No Heat Challenge — An Update

by Katy on October 13, 2009 · 38 comments


I am a foolish woman with a tendency to make sweeping proclamations such as, “I am going to wait until November 1st to turn on my furnace.”

It sounded doable at the time. After all, I live in Portland, Oregon, better known for it’s baristas and library culture than any arctic weather conditions.

But each morning has been that much colder. The first chilly morning that required a glance at the thermostat read 61°. Subsequent mornings rang in at even chillier 57° and 58°. Yes it was chilly, but a quick bustling around and hot sweet cups of tea staved off the cold and any complaints.

But this morning was 39.9°, (yes I checked) outside, with a biting wind that brought the house down to a unacceptably nippy 50°. My husband Dale was the first one up this morning and quickly called up to me:

“Katy, it’s 50 degrees down here, can we please turn the furnace on?”

And even I, the proclaimer of all things challenging could muster up no argument.

“Yes, please turn the heat on!”

So have I failed at the No Heat Challenge? Absolutely not. The point was never to keep the house at a level of frigidity that would bring child protective services a knockin’ at my door. The point was to make a conscious and deliberate decision about the heat necessary to heat my leaky barn of a house.

So will I crank the furnace to a toasty 70° now that I have gotten past the official challenge?  No way! I will continue to keep the house somewhat cool, (63° during the day, 57° at night.) But don’t worry, I do turn it up when guests are over.

Not everyone is as foolish or as acclimated to frigid conditions as I am.

Are you still going strong with the No Heat Challenge? Will you be keeping your house cooler than in years past? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Leigh @ compactbydesign October 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Our apartment has one wall heater – in the living room. I don’t like turning it on because of the furniture arrangement. We have portable heaters in the bedrooms that I don’t like turning on with the really small children about. So yes, we are pushing off the call of the dial.
I really don’t have much tolerance for cold mornings, although I did spend a winter with temps (outside) of 60 degrees BELOW zero!


Cyndi October 14, 2009 at 6:18 am

I turned our heater on briefly yesterday. We spent the morning at the park and I was frozen despite a hat, wool socks, etc. I realized I could either spend a miserable afternoon or turn on the heat for a bit. Once it was up to 63 F I turned it off and have been happy since. It’s all about perspective.


nancy from mass October 14, 2009 at 6:51 am

still haven’t turned mine on even though my car was covered in frost this morning. the temp in the house was 58 but I am at work today and hubby is planning on starting a fire in the fireplace during the day to help warm it up. I plan on making irish potato soup for supper, so that will warm the place up also. I hope to make it until the end of this week before thinking about turning the furnace one…hopefully.


Elizabeth October 14, 2009 at 6:53 am

I feel like the no-heat challenge is going to be easier on me than most of the readers here since I live in Alabama. Today the high is expected to be around 70, with a low around 65. Doesn’t seem to be much need to turn on the heat! Last night it was so humid from all the rain we’ve been getting that I actually had to turn on the air conditioner for a little while! It’s expected to get cooler this weekend (lows in the 40s), but I’m really hoping to make it to November 1 or even later without the heat.


Tammy October 14, 2009 at 7:08 am

I’m in SE Ohio and my kids complained a bit this morning, so I expect it will be difficult to keep this up for too long. In the evenings, when I get home from work, I’ve been cooking dinner and then baking which tends to keep their minds off of it – but the mornings are getting rougher.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl October 14, 2009 at 9:19 am

I’m still good here. It’s not terribly cold in my neck of the woods yet, so my house has been sitting around 68-70 degrees without any heat. That’s much warmer than the 63-65 we keep it at during the winter, so I’m a happy camper. I’ve hardly even worn my slippers so far.

It’s supposed to get cold this week, though, so I might not make it to the end of October.


Kristen October 14, 2009 at 10:13 am

So far we have had the heat and ac turned off for almost a week (I live in NC). However today it is raining and the temperature is dropping not rising. We went from 50’s this morning to 46 currently. We may have to turn the heat on for a bit tonight but I hope to only have to run it for a few days and then maybe have a few more warmer days. Of course we keep the thermostat set fairly low in the winter and just bundle up. 🙂


Ashley October 14, 2009 at 10:47 am

Goodness! Sure is getting cold fast up north! We have friends in Virginia(I consider that kind of north) who said its already in the 30s where they are. We are in Georgia and no heat so far! Hoping to wait til Thanksgiving. Right now the lowest it’s gotten has been in the high 50s. And that’s at night.


WilderMiss October 14, 2009 at 10:59 am

If you want to keep the heat off try living in an appartment! I haven’t turned the heat on in two years! (Vancouver, BC)


Lisa October 14, 2009 at 11:00 am

No heat so far in northern Arkansas. Yesterday was tempting because rain made it seem colder. Cooking and baking quelled the urge. Fuzzy houseshoes and sweaters are already in full use though. I’m older and cold natured.


glenn October 14, 2009 at 11:05 am

We haven’t had to turn on the furnace yet this year, or even fire up the woodstove, but we usually wear sweaters in the house and often warm wool long undies, so it really hasn’t been too bad so far. The outside temp at night has only dipped into the low 40’s here in Western NC as of yet.

I think you make a very important point in your article. The steps that you take are designed to make your life better, not worse. To lose sight of that would be to lose sight of the forest through the trees. I think the valuable thing is to take whatever small steps that you can that save resources when you really don’t need them. By seeing how far you can comfortably go, you become conscious about something that most people aren’t very aware of on a day to day basis. Then you can be more aware of at what point you need some extra heat to be comfortable and happy, and at what points it really isn’t necessary.


Amanda October 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I can’t wait to turn the heater on! It is 90 degrees out today here in sunny Tampa, Florida. I am thinking we will not see the heat turned on until December. I think I will go to the pool this weekend and enjoy this October weather. Yall have fun with the cold. =)


Simpler Living October 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Katy, I live in upstate New York. Tonight’s low is supposed to be 28 degrees, and there’s no way I could stick to a no-heat challenge when it gets that cold.

I monitor the thermostat, dress warmly, turn down the heat when we go to bed and when we go to work in the morning, and use my dog as a third comforter. Knowing how to use a caulk gun helps, too, if your house is drafty.

Stay warm!


Shannon October 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

We’re at 65 deg. this year. Tonight we’re in 30’s so yeah the heat is on. We’ve been lowing a degree or two a year. One thing that helps is we’re spending more time outdoors in the 50-degree weather, so it feels good and warm when we come inside. I also remind husband that if we were outside on a 65 degree spring day, we might even be wearing shorts!


HeatherS October 14, 2009 at 2:36 pm

It got down to 55 inside the house on Monday morning and I had to cave and turn it on. I wouldn’t have minded too much but the kids were cold and I was having a friends child over that day. Freezing my own children is one thing, but I don’t want to freeze someone elses child!

We have it set at 61 right now and we are in OH and have had a couple of nights in the upper 30s so far with most nights being in the 40s.


shymom October 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm

No heat on here yet but we’re in Northern California and while it gets a bit chilly at night we are mostly OK.

I do need to finish making my rice and lavender bags. We heat them in the microwave and then take them to bed.


AnnMarie October 14, 2009 at 5:33 pm

We’ve made it so far and we’ve had colder nights. However it’s only because we *can’t* turn the heAt on. We figured we’d have more time and there’s stuff right up against the baseboard heaters. IE we have to clean up before the heat goes on! new house so we aren’t familiar with our heating-we’ve always had central air before. Part of the house was 51 this morn. DH plans to get the heaters all clear tomorrow so i bet we’ll Be joining you by friday. We try to go as long as possible and have made it to Nov But not this year.


marlo October 14, 2009 at 6:33 pm

too funny! we had aimed for november 1st before turning our furnace on but ended up turning it on today for the first time (and for the same reason). my thermostat is now programmed about the same as yours though last year we tried briefly to keep it at 50 degrees at night and during the day when no one was home. that didn’t work out so well as the furnace spent all evening trying to get the house back up to 63 degrees and then turned off (before reaching 63 degrees) at bedtime to start all over again.

i have to admit to a diminishing tolerance for household chilliness around january. from now until january layers and activity will keep me from turning up the thermostat but my capacity for bustling wanes and i find i turn it up to 68 and sometimes 70 in february. this year i plan to bake more often instead!


ksmedgirl October 14, 2009 at 6:37 pm

I love the frozen toilet picture! We have been able to get away with only turning the heat on for a few hours in the morning. Nobody wants to take a shower in a freezing house! The house heats up to about 67 -68 degrees then I turn it off. I have a space heater in the living room that I have been using while we are home if needed. I also have an electric blanket on the bed. This has met our needs so far. I am hoping I can make it until at least Nov 1 doing this and maybe later. It really depends on the weather, though.


Laura October 14, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Hi Katy,

I’m in Phoenix, AZ, where it’s supposed to reach a ‘cozy’ 99 degrees this weekend,so leaving the furnace turned off is not an issue.

Count me in, though, for a “No A/C Challenge” come spring!


Kat October 14, 2009 at 11:04 pm

We try to keep our house cool during the day, but have had our furnace on for at least a week! That said, we’ve got a blanket of snow outside atm. It’s been as cold as -10 C (sorry, don’t know Farenheit very well). Luckily, it should be warming up this weekend, and we can turn the furnace off.

As an aside, I love your blog! I rarely comment as I usually read offline 🙂


nancy from mass October 15, 2009 at 6:25 am

Well, I didn’t make it very far! Hubby did not start a fire in the fireplace yesterday like he was planning and the house got down to 56 by 8pm. Since we were expecting 30’s last night, I was worried about the pipes…so…I turned the furnace on but set the thermostat at 58. It was sooo cold last night when we went to bed (dressed in fleece or flannel, in flannel sheets with 2 quilts and a down comforter).


Meredith October 15, 2009 at 9:03 am

Yes, we’ve been waylaid by the weather here too. It’s been going down to O celsius these days, and our childrens’ rooms, which are over our garage, get pretty chilly at night. We have managed to only turn the heat on at night, but today it is only 4 celsius, and so this might be our breaking point. But we do live in Canada…..


Kris-ND October 15, 2009 at 10:44 am

Sorry you had to turn your heater on. I live in North West North Dakota…enough said…lol

We went from turning off our air and enjoying fall to having to turn on the heater because of a spell of lows in the teens and highs in the 20’s.


Nicki October 15, 2009 at 11:34 am

I live in north eastern Iowa, and temps have already gotten down to the low 20’s during some overnights. I have yet to turn on the furnace, but we have a gas fireplace in our great room on the main level…I turn it on and leave it on overnight and that does the trick for right now. A while back I read something somewhere that said a gas fireplace costs something like $.15/day to run. I don’t know how much our furnace costs to run, but I’d imagine it’s less than that.


Jennifer October 15, 2009 at 11:55 am

Wow! Seasons!!!! It actually has been raining here for 3 days in Orange County (CA) but sunny today….actually cooling off but I still slept in shorts last night.

People who live around here are funny…..a tiny bit of a draft and the scarves come out. Hahaa. I’m off with my scarf to go drink a smoothie at jamba juice!


Carla October 15, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Living in Texas, no heat? THIS is no challenge. Yawn. I could do without heat until December most likely. (Maybe later.) What would be a real challenge would be keeping the air conditioner off in the summer. You see, the air is still on. Mid October.



charlie aka oldboyscout2 October 15, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Just some thoughts. One wonders why 57 at night ? It is an odd #. Warm stocking caps and/or electric (not green but they use so little) blankets will get ya all through low NIGHT temps. with comfort. Don’t want to go so low as to freeze the pipes. Also battery powered smoke alarms tend to start beeping at about 35 degrees. If a piano is in the house, it must not be exposed to large temp. swings.


thenonconsumeradvocate October 15, 2009 at 5:51 pm


57 seems to the number where the thermostat doesn’t kick in during the night.

And wearing a stocking cap at night feels too extreme to me. This is my response and yours will be different, which is fine.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


mary October 15, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I was in Phoenix a couple weeks ago . It was 102. when I flew home to St. Louis it was 62 degrees, almost froze when I got off the plane.


thenonconsumeradvocate October 15, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Just for the record, Portland is no longer freezing cold with wind. This means the furnace went back off again.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


charlie aka oldboyscout2 October 16, 2009 at 6:20 am

THANKS for quick reply. I forgot some folk have hair to mess up-ed from a stocking cap. Do wonder what ya think of elec. blankets ? They work other places than the bed room, ie., living room while watching DVDs. The Cords do get in the way, though.


Mandy - Birmingham, AL October 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

Like other Southerners, the AC still has to be used to zap out the suffocating humidity. Yesterday I came home to a humid apartment, there wasn’t enough wind to get adequate air flow. So I turned on the AC and forgot to turn it off when I went to bed.

I never get cold at night, but last night I just couldn’t manage to get that nice cozy feelings. But was enjoying sleep too much to turn off the AC.

Yesterday, no lie – I was in short sleeve shirt. It was probably in the mid to upper 70s. Today, the high is 58. My apartment has been cold all day. I turned on the heat for maybe 5 minutes and felt so silly that I turned it off.

I put on a 3 layer and made hot cocoa. But this weekend I will be buying a pair of slipper boots (new) and hunting for sweats and consignment stores. If only I could find ones made of cotton and not fleece!


k. October 16, 2009 at 12:13 pm

we’ve been plugging forward sans heat in pittsburgh. this morning there was the first snow flurries of the year and the house thermostat dipped down to 47. the high for tomorrow is in the upper-thirties, im worried we wont make it. the blankets are out and doubled and all the more reason to cuddle on the couch, crank up the stove and keep up with our end of season canning.


Laurie October 16, 2009 at 4:36 pm

We live in a town about 20 mi. north of Seattle & the chilly, rainy fall weather is in full swing here. My honey has been working non-stop on some major HVAC issues in our house, which means we have no heat available at the moment, however-we usually don’t even consider turning on the furnace until it gets to be about 50 degrees inside the house, preferring to keep our bill low,(esp. as we have been unemployed well over a year now) and instead we layer on warm clotehs, blankies & have even been known to wear gloves while we hang out at home! We also have a gas fireplace we can sit near to warm us up even more if necessary when watching a movie. We even sleep with the window open & the ceiling fan on in our upstairs bedroom no matter the outside temp.-snuggling up together and sleeping much better in a cool room anyway! Being from the Midwest, it rarely feels COLD here to me, rather, it is more the dampness of the Pacific Northwest that can chill me! As my guy likes to say, that grunge look Seattle is famous for actually is a weather not a fashion statement!


namastemama October 17, 2009 at 8:44 am

We are experiencing the third coldest Oct. on record. ughh. cold AND wet in SE IL . The heat came on this week. However, we have switched to real time pricing on the electric and knocked the heat down at least 4 degrees in the morning. I am also looking into radiant heat for the bathrooms because in the morn we heat the whole house just for my hubby to get up and out the door. No need for that.


Laura B October 19, 2009 at 12:46 pm

I’m in Portland and as of yet, have not turned on the furnace, although I did turn the heater on in the bathroom last week so my kids could get dressed with a little warmth. We’ve had several fires in the fireplace which I love – adds warmth AND ambiance…


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