No Heat Challenge 2010

by Katy on October 17, 2010 · 52 comments

I’ve been hemming and hawing over how I will handle this year’s No Heat Challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a moment of regret from last year’s challenge. (Or for that matter, the year before.) We waited until after November 1st to start firing up the furnace, and then we kept the house at 63° during the day when the kids were at home, and 57° at night and when the kids were at school. Cozy lap blankets were available for watching TV, goofing around on the internet and generalized snuggling.

We just received our gas bill for the month of September, which was a credit for $5.34. (Our furnace, stove and hot water heater are all natural gas.) My husband and I use the Equal Pay plan, which computes our therm usage from the prior year and divides it by eleven. (This way we’re not hit with huge gas bills over the winter and hardly anything during the summer.) So in September, we either have to pay for any extra gas usage or get a credit for overpaying. Our credit last year was much higher, but we’re now comparing two different No Heat Challenge years, so It’s pretty great to get a credit. Especially considering that our older son now showers twice a day and often for up to 45 minutes at a time!

The reason why I’m unsure how to progress with this year’s challenge is because we have welcomed a Japanese exchange teacher into our home for the next six months, and I feel bad subjecting him to extremes of temperature. It’s still fairly warm in Portland, Oregon, but the chill is definitely creeping in. I made sure to provide a really warm blanket for our guest, (thank you Mom!) as well as a set of flannel sheets. I set up a small space heater in his room, and instructed him on its use. We don’t have a traditional Japanese heated toilet seat, although I suppose I could save up my Swagbucks to buy one.

I am going to abstain from blanket statements (har-har) as to how we’ll handle this year’s furnace abstinence, but I’m sure we’ll find a happy medium that meets all of our needs.

Are you planning on participating in this year’s No Heat Challenge? Will you throw on a sweater instead of a furnace switch? Will you snuggle under a blanket instead of heating your entire house? Please share your stories and thoughts to the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie Jones October 17, 2010 at 5:23 am

This is one challenge I can’t get behind. I could much more easily do without my A/C in the summer.

I’ve had thyroid issues for about 9 years ; even when others are hot or comfortable, I’m often cold, sometimes almost painfully so. On a good day, I can tolerate having our furnace set to 68°. Usually it needs to be around 70° for me to be comfortable, and even then I’m wearing layers of clothing. I can get buy alright while I’m up and moving, but if I sit to read or work on a craft, I’ll be under a blanket or two.

That said, we do try to do things to make our heating efforts more efficient: Plastic on the windows. Heavy quilts over the windows on the coldest days and nights. Lowering the thermostat to around 60° overnight. Adding humidity in the air during the winter. Using blankets and afghans. Wearing socks at all times and shoes most of the time. Placing heating pad behind my back when I’m sitting (keeps me warm without overheating the house or rest of my family). Letting our cats sleeping with us at night. Keeping our furnace filters clean. The list goes on.

Good luck to you and all others who take part in the challenge!


Q October 17, 2010 at 5:55 am

My understanding is that the Japanese don’t heat their whole houses anyway; they provide a little heater under the dinner table and wear warm layers.


Kristen October 17, 2010 at 6:29 am

I’m in the no-heat challenge by default because I live in Japan, and most houses in southern Japan don’t have heat, so I think your guest will probably be fine–he may even have some tips for you on staying warm without heat. Most people here use kerosene heaters, but I can’t stand the smell, so I use a heated carpet, a hot water bottle at night, and lots and lots of layers. And I wear a stocking cap to bed.


jenniwaka October 17, 2010 at 6:44 am

And do you have a kotatsu? We really miss ours and were just talking not twenty minutes ago about how much our American-raised cat would love it, too…


glenn October 17, 2010 at 7:19 am

So far we haven’t turned on the heat or fired up the woodstove 🙂 Because we are planning a home birth, that will definitely change if Ashley goes into labor. We broke down and ordered some new windows for the nursery and a couple of the other particularly bad places in the house. The old windows let cold air pour in, so that had to change. Hopefully the new ones will make it a lot easier and cheaper to keep the place heated this winter once we turn the heat on. We still heat with the woodstove primarily.


Tammy October 17, 2010 at 8:16 am

My kids would mutiny if I kept it any colder. I haven’t turned it on yet but will likely have to before 11/1. I typically keep it @ 65 daytime and 63 nightime. I’d love to say I was noble or frugal, but I just like it cooler. So, for the kids, they get warm blankets and even a heated matress pad – yeah they’re spoiled rotten. Also, this year, I’m knitting and felting slippers as Christmas presents. I liked the commenters idea of routine maintenance to maximize efficiency of furnace – I could probably improve on that as well.


Mamie October 17, 2010 at 9:26 am

I am definitely up for the challenge! The no-heat version is far more doable here in Southern Utah than the no-a/c. In fact, we still have days when the a/c kicks on at 3 p.m. or so. The kids are the challenge so much as the fact that we have a 71-year-old grandma living with us, and while she’s of hardy farm-girl stock, I don’t think it’s kind (or wise) to subject older folks to uncomfortable temperatures. SO, we’ll be doing our best – within reason.


hydra October 17, 2010 at 9:49 am

Just turned on our heat yesterday (we’re in portland too). It’s getting just a little too chilly in the house. I was actually thinking about your No-Heat-Challenge and was going to ask for tips. I just don’t know how others can keep the house at 63-65 when they’re home. I’m start to feel quite cold when it goes down to 66 or 67. I’ve got it on a programmable thermostat and it’s 68 when we’re home. At least I know it’s always down low when we’re not home. The hardest part for me is getting out of bed in the morning if the house is 59 or 60, so I’ve got to crank it up a bit before we get out of bed.


Darci October 18, 2010 at 10:34 am

I’m in PDX, too. Getting out of bed is impossible when it’s freezing cold in my place. I keep the house at 63-65 when I’m home and 50-55 overnight while I’m under mounds of cozy comforters. I’ve got head-to-toe fleece going on, but if my nose gets froze, I turn up the heat.

I could use some tips, too. I’ve got a space heater for spot-warming.


Kim October 17, 2010 at 10:02 am

Every year I try to wait until at least the first of October to turn on the heat. We live in Central Wisconsin were it can get down to 40 degrees one day, and the next be up to 75 degrees.
I’ve only turned the heat on twice so far.
We always throw on a sweatshirt and slippers (it was a challenge trying to find slippers for my husband who is a size 16) or snuggle under a blanket before turning up the heat.
We have a programmable thermostat that is at 60 degrees when we’re at work, 65 when we’re home and then it goes down to 55 when we go to sleep. The thermostat has been a wonderful investment.
I do turn it up to 70 though when my mom comes to visit since she’s always cold!


Jennifer October 17, 2010 at 10:16 am

I was thinking of doing this, too. We’re only a couple of weeks away from November 1st and while it’s getting chilly outside, here in New York it’s still tolerable during the day. Last night I added another blanket to the bed, but my husband didn’t even use it! I caved before June 1st with the A/C but I think I can actually accomplish this goal.

P.S. My Delux Slanket from QVC is my best friend during the colder months!!!


Rebecca October 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

We didn’t run our air conditioner over the summer, its to old to be fixed. We did turn our heat on once just to make sure that it is in shape for the winter, then turned it off. I don’t think we will have it on before November, and we live in WI. I try and keep the house at 62 or 63 during the day, and I stay at home with kids. After the kids go to bed, about 7:30pm the heat drops to 50. Then the heat kicks on in the am at about 6am before the kids wake up.

The trick to staying warm is layers. The kids wear an undershirt, a longsleeved T and then a hoodie, or sweater or vest. My daugter who is not in school yet likes fleece lined jeans, which are super warm. You can find flannel lined jeans for adults too. And slippers over socks to keep feet warm. We also wear hats sometimes, mostly at night. My hands are the worst for me, mostly just at night when I am reading or sewing, etc. I have a pair of cheap cotton/wool blend gloves that I cut the fingertips out of, that way I can turn pages and grip a needle and stay warm too.

I put the kids clothes for the next day in the dryer at night, and then in the morning I turn the dryer on for a few minutes while dad is getting them out of bed. Its nice to put on toasty warm clothes in the winter. And a hot breakfast of oatmeal or pancakes or cream of wheat isn’t bad either. It’s too cold for smoothies.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 17, 2010 at 10:55 am

Well, I will wait as long as possible to turn it on…hopefully we can make it until November. It’s been unusually warm here so far this October, so I’m thinking we might be able to make it. We’ll see…Mr. FG loses patience with being cold way before I do, so turning it on is not entirely up to me. lol

I’m considering bumping my temp up from 65 to 68 or so. We can afford it now, and keeping it at 65 (which equaled something like 60 or worse downstairs, away from the thermostat) was making my relatively-skinny self awfully darn cold (even with long underwear, multiple layers, socks and slippers).

I don’t know how you hang with 63…I have a hard enough time with 65!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 17, 2010 at 10:56 am

Here’s something to assuage my guilt, though…my kids don’t all shower every day, and none of us take 45 minute showers. lol (5-10 minutes is it)


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 17, 2010 at 10:57 am

Hey, I could host a “No 45-minute showers” challenge on my blog!


Linden October 17, 2010 at 11:47 am

A space heater run three hours a day will add about $20 to your monthly electric bill. They are the most inefficient way to heat your home–might as well turn the thermostat up. Also, Americans keep their homes much hotter than most other countries. He may be used to a cooler home.


chppie October 17, 2010 at 11:49 am

I also want to second the notion that your houseguest will be fine. I lived in Japan for a number of years without central heat in a climate that was chillier than the Northwest and there are a lot of ways to stay warm including what you eat. And I also miss my kotatsu. I have so many fond memories of chatting with friends while snuggled under the kotatsu, eating mandarin oranges at New Year’s.


Wendy October 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I’m with you on the challenge. I live alone in Raleigh, but there is no heat going on in this house until it goes down to 57 degrees and I’m waiting for November 1st or December 1st to come. There are no children or seniors in the house so it is very easy to do this. It was 61 this morning and a bit nippy but I jumped out of bed quickly and got dressed fasted. The drawback is that I don’t want to get out of the bed very fast. But the benefit is the natural gas bill! How about acompromise on the time of the shower to 25 minutes with your teenager with a use of a timer?


wendy October 17, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I live in upstate New York and plan to do better then last year. During the day when I am moving around, cooking, and the sun is shining through the windows, I will aim for 62. At night, when the stove isn’t running and it is dark the thermostat will be set to 67. I’ve noticed that most people lower their heat at night. I seem to favor the opposite.


Laura October 17, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I didn’t even know there was a challenge last year, and we had our thermostats set at 52 at night and 64 during the day! We all wore lots of fleece, including the dogs. The only time we increased the temperature was when my mom (age 86) visited over the holidays, but that was only up to 70 during the day.

We’re going through the l-o-n-g shower phase here as well. We say OK, but they have to be “navy showers;” that it, the water gets turned off while you’re lathering up, shampooing, etc. So far our water bill hasn’t spiked, nor has our natural gas bill.


April October 17, 2010 at 3:39 pm

My house has zoned heating and I am in Western New York. I have the downstairs heat set at 63 during the day and 68 when we are home from 4-11. Then its back down to 63 for the rest of the night. I tried 57 during the day but then I thought I might be freezing my dog. Today it was so nice I turned off the heat!

We haven’t turned on the upstairs heat yet and hope we can hold out until November. I put a comforter on the bed this week and its really helped. Fleece sheets + blanket + comforter = saving $$$!


Christine S October 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm

We did the No Heat Challenge last year. Since we live in the south, it wasn’t too hard to make it through November. But we did have an abnormally cold winter last year which hit in December. This year we have a new baby so we probably will not do the challenge since she is on the small side. I will dress everyone appropriately though and hope for the best!


Jill October 17, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Oh yes, absolutely! Here in the East Coast (MA), we can get a pretty cool October – this one hasn’t been too bad, but we can tell the next 2 weeks will be chillers. We have not yet turned on the heat, but have added double layers and blankets when sitting around watching tv or surfing the net. It’s not too bad yet, and we definitely pledge to keep the heat down when it does go on. It can get pretty cold in Japan, so I wouldn’t worry too much about your visitor. I guess it depends on where in Japan!


Tracy Balazy October 17, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I married a heating and cooling guy. He likes his A/C, which I could live without, and he’s already turned on the heat here in metro Detroit, where we’ve had a few nights in the low 40s in the past couple of weeks. (It’s 50 right now.) So no, we’re not taking on the no-heat challenge. But we do have a programmable thermostat, which we keep at 64 during the day (unfortunate for me, since I’m unemployed; maybe it’s my husband’s hint that I should get a job, and soon), and I love slippers and sweaters and my Biederlack Cuddle Wrap blankets, so we keep it on the cooler side in here.

We added a lot of insulation to our 1941 Cape Cod when we moved in four years ago, and that made a huge difference.

I grew up in a house with no central heating, only a gas space heater in the living room. It was a 1905-built home in Detroit, with high ceilings and leaky original windows. This was the 1970s-’80s. As a mopey teenager, when I’d flounce into my bedroom and slam the door in winter, the room would chill pret-ty quickly. Every winter, my parents would vacate their bedroom, which was a large room originally used as the parlor, and sleep in another room, because it was too expensive to heat the whole place. They chilled beer and food in there for when they’d have relatives over. You could see your breath in the air in there. So, central heating still seems like a luxury to me!


Gloria October 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I have a question: I live in an 80 year old charming but drafty house – so much so that I close off my living room in the cold months. Insulated shades or curtains – that I’ve seen so far – are prohibitively expensive for the 28 original windows which I’d rather not replace. Does anyone have any frugal suggestions perhaps a step or two above plastic? Thanks for any ideas.


Darci October 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

When I was in college, I sewed up insulated curtains for our drafty windows. Use king sized flat sheets and line them with flannel – much cheaper than buying pre-made sheets. It made all the difference!


Gloria October 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Thanks, Darci. I’ll give it a try!


danyel October 19, 2010 at 4:00 am

I read recently about bubble wrap on the window panes helps a lot.


Hiptobeme October 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm

I am very fortunate because my apartment is on the third floor and sometimes it is so warm we have to open a window, even in winter. I hardly ever even turn the thermostat on!


Tara Morrison October 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm

We are in! Last we had a 4 month old baby and I felt I could not keep the house too cold. This year however she is ready to go. We live on the Gulf cost so it is going to be a while before we even close our windows. Good luck to all of you in those cold places!


Jennifer October 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm

We’re in CT and I hope to make it to Nov 1st. We moved here mid-November last year from Los Angeles and succeeded at a 5-year-long no heat challenge in our apartment there (never once used the heater–but we were on the 3rd floor). We’ve had a couple days so far this year when I wanted to turn on the heat but I just made sure some cooking involved the oven on those days and took advantage of how inefficient it is. My 2 1/2 year old is actually staying under blankets these days and has a whole stack of them she wants to sleep under, regardless of the temperature. And my 4 month old is a little heater all on her own.


Crunchy Chicken October 17, 2010 at 8:14 pm

That’s too funny. I guess we are on the same wavelength. I’m going whole hog with this year’s Freeze Yer Buns Challenge. I’ve got some great companies donating some really cool prizes for participants to the challenge. I just wish I were eligible!

It will be interesting to see what kind of press the challenge will get this year, especially after all the hub-bub last year between our shared article in the National Enquirer, and the mention of my challenge in The New York Times, The Economist and USA Today.

Deanna at The Crunchy Chicken
Putting the mental in environmental


Katy October 17, 2010 at 8:32 pm

The things that I think will garner press never do, and the subjects which I consider to be less interesting (turn your heat down and put on a sweater) seem to pull in media. You just never know!



Deb October 18, 2010 at 12:14 am

Our house is set in the woods so it just seems to always be cool inside. Even on the hottest days, this house stays cool. Great for beating summer heat, but not great when the temperatures start to dip. Yes it’s insulated well, but due to the longer shadows & deep shade we’re in during winter, we get no solar warming.

We’re wearing fleece & wool & layers, warm socks always, an abundance of throws available. I turn the electric blanket on 30 minutes before bedtime, then turn it off when I climb in (little known fact – laying down on a cold Tempur-pedic mattress is like trying to sleep on a frozen brick).

I had to wave the white flag and stoke the wood stove 2 weeks ago. I felt so defeated! But, it’s a 1 level 900 sq foot house, so keeping it warm is economical.

Kudos to all of you who are reducing your heating carbon footprint & costs!


Molly On Money October 18, 2010 at 4:53 am

I do the No-Heat challenge by default because I live with my husband! Every year he gets a permit, grabs a friend and goes out to the forest to gather wood. He gets enough to keep the woodstove going through the winter. We have our house set on a computer thermostat so it only comes on if the house gets down to 50 degrees (don’t want the pipes to freeze- we have our priorities!)
What I do have that would be a sacrifice is my hot tub. In fact I was just going to get it cleaned and fired up today. It runs on electricity.
I’m not giving it up Katy! It gets real cold here!


Adrienne October 18, 2010 at 5:54 am

To those people struggling with the cold during the day I suggest instead you try to lower it a few more degrees at night. As long as you time the heat to come back up at least 30 minutes before you wake-up I don’t think you’ll even notice it.


Marianne October 18, 2010 at 5:57 am

Katy, you did teach him the shower was a think tank. Maybe he is in deep thought….


Linda October 18, 2010 at 6:40 am

Last year we made it up to November 1st and I kept my heat at 62 degrees all winter except when my father in law was over. He complained about the temperature. So far this year we have not put on the heat. My aim is November 1st but my family is already starting to complain. We will see!


Meghan H October 18, 2010 at 8:38 am

Every year for three years, I have changed our thermostat settings just by one degree. I’m now setting it for 66 when we’re home, 61 at night. Last year it was 67. If this year (or even the first two months of fall) is tolerable, maybe I’ll try for 65!


Elizabeth L. October 18, 2010 at 9:16 am

I did the challenge last year and am partially in again this year. I’m living at home with my parents, who would rather spend more money and be comfortable. They keep the house around 66-67 degrees during the day and 65ish at night.

I’m the only one upstairs, and I have my own thermostat so I’m not planning on turning on the heat for a while. Of course, in Alabama, I doubt I will really need the heat before November. I think the coldest it’s gotten so far has been mid-40s at night. With highs in the upper 70s-low 80s most days this month, the house stays pretty warm.

My best friend is Japanese and she rarely uses the heat. She kept her apartment in Chicago very chilly and just wore warm layers and used a space heater. I think your guest will be fine.


Laura October 18, 2010 at 11:15 am

I just found your blog (when you posted on Frugal Living Northwest’s Facebook page), and I love this! I just wanted you to know!


Katy October 18, 2010 at 11:45 am

Thanks for the nice words, and welcome to The Non-Consumer Advocate community.



Jeanine October 18, 2010 at 11:20 am

No heat!!!

We are still running our A/C between 12-3 pm!

It is probably going to be really really cold this winter, because it’s still in the 80s in MS now.


Tegan @ TisBest October 18, 2010 at 11:38 am

We’ve been trying to keep the heating low, but my guy and I both have poor circulation. The dark, humid cool of the Pacific Northwest wintertime seeps into your bones! To make it worse, my guy commutes via motorbike, and twenty minutes in the cold air at highway speeds is cold despite all the protective layers he wears. This is his excuse for 30-minute showers (it doesn’t help that our house has a sauna built into the bathroom–getting him out of there is near impossible sometimes).

We did the challenge last year, aided in no small part by the fact that our furnace was broken and the landlord took forever to fix it! We knew it was bad when my cats crawled under the quilts with us.


pat October 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I’m in. We made it to Dec 1 last year and we live in Michigan. We keep our house at 58 during the day and 55 at night. We’ve never had our thermostat above 64 in the 30 years we’ve been married. And we only did 64 for the few years our kids were very young. They are used to the cool temps now too. Last year I saved so much I didn’t pay a penny all summer since we had such a huge build-up left in our equal-pay account.


Sheryl October 18, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I just about always made it to November 1 in years past, but really only participated in deference to my circa-1955 oil furnace. I was afraid to overwork it (!), it was inefficient at best, and it was never in the budget to run out of oil and require a refill before the heating season was over. I did notice a huge spike in my electric bill every October though, because we used space heaters.

This summer I had a 95% efficient gas furnace installed, as well as new windows, doors and siding. I have fired up the furnace on a few cold mornings and evenings this month (and have got the programmable thermostat all set up for when we start using it daily), but have noticed we are noticeably toastier even when we don’t turn on the heat, or can get and stay toasty really, really quickly.


Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire October 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I’m a Texan, which means I’m acclimated to heat and can’t handle the cold. I’m freezing in people’s homes when they have the AC set to 75, if that tells you anything. There is NO WAY I’d be able to handle no heat here. The best I can do is set the temp around 67 or 68, and believe me, that’s a sacrifice. Granted, we usually do that in winter due to the high cost of running electric heat, not out of any environmental concerns. And I often have on 2 pairs of socks with my wool Birkenstocks. Ugh. Shivering just thinking about the coming colder temps!


Issa October 18, 2010 at 4:59 pm

I exclusively use a wood stove to heat my home. Here in East Tennessee, my home is only getting down to about 63 in the mornings and rises to near 70 in the afternoons, so I haven’t fired up the stove yet. I try to wait as long as possible, since it’s easier to run when I need it full time – starting from embers every morning is easier than making a whole new fire every few days. So I try to wait until temperatures are consistently below 60 before I start using it.


Claire October 28, 2010 at 8:48 pm

We heat exclusively with a wood stove. Well, actually we have two wood stoves, but we rarely use the one in the sun room unless we’re going to be out there on a cloudy, rainy day. Our house has thick stone walls around the wood stoves, brick flooring in parts that get lots of sun (when it shines–we’re in the Pacific Northwest, but we do have lots of sky lights just in case) and a 25 cubic yard gravel heat sink under the living room. So, by itself the house will usually stay in the high 60’s, but since it’s so hard to raise the temp in the heat sink if we let it go, we use the wood stove fairly regularly when mornings or evenings start getting chilly. We do have an electric furnace which we have set at 64, but I don’t think it’s ever come on in the eight years we’ve been in the house.


Kathy January 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I always turn on the heat on Nov. 1. We keep the heat at 52 degrees at night. In the morning we turn it up to 64 degrees for both zones for 2 hours. Then we back it down to 60 for the rest of the day. At bedtime back down to 52 degreees. We also took the hot water of of the boiler and now use a water heater instead allowing us to shut off our furnace completely from April through October.This took our oil consumption down ( from back in the day when we lived at 70 during the day and 65 at night) from about 1150 gallons of oil / year down to 575 gallons of oil/year. We are colder but now own alot of great sweatshirts, fleece pants, and down comforters and blankets. Oil used to be 89 cents a gallon when I first bougjt my house but is now 3.09 dollars a gallon se we have to fight back!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: