Sunday, December 2, 2012

Blanket statement

Ever since the cold weather set in, Brian has been listening to me complain about how cold I get working at my desk. We keep our thermostat set at 67 on winter days—a number I've settled on as a compromise between being comfortable physically and being emotionally comfortable with the size of my carbon footprint—and in most parts of the house, this temperature doesn't bother me. I don't particularly notice it while cleaning the bathroom, eating at the kitchen table, or curling up on the living room couch to watch TV. But for some reason, my section of the office always feels freezing to me. I don't know whether this one corner is actually colder than any other spot in the house, or it's the fact that I sit there for hours at a time moving nothing but my fingers, but I'll often be shivering in four layers of clothing plus a hat.

So earlier this week, Brian brought me home an early Hanukkah present: a mini electric blanket. His idea was that this would be the most efficient way possible to keep me warm with electricity, because it would transfer heat directly to me instead of throwing it around the whole room. I was thrilled with the ecofrugality of this plan. Don't turn up the thermostat; don't run a 1000-watt space heater; just put that 115 watts' worth of electricity right where it's needed!

I would love to be able to say that this worked beautifully, and I am now toasty warm while writing this blog entry. But alas, it turns out that the makers of the otherwise ridiculous Snuggie were on to something when they claimed that you can't really wrap yourself in an ordinary blanket and still keep your arms free. I was able to sort of spread it out in my lap, but I found that only warmed up my lap about as well as an ordinary blanket would, while leaving my hands and arms as cold as ever. And when I tried sort of draping the whole thing over my head and upper body, I found that there is really no way to drape a blanket that's stiffened by having wires running all through it.

So right now I've fallen back on Plan B: an ordinary $5 fleece throw from the Rite Aid, about 5 feet by 4 feet, with a hole cut in the middle for my head. This is loose enough to go on over top of my multiple layers of clothes, covering my chest, my lap and most of my arms in a sort of little heat-trapping tent. It's better than other alternatives I've tried in the past—including my fleece bathrobe, a shawl, a cloak, and a poncho—because it's both large enough to cover most of my upper body and loose enough to trap a good amount of warm air. I suspect it's also better than a real Snuggie/Slanket/other wearable blanket, because it's all one piece, so my arms get to share the warm air trapped next to the thermal mass of my torso, instead of being isolated in their own separate sleeves to fend for themselves. It's not quite as long or quite as thick as I might like, but maybe after I've used it a while, I might decide it's worthwhile to take the plunge and cut a hole in a full-sized blanket, which would cover my legs and arms completely. I'd still have to put my hands outside the tent in order to type, but maybe if I can manage to keep my core temperature up, they'll stay warmer too.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to think of a good use for the little electric throw. My latest issue of Mother Earth News contains an article on seed starting that mentions that seedlings like a warm environment, and "bottom heat" is especially helpful. On the other hand, the author says that specially designed seed-starting mats aren't really worth the money, because they usually die after a couple of seasons of use. this in the "so crazy it might work" category, or is it more like "so crazy it's just plain crazy"?

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