I'm pleased to say that Friends of the Earth and Help The Aged are attempting to sue the government for their broken promises about fuel poverty. Gordon Brown has attempted to deal with the problem by offering money for home-improvements to help poorer people be more efficient but most poorer people are in rented accommodation and have limited control over such matters. That having been said, AJ and I are getting a free load of insulation from the Warm Front, who also sent us free lightbulbs.
My advice is meant mostly for duffers. Those of us who find ourselves sick and unable to get out much which means (a) we have to stay warm all day at our own expense (b) we don't have much money with which to do so and often, (c) health problems and poor mobility make us suffer from the cold more than most.
Excuse another list of points but I would suggest that there are three important principles to keeping warm against these odds:
- Keeping warm is much easier than getting warm once one is cold.
- We are much warmer when moving about than when we are staying still – especially if we are lying still for many hours.
- The culture we have now is a centrally-heated one.
Similarly we were all brought up never to wear certain clothes indoors - coats, scarves etc. - because we wouldn't feel the benefit of these items when we went outside. However, if you think about the historical costumes of our culture, people always did wear shawls, cravats, bonnets, headscarves and headpieces and so on indoors, as well as full-length and high-necked clothing. If you feel the cold and/ or you don't want to keep the heating on full for six months of the year, there's nothing wrong with this - you just need to put even more clothes on when you go outside.
I wrote quite a bit about warm clothing before. Indoors, it is important that extra layers are things which it is very easy to get on and off; shirts, shawls, cardigans and so on. Arguably the favourite and most-used item of clothing I have is my thing here on the right which might be called a body-warmer or a gilet or whatever you like. This is much easier to get in and out of and probably more effective than a thick jumper.
Fingerless gloves are a must and ones that most people would only buy for aesthetic purposes – like my lacey Madonna ones – are great. They keep your hands at a reasonable temperature without any risk of sweaty palms. You can also get fishnet ones – fishnet being a wonderful fabric for keeping warm.
Despite my stated feelings on wheelchair blankets, when indoors it is entirely reasonable to use blankets and, if necessary, hot water bottles when you are sitting or lying down. However some tips;
- Don't stay in bed all day for the purpose of keeping warm. I have always found that it is much much better for my mood and my long-term mental health, to get dressed every day and camp out in a different room, even if I am dozing a lot.
- Be disciplined about moving about. If you've found your warm place, it can be a struggle to motivate yourself to get up, but it is both better for your health and your temperature control to move about every once in a while.
- If you are snuggled up most of the day, you don't necessarily need to heat the entire house or flat all the time. Save the fuel for the room(s) you occupy.
- Avoid heat sources which are likely to further impair circulation; resist the temptation to sit close to a heater or putting your feet against the hot water bottle. Also avoid having very hot baths.
Thanks again to my friend who gave me this most appropriate hot water bottle a couple of years ago.
Finally, a word about tumble-dryers. Not everyone can afford or has room for one, but even a greeny like myself recommends it for the winter (with dryer balls, of course). Drying clothing or towels on a radiator makes your heating have to work much harder and you are left with a choice between opening the windows and letting all the heat out or else allowing your house to get damp and mouldly, which not only creates work but is not good for your health. Items can also fail to get properly dry and there are few nastier sensations that getting out of a warm bath and wrapping oneself in a cold damp and slightly acrid-smelling towel.
Tumble-dryers, involving as they do an amount of heat and a big motor, use a lot of electricity in one go, but they do get the job done properly. One simply has to be efficient with their usage; don't wash clothes that don't need washing and don't bathe more often than you need to.