Clothing to Keep You Warm at Home
As fuel bills rise, heating the home as usual is not always an option. A much cheaper way is to keep yourself warmer in colder rooms, here's a few tips of how to do this while remaining comfortable and being able to move about easily.
Insulate and Layer - Cover top and bottom with similar levels of clothing, all too typically the top part is insulated much better than the bottom, 2-3 layers v a single pair of thin trousers, leggings or tights. More than one layer traps warmth between as well as within layers.
Choose warmer fabrics - Putting more clothes on makes you warmer but also can make you feel a bit constricted, if you choose the right materials you'll need fewer and thinner layers and will still be warm.
Keep your feet warm - Why is it so hard for some of us to keep our feet warm?
Heated clothing - Rather than warm up the whole room, just warm up bits of yourself.
Insulate and Layer
The effectiveness of your usual winter indoor clothes can be improved by layering and choice of insulating materials. Layering means wearing clothes where the layers perform different roles rather than simply putting many layers on. By wearing a (small) number of garments instead of a single thicker one warm air (the real insulator) can be trapped between layers as well as within layers, so two 100g/m2 material weight garments would be warmer than a single one of 200g/m2. It also means that you can be more versatile by taking off or putting on layers so fine-tuning your comfort level.
Clothes to keep you warm should be fairly close fitting, not baggy so as to avoid warmed air being pumped in and out with movement and not tight so as to allow a small insulating air layer between the skin and outer layer, very tight clothes can also constrict blood flow making you colder. The only exception is thermal underwear which should be close fitting to the skin with another layer on top, it is best if the outer layer is not close fitting.
The commonest reason I see that leads people to complain about being cold is an unevenness in their dress. In particular wearing the same kind of clothes on the bottom half all year round is quite common whether from habit, fashion or a preference for the comfort of shorts, skirts, leggings etc.
Men's fleece lined trousers | Women's fleece lined trousers
Step one is to get some winter trouserswhich are the warmest solution compared to skirts or dresses. These should be of a substantial weight of soft material. Denim is not the best choice, though better if soft and much more so if fleece lined. Jogging trousers are a reasonable choice though tend to be loose and not have a very dense weave.
My preference is for moleskin or corduroy, both substantial cotton fabrics, better still if lined, though these are not the cheapest options.
A good pair of winter-weight trousers will suffice for most situations, if you feel the cold particularly or can't get suitable trousers a good next step is thermal underwear, long johns, close fitting next to the skin with somewhat looser trousers over the top.
If you start to layer with thermal underwear next to the skin the ability to wick away perspiration becomes important, this is best achieved through choice of materials, avoid cotton and go for synthetics or fine merino wool, breathability is of the utmost importance to remain warm and comfortable.
If you know the house will be cold all day long start with a long-sleeved thermal top, they can be outer wear if it gets warmer and an extra layer can be thrown over it when answering the door or popping out where you'll be seen.
After this the choice is of course virtually endless and it largely comes down to personal preference, though sleeves with buttons, neck zips or fully fastenble fronts give a flxibility to fine-tune your comfort level as the temperature or your activity level changes.
Choose Warmer Fabrics
The main thing to remember here is to avoid cotton for serious warmth. Brushed cotton or cotton fleece is good for traditional style shirts and trousers such as lined jeans, moleskin and corduroy as the fleece traps more air, the fabric is soft and conforms to the body and has a dense weave meaning that air doesn't flow though it easily.
As an actual insulating layer though cotton performs poorly and the alternatives below will all do better. So don't bother with cotton sweatshirts, knitwear or long thermal underwear. It can be tempting and often cotton garments can be fairly cheap, it's just not a good insulator.
Wool - Real wool is a natural product designed to keep sheep warm in the cold and wet, it's not a surprise to find that wool is an excellent material to make warm clothing from. It's not so good and keeping the wind out, but that doesn't matter if you're indoors. It's not the cheapest material but you can be sure that it will deliver at keeping the chills at bay. Merino wool is premium for performance and price, it may be used for thermal underwear where it also has natural anti-bacterial properties (gets less stinky!). More usually wool is used as a mid or outer insulating layer.
Fleece - A word that can refer to a brushed finish on the inside of garments or specifically to thermal polyester fabrics often made into pullovers, jackets, hats and gloves etc. It makes for very effective mid layer insulation in lighter and thinner weights and for jackets in heavier weights. A good choice, often very affordable, hardwearing and durable.
Polyester (knitted rather than as fleece) - used for thermal underwear for its wicking and insulating properties, warm and comfortable next to the skin, polypropylene is used similarly.
Acrylic - A wool-like synthetic often used knitted for jumpers, hats etc. Good insulating properties but less so than the wool equivalent, hard wearing and affordable.
How to keep your feet warm
"When your feet are cold, cover your head." - Inuit saying
You will hardly ever get cold feet in isolation, cold feet are an indicator of a lack of overall body warmth. The body's response to losing too much warmth is to cool down the extremities, look at it like turning down radiators in less used rooms if the boiler can't cope so the main rooms are still kept warm.
So the first thing to do is to make sure you are wearing enough clothes to keep you warm overall, putting thick socks on with bare legs isn't going to warm your feet up properly.
Socks and slippers
More than any warm socks you should be wearing
slippers in the house
to keep your feet warm. You will be in direct
contact with the floor through your feet and If the
house has little heating insulation is needed between
your feet and the floor which will be the coldest part
of the room. Socks won't be enough to do this and will
squash down, slippers with a relatively non-compressible
sole will insulate you from the floor which can be done
cheaply if necessary. Real sheepskin slippers are a
delight, warm, cosy and comfortable though not the cheapest.
Along with your slippers a pair of warm socks will make a big difference as they cover the ankles, watch out for what they are made of.
Wool is the best material for warmth and merino wool is premium.
Acrylic, a knitted synthetic and a good budget choice.
Cotton, the worst choice for a winter sock, not a good heat retainer and doesn't wick moisture well.
Another way of keeping warm indoors if you don't want to wear many layers of clothing is to warm yourself rather than the whole room up with heated clothing, blankets or pads. While electric blankets have been around for many years, battery powered wearable heated garments are a more recent invention. They are not connected to the mains after being charged up so you are free to move about freely.