Warm in the dorm
January 8, 2006 7:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for creative ways to stay warm in my dorm room.

Bad windows, tile floors and no thermostat control - brr. I'd like to ask the collective for some inventive, unusual or not-so-obvious ways to stay warm this winter. Extra points for either very practical, or very Golderbergian. I'm not looking for "put on a sweater" , but more like "build a system using plastic tubing, water and a pump to transfer your laptop's heat to a foot warmer." Well, maybe not that crazy. You get the idea.
posted by luftmensch to Home & Garden (58 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Put on a sweater.
Buy a space heater.
Get shrinkable plastic window insulation.
posted by blue mustard at 7:46 AM on January 8, 2006

not very exciting, but fingerless gloves keep your hands warm while typing. if you get gloves made from microfiber,you can just cut the ends off (knitted fingerless are cooler, but you can't just cut the ends of knitted gloves, they have to be made fingerless).
posted by andrew cooke at 7:50 AM on January 8, 2006

For the tile floor, a rug.
posted by The White Hat at 7:53 AM on January 8, 2006

Crawl under the covers with at least one other person.
posted by emelenjr at 8:00 AM on January 8, 2006

Wearing a hat will help -- you lose lots of body heat through your head.

Also, the more humidity, the warmer you'll feel. If you've got some kind of burner or heating device, keep a pot of water gently boiling on it as often as possible to get some moisture into the air.
posted by JanetLand at 8:22 AM on January 8, 2006

"Crawl under the covers with at least one other person."

And a laptop.
posted by eleyna at 8:25 AM on January 8, 2006

go to a camping store and get one of those (cheap, like $3 or $4) plastic, reflective mylar sheets. put it on the bed, under the sheets. it'll reflect your body heat toward you when yr in bed. i've used them a lot, works great.
gotta second the shrinkable plastic window insulation idea, too. (get a kit at home-depot or the like) ~amazing~ how much heat this will save. (first, seal any obvious airleaks in the window & framing [caulk]. then apply the shrink wrap etc. very little heat can pass through that 3 or 4 inch dead-air space you'll create between glass and plastic.
posted by The_Auditor at 8:27 AM on January 8, 2006

Whenever I needed a quick fix to handle the cold (like when the heating went out), I'd stick my clothes in the dryer and pile them on top of the bed when they were done. I'd fall asleep and wake up when it was warmer. Now if you could build a device that took two loads and automatically transferred the new one to your bed and put the others in (while cleaning out the dryer of other people's clothes and putting in any change you need), that would be impressive.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:36 AM on January 8, 2006

late addition: hang a sheet (or tapestry, etc) from yr ceiling, effectively lowering the ceiling height. you'll raise ambient temp in the room slightly because the area above sheet will be cooler. (and really if the "sheet" were plastic this will work even better.)
i tend to think in terms of cutting yr losses as a first defense when it comes to keeping warm.
posted by The_Auditor at 8:36 AM on January 8, 2006

Since it's a dorm, you have no electricity bill and should use space heaters. I was just at Target yesterday and they had a boxed set of two of those little ceramic heaters for $30. Put on on each side of the room and you should be all set.
posted by luser at 8:47 AM on January 8, 2006

Oh this brings back memories.

If hot water is plentiful and free, buy four hot water bottles:
2 for the bed - pop them in a half hour before you're due to go to sleep;
2 for where you're sitting (e.g. 1 for your feet, 1 wrapped in a light blanket behind you when seated at your desk).

And don't forget to layer your clothing. Good luck!
posted by ceri richard at 8:53 AM on January 8, 2006

I use a blowdryer to warm up my bed before I get under the covers,and run it for a few minutes before I get up on cold mornings.
posted by hortense at 8:56 AM on January 8, 2006

Please, please be insanely careful using space heaters. Or, better yet, don't use them. I lost a good friend because of a space heater fire and looking back it isn't worth that risk to be a little warmer.

The plastic sheeting on the windows works well, I swore by it when I lived up North in a place that wasn't fully winterized.
posted by SassHat at 8:58 AM on January 8, 2006

An alternative to JanetLand's suggestion that doesn't require a burner: buy an electric kettle, if the room is small the steam will definitely provide some heat.

And yes, get electric heaters if don't have to pay the bills yourself (if you do, avoid! they tend to consume a lot).

Also, the old hot water bottle.

And, erm, if you have to put on an extra sweater... put on a synthetic pile sweater rather than wool, it'll keep you a lot warmer.
posted by funambulist at 9:00 AM on January 8, 2006

but you can't just cut the ends of knitted gloves, they have to be made fingerless).
Sure you can. I've done this plenty of times with cheap synthetic knit gloves. Just use a lighter to gently singe the ends so that they don't fray. That said, the purpose-made ones look and feel better.

As far as suggestions... two words: electric blanket.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:00 AM on January 8, 2006

"Crawl under the covers with at least one other person." ... And a laptop.

Man, college kids are way kinkier now than in my day. But how do you have sex with a laptop? Or is just supposed to watch?
posted by kindall at 9:07 AM on January 8, 2006

A good rogering.
posted by grouse at 9:08 AM on January 8, 2006

kindall, the laptops to capture the video. The video's to sell on the internet. The cash is to buy a warmer apartment.
posted by substrate at 9:12 AM on January 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

The_Auditor : go to a camping store and get one of those (cheap, like $3 or $4) plastic, reflective mylar sheets.

And while there, see if they've got any down-filled slippers. I find that if my feet are warm, I don't feel as uncomfortable.
posted by hangashore at 9:20 AM on January 8, 2006

My family swears by scarves for our not-well-insulated victorian house in the NE. They've been trying to convert me, and I have to admit they are quite cozy.
posted by heresiarch at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2006

Take advantage of the free electricity and buy a space heater. Just turn it off whenever you leave the room, or go to sleep.
posted by rxrfrx at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2006

If you have or can get an electric blanket, fold it up and put it in the seat of your desk chair. You may want to put a sheet or something over it for comfort or cleanliness. In any case, when you sit in the chair to do homework or geek online or whatever, it'll be like having a built in space heater. As an added bonus; if the chair is warm and the rest of the room is cold, you're less likely to find excuses to get out of the chair and, hopefully, more likely to actually do your work.

Of course, you can also use this approach in your bed; put the electric blanket underneath your fitted sheet. Turn it on ten minutes or so before bed and, presto, everything's toasty warm for you when you crash.
posted by Clay201 at 9:32 AM on January 8, 2006

Slippers/rugs are a good call. I set out a pot of water by my heat vent, and it evaporates in a day or or two, but I'm in a dorm in the Great Minnesotan Desert. The water helps with the dryness, and the air feels less conducive to temperature changes. Thinking about it, that may make sense, giving the air a higher thermal mass.
posted by adamwolf at 9:41 AM on January 8, 2006

I don't know if this works but I heard it suggested on a radio talk show a few weeks ago: put hot red pepper in your socks. Do let us know if it works (I'm just not adventurous enough.)
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 9:50 AM on January 8, 2006

A carpet, curtains [and maybe some sort of plastic window-sealing stuff] over the windows, a down comforter for your bed, and perhaps a few smaller and lighter blankets that you can use when you're just sitting around elsewhere in the room. I wouldn't want to depend on a space heater, particularly while sleeping. Having a generally cool room isn't necessarily much of a problem, as long as you can stay warm when you need to. I find that it's actually easier to work when it's chilly, as I'm less likely to get tired.
posted by ubersturm at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2006

Seconding the electric blanket. Safer than a space heater and works like a charm. I put mine on a timer so that it turns on automatically before i usually go to bed, off in the middle of the night so I don't get too hot and then on again around the time I wake up.
posted by pithy comment at 10:08 AM on January 8, 2006

Your college may well prohibit space heaters for obvious reasons. Rugs, plastic sheeting for the windows, silk underwear? No fire risk. However dull it may seem, your choice of clothing will have the most impact on keeping you warm.
posted by holgate at 10:13 AM on January 8, 2006

Heated matress pad

For sitting at your desk, I second the hat, scarf and fingerless gloves. You could also get a heating pad from a drug store for your feet.

I don't think I'd sit on a folded up electric blanket, they really aren't made for it and folding a wire and sitting on it could break it.
posted by Good Brain at 10:19 AM on January 8, 2006

Most colleges prohibit space heaters, but many will allow the oil-filled radiator types. (At least the University of North Dakota did, and a friend had one at University of Minnesota in Duluth. Grand Forks, ND and Duluth, MN are the coldest campuses in the country.)
posted by nathan_teske at 10:22 AM on January 8, 2006

Get a heated rug.
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:58 AM on January 8, 2006

sleep with your roommate . . .it worked well for me on cold nights at a college in Idaho. In fact, some of my fondest memories . . . .
posted by Zendogg at 10:58 AM on January 8, 2006

Kill the window draughts. Roll newspaper into long rolls, and then jam the windows shut on them. Different thicknesses for different parts of ther window. Killed 95% of the draught on my apt this winter.
posted by zaelic at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2006

Those grain-filled microwaveable pillows are great and retain a lot of heat for ages. I have one I bought in Walgreen's a few years ago, about 2ft long with a rope loop at each end, so I can either stretch it out to warm the bed, or curl it round my feet or round my neck or across my back.

And you can also buy them as teddies.
posted by essexjan at 11:25 AM on January 8, 2006

  • Buy a space heater.
  • hang a sheet (or tapestry, etc) from yr ceiling
Both of these are prohibited in my dorm.
posted by oaf at 11:26 AM on January 8, 2006

I love my electric oil-filled radiator. As I have poor circulation and no amount of heavy clothing will make me comfortable enough to study, it's a great way to prevent conflict with my energy-saving roommates.
posted by transona5 at 11:31 AM on January 8, 2006

(Housemates, that is; they set the thermostat to 65 and I sit in my nice warm room.)

Here's my radiator; someone gave it a bad review, but I find it extremely effective in heating a medium-sized bedroom. It makes no noise.
posted by transona5 at 11:40 AM on January 8, 2006

Good Brain:

I used the electric blanket trick for many months at a time with no ill effects. The wire never broke. I seem to recall that I put something on top of it to make it more comfortable.
posted by Clay201 at 11:44 AM on January 8, 2006

Take advantage of the free electricity and buy a space heater. Just turn it off whenever you leave the room, or go to sleep.

Or put it on a timer for extra safety. Just make sure the timer's good and you understand it and can operate it well before you start relying on it. And don't set the heater higher or anything just because of the timer.

Combine this with one or more of the warm-bed methods, and you should be covered.
posted by namespan at 12:36 PM on January 8, 2006

Also, have you considered icebagging the thermostat? Or, to be more Goldbergian, running some PVC pipe from an opening outside of the building to an insulated box you affix to the thermostat?
posted by namespan at 12:38 PM on January 8, 2006

And in case you find regular size electric blankets expensive, there are lap size blankets available as well. The mister bought one for about $45 CDN.
posted by deborah at 12:56 PM on January 8, 2006

My feet get unbearable cold in the winter, and I've found that those fluffy "feel how soft!" socks that seemed to pop up everywhere this winter -- they're made of acrylic and look like chenille -- keep my feet really warm.
posted by sugarfish at 1:04 PM on January 8, 2006

Be a little like a medieval king trying to keep warm in his castle and cathedral.

First, robes and over-the-top headwear. Try a large, warm bathrobe that fits over your street clothes. Also, a goofy hat with ear flaps that you only wear at home. Or a big pope hat filled with insulation.

Then tapestries. Consider compartmentalizing the room by using a large sheet of clear plastic hang from ceiling to floor, wall to wall, so you can heat half of the room (for example, the half with your bed, which should also be the half with the heater) and ignore the other half.

And instead of stained glass, tape clear or colored bubble wrap over your windows. If one layer helps but it isn't enough, put another layer over it. Also, seal the door with standard rubber door seals.
posted by pracowity at 2:18 PM on January 8, 2006

My flat is insanely cold as well (some oil in my kitchen solidified today!) - I've found that wearing at least 2 pairs of socks, always wearing shoes, fingerless gloves and 2 or 3 tops the minimum. On occasions, a coat and a woolly hat is necessary (fashion is not a consideration when you're freezing!).

Wrap a duvet over/around you when watching TV, close every door and window to stop heat escaping, check for draughts, drink hot stuff, use a hot water bottle (or bottles), keep your hands and feet warm and just keep thinking it's only a few months until it starts to get warm again!

Oh, and I've recently found that, if you seem to be getting colder and colder, that going out for a fun kicks the circulation back into gear and, once you get back home, you're nice and toasty for quite a while.
posted by TheDonF at 2:42 PM on January 8, 2006

That bold text above was meant to be this link.
posted by TheDonF at 2:44 PM on January 8, 2006

Space heaters with fans stink because they make noise, are inefficient, dangerous and get clogged with dust after a while.

Get one of those electric wheeled radiators instead, they are pretty cheap and keep a nice even amount of heat pumping out.
posted by parallax7d at 2:46 PM on January 8, 2006

One thing I can add to this discussion is the suggestion to wear fleece-lined jeans, available locally at Mark's Work Wearhouse and by mail order from L.L.Bean and other sources.
posted by jholland at 3:07 PM on January 8, 2006

A good rogering.

The meme is a brisk rogering. Keep up, will ya?

As for space heaters, ceramic ones are still a bit dangerous, but oil-filled ones are considerably safer. All space heaters can overload electrical supplies and lead to fires inside the wall, though, so keep that in mind. That's why dorms usually prohibit them.

Let's see -- before you put up the plastic window kit ($1.99 at Ace!) you should duct tape all the window joints, so that you'll do a better job creating a dead space that will insulate the room.

Is your hallway usually colder, due to outside doors and such? Then get some foam weatherstripping and stick it to the bottom of the door. Are there air vents such as a transom? Cover those with plastic, too.

You could also, er, aggressively weatherstrip the dorm's outside doors; they probably need it. Every little bit helps.
posted by dhartung at 4:10 PM on January 8, 2006

I ran about 3 large workstations with 21" screens. It kept the room uncomfortably warm.
posted by Triode at 4:29 PM on January 8, 2006

nathan_teske writes "many will allow the oil-filled radiator types"

They didn't even bother with central heat in one of the dorms I stayed in, just one of those oil filled jobs in each room.
posted by Mitheral at 4:41 PM on January 8, 2006

If you go the Electric heater route, you might want to check and make sure what you buy is UL rated, and follow their guidelines for using it - If you buy used, make sure it's got a working tipover switch.
posted by Orb2069 at 6:24 PM on January 8, 2006

Try placing a cold cloth over the thermostat. It should make your heat come on. Rinse and repeat.

I also find slippers and warm socks to be a huge help.
posted by rosethorn at 7:06 PM on January 8, 2006

er, I meant a cold WET cloth. :)
posted by rosethorn at 7:07 PM on January 8, 2006

1. Sew a small pillow (6inchx6inch)
2. Fill pillow with a couple of cups of feed corn (the kind you feed to horses and cows) and sew it shut.
3. Pop pillow into a microwave for about four minutes, regular mode.
4. Place heated pillow anywhere heat is needed, especially nice when you put it in your bed before bedtime to warm up the sheets.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:28 PM on January 8, 2006

Should mention that pillow can be reuseduntil corn gets a stinky whiff of overcookedness, which for me took three years.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:33 PM on January 8, 2006

"Humidity Fact" - a 10% increase in relative humidity makes the air feel "1 Degree Warmer!" If you are in cold climes, the humidity is probably low in the winter time. Getting a humidifier/vaporizer of some kind will increase the humidity in the room and make it feel warmer.

Putting on more clothes seems obvious, but I don't believe anyone has said the magic word: Polarfleece. A nice polarfleece pullover will make a world of difference. I'm partial to shearling slippers, also.
posted by spock at 8:39 PM on January 8, 2006

I just bought a space heater for $20 today from Rite Aid. They are the bee's knees.
posted by Radio7 at 3:12 AM on January 9, 2006

Response by poster: As a few folks mentioned, space heaters are indeed not an option, unfortunately. Plenty of other good advice so far, though.
posted by luftmensch at 8:45 AM on January 9, 2006

Those grain-filled microwaveable pillows are great and retain a lot of heat for ages....And you can also buy them as teddies.

Also as slippers, which don't stay warm as long as a hot water bottle but are very toasty - instant toe warmth is the biz.
posted by penguin pie at 10:34 AM on January 9, 2006

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