold the top blanket down.
Let your pets sleep with you. Our tiny chihuahua is happy to get under the blankets with us and her body heat warms us up quickly.
And lastly, rather than mess with the heating pad, I warm my 5 year olds clothes with my butt. Let me explain, I pull out her clothes for the day (layers again) and I stack them in order of which piece goes on first, to last..then I sit on the stack and let her stay under the blankets while I dress her. The clothes warm up fast and there's no fire hazard to worry about. Hahaha.

nidsyz (author)Daisydo2016-02-27

Hahaha! Very well thought oout ;) XD

SusannePrB (author)2016-02-08

Really cool ideas. Will use them all <3

SteveMann (author)2016-02-06

The bath tub is an excellent idea: keep the water in the house until it has expelled most of its heat. If you have small children, make sure to lock the bathroom door so they don't wander into the bathroom and fall into the tub.

There's a lot of heat in bathwater and it is nice to recover it into the house.

stevenvu2011 (author)2016-01-28

I feel compelled to warn everyone: please do not use the thermostat "trick!" The condensation from extremely cold objects placed on top of the thermostat, as in the picture, will drip (in liquid form or as water vapor) due to gravity. This eventually results in rapid corrosion of delicate electrical components within the thermostat, as they were likely not speced to handle that much moisture. That will cause a short just as an ice cube would, only over a longer period of time.

DavidC60 (author)stevenvu20112016-01-28

So much wrong with your comment, but most annoyingly, water vapor does not drip. How can something happen both eventually and rapidly? Also what the hell is speced? Do you mean spec'd? No components are spec'd to be submerged, thats why we have things like Humiseal, which most thermostats are coated with due to humidity conditions.

Although I don't disagree that putting a popsicle on your thermostat is a bad idea, its not a bad idea for any of the reasons you stated. The real danger is shorting the board connected to AC mains power, and potentially starting a fire.

stevenvu2011 (author)DavidC602016-01-28

Thank you for your response and critique. What I am trying to say is that the cold object will cause condensation. This increases the concentration of water vapor around it. This water vapor will permeate the thermostat wall unit. While you are correct that humiseal would protect most delicate components, it will not prevent the advanced corrosion of which I speak. For instance, the wall plate unit has bare copper wires exposed. These would experience the advanced corrosion and would be the biggest danger for a fire hazard.

I humbly submit this suggestion with no pretense of infallibility. In summary, extreme temperatures of any kind and electronics do not mix.

birdogron (author)stevenvu20112016-01-28

Jeez, I was beginning to think it was "Pick on Steve Day". He makes a point and last time I checked, this is not a grammar class.

OTP1 (author)birdogron2016-02-01

Absolutely, I think we all new what he meant. I suggest that it is now more difficult to find any more useful pieces of information amongst the pedantic corrections of grammar word usage. I apologize for this comment, as I may be challenged that I am not helping the sittuation.

BrianM172 (author)birdogron2016-01-29

IKR? everyone is like, "oh water vapor doesn't drip" when he says clearly, "condensation". so many people are just blurting out random things to try bringing him down...

bennyj121 (author)DavidC602016-01-29

Not trying to knock what you've said but I've never seen "mains voltage" at any stat. Transformer isolated 24vac but that still isn't "mains" where I'm from. Also, most HVAC boards have fuses that will blow in the event of a shorted thermostat.

d ata (author)bennyj1212016-01-30

BrianM172 (author)DavidC602016-01-28

Also, when you mention rapidly and eventually, he says that it will eventually condensate so much that the water drips, and the water corrodes the electric inside. Speced also is slang for "specialized" if you didn't know that

DavidC60 (author)BrianM1722016-01-28

Yes and it won't happen rapildy, it will take months even if you constantly swap new popsicles to keep a constant rate of condensation. Also condensate is the noun, (the actual liquid result of the condensation process) not the verb. I am aware of the slang but even the slang is spelled with 2 c's, not one. Just saying that it destroys sentence clarity if speced (which is actually pronounced completely differently than specced) is read without being recognized as a spelling mistake, which is entirely possible. Either way, almost no components are spec'd for submersion anyway. All circuits that undergo submersion are put in some kind of waterproofing so the actual circuit does not come into contact with the water (or they are completely coated in a layer of protectant like the humiseal I mentioned above).

BrianM172 (author)DavidC602016-01-29

You don't get me and him... If you put ice on top, the condensation will slowly form, and then once it forms, it drips, onto the circuits, and damaging them quickly. Trust me, I once poured water of a circuit board before. Almost instantly, it just sparked and the whole thing was dead. And yes, you ARE in fact admitting that almost no circuits are not waterproof, so... Also, as the heat goes up, the condensation builds up faster too.

rundmcarlson (author)BrianM1722016-01-29

No Im saying components (the parts on the pwb) are not spec'd for submersion. Whole pwbs are frequently covered in a special sealant if they expect to see water. Most consumer electronics don't, but anything expecting to be used in high humidity will be coated. I work with and design for pwbs daily so I am fully aware what components are spec'd for and how they react to water.

theoldguy (author)BrianM1722016-01-28

Nice try Brian but spec'd is a contraction for specifications

BrianM172 (author)theoldguy2016-01-29

If you search the definitions, and look carefully in the definitions, you can see great relevance. Also, I know you just searched up in google, "Spec'd definition." Just a word of advice, DO NOT TRUST EVERYTHING YOU SEE.

Seth C (author)BrianM1722016-01-28

Actually, I think "speced" (or spec'd as it should be written) in this instance refer's to specification.

BrianM172 (author)DavidC602016-01-28

Water vapor does not drip indeed, but he is talking about the condensation, not the vapor. Pretty much, you say that it never precipitates because "water vapor won't drop from the sky". Once the vapor condensates, it can drip, as when in warm weather, you get a cold item, and it condensates on the outside. Put some more thoughts into replies before trying to bring others down.

DavidC60 (author)BrianM1722016-01-28

"will drip (in liquid form or as water vapor)"

I put plenty of thought into it. You may very well be right at what he meant, but what he said is that it will drip as liquid or as water vapor, and water vapor doesn't drip. Once it condenses its liquid, so its no longer water vapor.

BrianM172 (author)DavidC602016-01-29

In an office with a locked t stat you could use keyboard air can upside down. Shoot a little liquid out of the can at the t stat(try to miss the display lol) it'll cool the stat to make the heat come on and it evaporates almost instantly.

BrianM172 (author)DavidC602016-01-29

In fact, after putting some MORE thought into my reply, I realized, doesn't cold air sink? If you research, water vapor can indeed fall, but not drip in the sense that you thing. Drip can also mean, let fall little by little, as it will in this situation. So I guess you don't support your arguments with facts, as in school you learned to do...

Wrap your cold thing in a washcloth. No drips.

BrianM172 (author)Knight Lamune2016-01-28

As if you wrap it in a washcloth, it greatly reduces the coldness, resulting in worse results (haha if that made sense). Also, the condensation not only forms ON the source of the cold, but it forms on other regular-temp. items, meaning that even if you wrap it in washcloth, condensation will form on the metal or plastic of the thermostat.

rundmcarlson (author)BrianM1722016-01-29

No. Condensation only forms on the cold surfaces. Unless the thermostat itself is brought to a low enough temperature, condensate WILL NOT form on it.

jlsmoothash2o (author)BrianM1722016-01-28

So condensation can be a problem for electronics. The board, the components, and wire can all fall victim. Yes placing an ice pack on top of the unit will cause water to collect on all of the above no matter if the ice pack is wrapped in a cloth or not.

The best way for this hack to really work is get 4 ice packs. String and thumb tacks. Tie the a bit of string to each ice pack and to the thumb tacks and suspend them around all 4 sides of the thermostat. Making sure you are 2 -3 inches from the thermostat this way you are cooling the air around the thermostat and not directly cooling the comonents.

BTW with this method and the one listed above there is still the big problem of water condensing On the wall. Which could cause problems with MOLD.

Another way is to buy one of those little mini frigs that can hold like 6 cans of Coke and plug it in, open the door, and place it near the thermostat to cool the air around it. This should also prevent condensation on the walls and in the thermostat. Preventing anything bad from happening and if the boss walks by and see it open there say you brought it in and you were just going to fill it up so if anyone wants a cold Coke they can have one. Make sure you have Coke on hand.

better yet, put an ice pack in a plastic freezer bag on top of a wash cloth, for safe measures ;)

fattG (author)2016-01-29

A simple cotton bandanna do-rag under your knit cap will keep your head twice as warm.

ArasinS (author)2015-02-05

Seal uncooked rice in a clean cotton bag and microwave it. Start with very short duration and gradually work up to figure out how long is needed. It will do nicely to warm bed, clothes, hands, or toes.

ImAtech (author)ArasinS2016-01-28

Yes, but it's hard to chew.

hoppy54 (author)ImAtech2016-01-29

hahahaha! Love your sense of humor!

LindaKayG (author)ArasinS2016-01-28

you can also heat the bags in the oven using the decreasing heat left from cooking 350 on down until no heat remains this takes longer than a microwave but it uses up the heat already available or if you don't need the direct heat from the rice bags just let the heat radiate out of the oven with the door closed (slower radiant) or open (stand there and let it melt you, ahhhhhhhhh)

qdogg (author)2016-01-28

In Cali where we have a drought, I run the pre-shower warm up water into 5 gal. buckets placed in the separate bathtub. Later, I use this water to manually flush the toilet. I don't fill each bucket more than half so's to make lifting it easier. It's a faster & quieter flush too. The trick is to pour quickly straight down the hole, then pour a little more in slowly towards the front to refill the bowl. You can get about 2-3 flushes on 2.5 gals.

Cat00x (author)qdogg2016-01-29

We do that, too. I just pour the water in the tank after a flush, which doesn't affect the flushing action.

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Jason Poel Smith I am a Community Manager here at Instructables. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker ... More »
More by DIY Hacks and How Tos:36 Things to Cook in a Coffee MakerHow to Make a Festivus PoleAdd Wings to an Infant's Halloween Costume
Add instructable to: