Being a Cleveland, Ohio native, I have had my share of harsh winters. Temperatures here regularly drop into the teens, with a few negatives, and rarely ever creep back above 40 degrees before April. Add into the mix lake-effect snow, and the whole city can turn into a winter wonderland in a matter of 20 minutes. Here are some tips on how to survive a northern winter:
1. Put plastic on your windows
Many northern cities have buildings with older windows, and those windows leak heat like crazy and let cold drafts in. Most hardware stores and supermarkets sell plastic kits that are easy to seal over windows in order to keep the heat in. These generally save you money in heating costs and make your house or apartment far less drafty.
2. Keep your thermostat steady
Keeping your heat set at the same temperature is actually more efficient than drastically lowering the temperature while you’re gone and then raising it again when you return. This is because every time the temperature is raised back up again, the furnace kicks into overdrive and uses more gas. If you must reduce the temperature when you leave, don’t drop it lower than about 5-10 degrees.
On a particularly cold evening, baking can do wonders for making the night feel less chilly. The oven preheating while you mix ingredients warms your kitchen while being productive boosts your mood. Lighting some yummy-smelling candles and playing some music makes the whole house cozy. I recommend baking muffins, since you can eat the leftovers for breakfast the rest of the week. When you are done with the oven, leave the door slightly open as it cools so you can take full advantage of that extra heat.
4. Don’t run your car in idle more than necessary and watch those brakes
Running your car for more than a couple minutes in idle to warm it up is not necessary. A car actually warms up faster during it's initial drive at a lower speed. However, letting the car sit in idle uses more gas and costs you more in the long run. Also, be familiar with the braking system of the car you’re driving. If you know your car has anti-lock brakes, never pump them if you start skidding. Pumping anti-lock brakes can actually hinder the mechanism and render them less effective and even damage them. If your car does not have anti-lock brakes, then it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with how to pump them if you do hit an icy patch. The idea here is to apply varying degrees of pressure until your car begins to feel more stable. Pumping your brakes, in this case, helps your wheels to reestablish contact with the road, keeping you from sliding.
5. Take your vitamins
Taking your multivitamin helps keep you healthy and your immune system strong, especially as cold and flu season begins. Those living in northern cities can often go weeks without any direct sunshine, since cloud cover gets so thick. The result of this is lower vitamin D, so many doctors recommend taking a supplement in addition to your multivitamin. Always consult your doctor, of course, before beginning to take extra vitamins.
6. Have fun!
Dark days and freezing, windy nights can certainly lead to the winter blues, so don’t forget to have a little fun. When it’s snowing, don’t be afraid to go outside and build a snowman, make snow angels and act like a kid. Come inside afterward and take a hot bubble bath to warm back up. Gather your friends for an evening of sledding and hot cocoa afterward or arrange a potluck style dinner to make winter more fun.
7. Adopt some houseplants
The cold, winter months mean you can have little contact with the outdoors and with nature, so bring some nature inside! Having a little green, leafy corner of your house can cheer you up, and the plants’ leaves clean the air around you.