Staying warm in a cold house
November 17, 2022 2:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm working from home most of the time, and don't want to heat up the whole house just for myself. What are some ways to keep just one body, mostly sitting at a desk, warm, while still being able to use a computer?

This question brought to you by European winter, rising utility costs, rising inflation... in short, just one of those 2022 things.
posted by gakiko to Home & Garden (40 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I also work from home most of the time, and don’t want to heat the whole house. An oil-filled electric radiator is keeping my office room a reasonable temperature. I really like mine because it has a thermostat and a timer, so I don’t accidentally leave it on all night.
posted by rockindata at 2:44 AM on November 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Really warm slippers, a blanket wrapped around my waist/legs like a skirt, a hot water bottle and regular breaks to get up and move around, plus a lunchtime walk if I can manage it. I hate burpees but they do get you warm! I also turn my morning shower to cold at the end for 30 seconds or so (I hate it but I love it?) and this really helps warm me up from the inside before I get going working from home.
posted by london explorer girl at 2:56 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I pack for a small webshop. While at work, I use a combination of woolen clothing (a Norwegian sweater or cardigan is the real deal, see if you can get one of those, or something similar) and a small electric heater positioned right under my desk. That way, you only heat when and where it's needed and the heat benefits you directly.
If your wrists and hands get cold: fingerless gloves.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:57 AM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: An electric blanket! A wearable one might help, or it may be possible to carefully cut a slit from one side to the center in a standard electric throw (between wires) so you can drape it over your shoulders like a ruana. (I have been debating doing this with mine.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:00 AM on November 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Wear TWO undershirts, long-sleeves preferred. Depending on how cold it gets in the room, consider those "driving" fingerless gloves to help your palm retain heat. A personal heater is an option, a small one just for your deks. Or if you like those Amaze panel heaters, those are pretty good for small rooms.
posted by kschang at 3:04 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: They're not the cheapest, but you can get hoodies that are heated by a battery pack. They're like electric blankets that move with you and never slip or fall off.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:20 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well hi there. Vermonter here. I bought one of these sherpa massive hoodies; it's been a game changer.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:41 AM on November 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Getting up to move around regularly helps a lot. Best way to stay warm, especially for hands and feet.

Hot water bottles either leak, or scald you, or both. Rather use a bag filled with lin seed or similar, and heat in a microwave. Careful not to heat too much, it really stinks when it burns.

Dress in lots of thin layers rather than one, big thick garment. Easier to adjust your temperature and more effective.

Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed to exclude drafts. Insulate your ceiling if possible.

Hang curtains in doorways to keep hot air in a room.

Gas heaters stink and are quite dangerous, not for explodey reasons, but because they create really bad air quality unless you have enough ventilation, which will cool the room down.

Best combination of effective heating and low electricity costs for heating just you at your desk is a halogen heater. It heats objects, not the air of the room like oil or gas heaters do, so not good for heating a large space. Also they create a really cosy, pleasant heat.

Drinking tea warms your hands and your insides. Have a good supply.
posted by Zumbador at 3:46 AM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've found that wearing fingerless gloves while working on my computer helps a lot. If my hands get cold, I'm miserable. I wear these merino wool gloves all day every day & I love them.
posted by belladonna at 3:56 AM on November 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I also work in an unheated warehouse, and the best way i've found to warm up just my desk area, is an infrared heater panel screwed to the underside of my desk, combined with a thermostat plug that keeps at the perfect temperature automatically.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 4:02 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I got this electric heat pad cloak thing and it is amazing. It gets roasting. Only other ways that really work for me are sprinting up the stairs a few times or a hot bath.
posted by jebs at 4:05 AM on November 17, 2022

Best answer: Make sure your skin is not dry. Before sitting down at my home desk in my cold house, I slather my feet with Bag Balm, then layer on my heavy socks and slippers. I don't wash my hands after putting on the Bag Balm. I don't think this does anything for your body temperature but dry hands and feet multiply the feeling of discomfort.
posted by BibiRose at 4:11 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's no substitute for layers of clothes. A lot of heat is lost through the extremities, and particularly the head, so a hat makes a big difference. Slippers if you're not already wearing shoes. Fingerless gloves if possible? If resorting to heating, efficiency lies in heating as small space as possible. We're taking it as a challenge to go as long as we can this winter without central heating, but we are allowing ourselves hot water bottles under a blanket, and not only in bed - also on chairs during the day. There's the initial energy cost, sure, but so long as you heat no more water than you need, you'll get hours of benefit. But do trap the heat under a blanket or under a layer of clothes. I don't want to knock other people's answers, but I think what some of the above answers might be missing is just how darned inefficient/expensive it is to do any sort of ongoing electric heating. I don't just mean from the point of view of bills - just making things hotter (or colder) than they want to be takes masses more energy, relatively speaking, than it takes to do almost anything else. Best of luck in your endeavours!
posted by nthdegx at 4:49 AM on November 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Firstly, try not to get cold at all, but instead maintain your personal warmth.

Depending on how warm you need to be, the answer is a blanket, electric blanket or hot water bottle (or a combination) on your lap. Good socks and slippers, and warmer layers on top. You could also use an arm warmer or fingerless gloves as well.

Eat well and drink hot drinks.

The most cost effective electric space heating (ie heating an individual room) is usually by using an oil filled radiator. If you're taking this approach, then you want your room to be as small and cosy as possible (curtains, draught excluder, carpet/rug) and shut the door to the rest of the house.
posted by plonkee at 4:51 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, one other thing: open any blinds on curtains to any windows that are letting in direct sunlight. There's free heat-gain to be had thanks to the greenhouse effect created by the windows. But close them again for the insulating effect when there's no direct sunlight penetrating. And just to note sunlight does not mean daylight - I'm talking direct line of sight to the sun on a clear day.
posted by nthdegx at 4:52 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Direct line of sight to the sun can be a bit rare. It is actually at the moment sunny in Copenhagen, but I would rely on it for much heat.

Back when I lived here, fingerless gloves, a hat, and layers.

What I always wanted but never managed to arrange: a kotatsu. I think something like it could work for a desk job.
posted by nat at 5:26 AM on November 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A heater under the desk you're sitting at is noticeably more effective at keeping you warm than one in the open part of the room, if the desk is big enough (and the space underneath uncluttered enough) to permit.

Hot drinks are good, but if you have to keep leaving your one cosy space / room in order to refill them or to go to the loo, you may find you get too chilled in the process for it to really feel like a win. Filling a thermos first thing reduces the number of refill journeys, and you might want to put an on-demand heater in (or pointing into) the bathroom to mitigate the latter issue a little.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:33 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My gamechanger has been something like this heated shoulder/back warmer but used as a lap blanket (I got mine from Lidl but that one looks similar). With that and one of these fluffy fleeces from Uniqlo, plus fleecy socks and slippers, I can work fairly happily down to about 15C.
posted by penguin pie at 5:41 AM on November 17, 2022

Best answer: Oh, and having a small digital thermometer on my desk has led me to realise that my comfort in different temperatures is not so much about the actual temperature, but how long I've spent sitting still. Some days 16C feels fine and others I'm freezing, but the variable is how long I've been sitting down. Getting out for a mid-afternoon walk really helps.
posted by penguin pie at 5:43 AM on November 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: A heater under the desk you're sitting at is noticeably more effective at keeping you warm than one in the open part of the room, if the desk is big enough (and the space underneath uncluttered enough) to permit.

If your desk is enclosed they make little 100-200W panel heaters that mount directly to the desk. Much safer than most other options.
posted by Mitheral at 5:56 AM on November 17, 2022

Best answer: I am a big fan of Uniqlo's ultra light down vests; I wear one pretty much full time when I am at home in the winter. Not too bulky, and when worn over a wool sweater they keep my core temp nice and cozy. They're a bit pricey new, I was able to thrift one online for around $15US. Good luck staying cozy to us all!
posted by missmobtown at 6:24 AM on November 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: hot tea and a cozy hat. maybe a cat on your lap.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:40 AM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It might be worth considering humidity as well as temperature. If it creeps over 65% I find even temperatures over 20'c uncomfortably clammy-chilly, and I'm someone who runs much hotter than average.

We use a large dehumidifier periodically now through winter to cope with the atmosphere in near-oceanic northern Europe, a pretty open-plan house, cooking and showering for 2 adults and kids... we've probably cut our time with the heating on by more than 80%.

A small one in a closed room would be pretty efficient to run from time to time - and it would also put out some heat itself as well.
posted by protorp at 7:48 AM on November 17, 2022

Best answer: I have a space heater under my desk and also dress in layers - long underwear under pants, couple of shirts and a sweater. Sometimes I even wear my ski cap.
posted by jenh526 at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2022

Best answer: Lots of overlap with previous, but here are my tactics (old house, don't want to heat the whole thing to my preferred temp):
-work out before work, so my core body heat is higher
-close-fitting shirt under fluffy (often fleece) top - I have a boatload of these for "fancy" home office wear
-fleece pants, or leggings under fleece pants if it's really cold
-wool socks in fleece-lined slippers
-lots of tea, including a mug warmer on my desk
-fingerless gloves if I need them
-I'm not above wearing a knit (also wool) hat unless I'm on a really important call
-multiple layers of lap blankets, including one under me and one electric one
-heated rice bag against my core as needed

...and a space heater.
posted by okayokayigive at 8:19 AM on November 17, 2022

Best answer: My wife swears by Cuddl Duds which are thin layers but very warm. I don't know anything about the fabric, why it keeps her warm, but they're her go-to when we start on winter weather. We are in North Florida so not as cold as some places in the US, but our son lives in Seattle and they have been effective in the Pacific Northwest during times when it was snowing so I think they will work anywhere cold.
posted by TimHare at 8:27 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A big game changer for me has been a heated desk pad on my desk. I can't type with fingerless gloves, and having a nice warm surface to just rest your hands on makes a world of difference, even with an oil filled radiator plugging away under the desk in the coldest part of the year. The only complaint I have is that I'd like to find one that wasn't (still?) offgassing 12 months later. But maybe it's my normal neoprene mousepad.
posted by Kyol at 8:54 AM on November 17, 2022

Best answer: You could turn your desk into a kotatsu with a tablecloth that reaches the floor and small fire-safe space heater. Google "kotatsu" for details.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:48 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Poncho. I've found a poncho on top of the jumper makes a big difference, kind of gives you an extra bubble of warmer air around your body. Even a thin layer of fabric makes a big difference.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:50 AM on November 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: What's working for me: heavy insulated curtain on the window next to me. Blanket with sleeves. Heating pad at the small of my back, moved to my feet as needed. Fingerless gloves, slipper socks, hats (my head is shaved so gets really cold).

When it gets really cold, a towel over my keyboard/trackball so my hands are insulated.
posted by buildmyworld at 10:54 AM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I find chenille to be the warmest clothing to wear while wfh. There are a lot of old chenille cardigans and sweaters at thrift stores and it's easy to find by feel.
posted by jabes at 12:31 PM on November 17, 2022

Best answer: Lots of great suggestions here. I don't see it anywhere, so I just wanted to add -- wear cozy insulated actual shoes/boots with thick soles and/or put a pillow/dog bed/pile of blankets/thick rug under your desk. When I am working from home, I tend to want to show up at work in only my socks/slippers, but wearing some clunky snow boots (or even just Crocs) was a huge game-changer for warm tootsies. And resting your feet on something insulating you from the floor helps a ton, too.

Also, I'd suggest looking at where your desk is located in your house. Are you up against an exterior wall? Those can get awfully cold. Whether your back is to it or your feet are up against it, it might be part of the struggle. If it's possible to re-situate so that you are near interior walls, you might help your cause!

I'm also a huge fan of the lap and lower back heating pad.
posted by luzdeluna at 12:38 PM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Short version of what works for me without adding to the heating bill: wool, fleece, some hand weights, and hot drinks.

On the bottom, wool socks under fleece leggings tucked into cozy slippers (I can't stand tights, but you'd probably be fine with either wool or fleece tights if you prefer), long warm skirt because it retains a warm cushion of air better than pants over the leggings would. Lap blankets would work similarly, I just found them more annoying and difficult to keep in place than wearing a skirt of similar material.

Up top, long sleeve base layer (some of mine are merino) under a wool sweater; sometimes the base layer has long enough sleeves to include thumbholes and cover part of the palms and for me, these work better than fingerless gloves. Wool watchcap up top unless I'm on video; fleece is cheaper but makes my hair staticky.

If I feel chilly (and I'm not on a call), I get up, do a quick round of 3-4 different exercises (shrugs with farmer's walk, shoulder presses, triceps kickbacks, biceps curls - Zottman curls in particular help my hands and forearms feel warmer), with the hand weights, and replenish my tea. If it's just my hands feeling chilly, I'll do some wrist curls with the weights while sitting.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 12:40 PM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I find keeping my neck warm makes a huge difference in how warm I feel overall. I have some nice scarves that I wear when I'm in the office or going to be on screen for meetings, but a lot of the time at home I just wear a fuzzy infinity scarf or a neck gaiter like this.
posted by Sabby at 12:44 PM on November 17, 2022

Best answer: When WFH in the winter, I use:

* a heat pad, generally in my back
* woolen socks in fuzzy crocs (I also don't put my feet directly on the floor: I have a IKEA Dagotto foot-rest)
* Decathlon yoga pants with a turn-down waistband which I don't turn down, so that it covers the small of my back, sometimes I add a form-fitting legging underneath
* long sleeve t-shirt/sweatshirt dress
* fleece jacket, sometimes two: a form-fitting sport one and a bigger looser one on top
* merino wool fingerless gloves
* blanket over the legs
* snood, either wool or wool/silk
posted by snakeling at 1:59 PM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I didn't see anyone mention these articles, which I will not summarize, except to say that the first one has a very similar title as the Ask. All 3 are from Low Tech Magazine:

How to Keep Warm in a Cool House

Restoring the Old Way of Warming: Heating People, not Places

Insulation: First the body then the home

They're all a bit lengthy, and consider this thread to have hit the major highlights. But I've seen no one here mention putting a 60 watt light bulb under a desk with a blanket, just as an example. So there's some gold, I think...

Stay warm!
posted by AbelMelveny at 3:17 PM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you can't type in fingerless gloves you can get wristlets with a thumb hole that cover your hand as far as the base of your digits. You can also make them yourself out of socks.

Use a footstool. The ground level in any area is several degrees colder than slightly off the ground.

A chair with wings is also warmer than one without. That's why they made them. If you are using a laptop instead of sitting at a desk a nice wing back upholstered chair will be warmer.

Drape a blanket or a towel on the seat of your chair, hanging down the front so there is a blanket behind your legs, even if you don't want to use a lap robe because you need to get up and down or because it is too bulky on your lap.

Room screens can also be helpful to make the part of the room where you are working warmer. They help a small sized heater do a better job.

Squirm and wriggle your toes and such - Sitting still the way they taught you to do in kindergarten is going to make your circulation slow down and will make you colder sooner.

Pockets, or a lap robe or anything you can tuck your hands under to warm them up when you are not typing or using a mouse is helpful.

If your hands are turning into icicles get up and run the water very hot and hold them under the tap. This also works for cold feet but takes longer because of having to take shoes and socks off and put them back on again.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:57 PM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hot water bottles! One under your feet, one on your lap!
posted by TheCoug at 7:08 AM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Coldweather athletes know how to stay warm. As everyone stated, layers.

Silk long underwear is a great way to keep your core warm.

Extremities with good hat, gloves and insulating socks. Beyond that: more layers.
posted by lalochezia at 8:05 PM on November 22, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all the tips! I can confirm that wearing an extra layer, wool socks (over my usual ones) and a light scarf makes a lot of difference. Getting up to do some exercises is also good. But OMG, the XXL blanket hoodie has been a revelation!
posted by gakiko at 5:58 AM on December 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

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