Some Winter Tips

I have been coming across various tips on dealing with wintertime issues. Some of them are pretty good. Some are not. I have done some investigation and can pass along some tips that you can trust.

De-Icing Windshields

Sometimes, it is better to use a commercial product than a DIY alternative. De-icing windshields is such a case. Alternative recipes abound on the ‘net, including ones using vinegar or rubbing (Isopropyl) alcohol mixed with water. These products can de-wax or otherwise damage your car’s paint. Commercial products are inexpensive and safe for your car. It is penny-wise and pound foolish to not use a common inexpensive product on a multi-thousand dollar car.

Some other tips include:

  • Raise your wipers when you come home at night. It makes the windshield that much easier to scrape.
  • Pre-warm your car several minutes with the defroster running before going out with the scraper.
  • Cover the windshield when you come home.

Starting Fires the Easy Way

Starting a fire in a wood stove is somewhat of an art. We have found that if you surround the small kindling fire with large blocks of wood (basically making a wall surrounding the fire), it reflects the heat and gives off flammable gases both of which help the fire to get going much more easily.

The kindling or other fire-starter is another problem altogether. The best fire-starter is fatwood pine. If you read the Amazon reviews, it is reputed to work better than the more common paraffin/sawdust blocks. While I haven’t done a side by side comparison, I can attest that nothing works as well as fatwood. It is hard to find in stores however. I have found a source on Amazon that is very inexpensive even when factoring in shipping.

Until your fatwood supply arrives in the mail, or if you otherwise find yourself without, I have found another excellent fire-starter you can make with minimal fuss using materials around your house. While we normally think of paraffin for making fire starters, petroleum jelly works just as well and can be used without messing with double boilers and such. Here is how you can make a fire starter in about 30 seconds.

Take a 3 oz bathroom sized paper cup (a bigger one will work too), and using a Popsicle stick put about a tablespoon of Vaseline in the cup. Leave the Popsicle stick in it. Why the Popsicle stick instead of a knife or spoon? Simple – you don’t have to clean up any utensils. Next, stuff a piece of Kleenex  into the cup. Put it in the center of your wood stove. Assemble your big pieces around it as well as some kindling. Make sure you have some wood suspended over the cup. Light the tissue wick and you’ll have a roaring fire in less than 10 minutes.

Save on Heating Costs

Unless you have a geo-thermal heat pump or heat with wood, you’ll need to economize by reducing your whole-house thermostat. You will be able to maintain a reasonable level of comfort at lower temperature settings by making use of local area electric heat. We use oil-filled heaters for the small individual rooms. They are really safe and permit custom temperature levels for each room of the house. With high fuel prices, electric heating isn’t really much different in cost than fuel-based heat sources in most cases.

You can save even more by using low-voltage DC electric mattress pads in the bedrooms. Many people have been shy of using traditional AC electric blankets due to concerns over radiation from the close proximity to AC fields. This fear is reasonable. Now that low voltage DC models are available, there is no reason not to use them.

Whatever you do, don’t fall for Amish made electric fireplace heaters or one of the other expensive electric heaters being hawked these days with fantastic efficiency claims. You shouldn’t have to pay more than $60 for an electric heater. They all put out exactly the same amount of heat. There is no reason to pay $400 for nothing more than empty claims.


Please contribute your wintertime tips in the comments.

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