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FIRE: Emergency midwinter broadcast

Often times when somebody goes a little off-piste with their investments, I will make clear in the introduction that this site is for informational purposes only. It is not personal advice as to what you should do. Well, with my co-blogger apparently having gone off his rocker, I’m double underlining that today. Read on for enjoyment – but subscribe to his kind of cool at your peril!

One unfortunate development liable to banjax, derail, or otherwise severely stress-test a financial independence plan is galloping inflation and a cost of living crisis.

Oops! One minute my energy bill was a national average £1,200. The next I was being quoted north of £4,0001 as my old-skool affordable tariff expired – with me clinging on to it like Rose to a freezing Jack at the end of Titanic

Time to dust off the emergency action plan I’d devised for precisely this scenario. 

Ahh, about that… 

Chapter 12: How to respond in the event of quadrupling energy costs.

I found I’d left that page curiously blank. Someone hadn’t covered off all the angles had they?

But I wasn’t entirely naked in the face of danger (and at these temperatures, thank God!)

In fact, my best way out of this, I decided, was to clothe the bejesus out of myself. 

Cold comfort

“Wouldn’t it be fun…” I said to Mrs Accumulator in that disarming way that instantly puts her on her guard.

…if we challenged ourselves to use as little energy as possible this winter?”

Thankfully Mrs Accumulator’s action plan on “How to respond if TA turns out to be an utter nutjob” is also remarkably underdeveloped. 

I mean, it’s not as if she hasn’t had fair warning.

Yeah, alright then, Romeo,” she said. 

So we set off on an adventure – like the Natural Born Killers of energy-saving. 

Just how low could we go? Both on the thermostat’s dial and in terms of the social unacceptability of our chosen course?

And how many layers of thermals, fleeces, winter woollies, and the very best in technical gear would it take to live comfortably* in a house as warm as a tomb? 

*Your mileage may vary. 

Enter the Chillbreaker 

His and Hers survival suits made everything seem possible.

Get a load of this bad boy:

Several togs worth of quilted, walking sass.

Added bulk pour homme et padded booty pour femme.

Made by Refrigiwear and rocked by Americans working in industrial freezers or extreme Midwestern winters, this quilted beauty was the answer to our prayers. 

Indeed I am writing to you from within its cosy confines now. 

  • Polyester fiberfill insulation? Tick. 
  • 100% Taslon nylon 3-Ply outershell? Tick.
  • Storm flaps for the front zippers. Double-tick!

The Chillbreaker comes in any colour you like. As long as it’s Mao’s Workers’ Paradise Blue. Guaranteed to automatically crush any attempts at individual expression or insurrection. 

Excellent news! Especially as I wasn’t sure Mrs Accumulator was 100% committed. (And we might both be committed by the time this experiment is done – so that padding could come in doubly handy.)  

Have I mentioned the hip length leg zippers? Perfect if you start to boil in temperatures of over 12°C, or want to give a cheeky flash of your thermals.


I know what you’re thinking.

Where can you get one of these dream-makers? 

I’m glad you asked. 

These babies are not available in the shops. Not in the UK at any rate. 

But for a mere $110, plus shipping, import duty, VAT, and handling fee, you too can be the proud owner of your own adult romper suit. 

In GBP, they cost us around £243 each. Plus some “can you ship to the UK hassle?” with US vendors. 

But let’s not get bogged down in the details. The goods should pay for themselves in cubic metres of gas not burned. 

So has the plan ‘worked’? (Put that in scare quotes, please – Ed.

Do we live in an icebox sustained by our suburban space suits and balaclava helmets?  

Does net zero now refer to the temperature of our house? 

The icebox challenge

This was the temperature reported by my smart thermostat during the depths of the December cold snap. 

The outside temperature was -8°C while inside at Chez Accumulator we were enjoying a positively balmy barmy 6.6°C. 

I could tell I was still breathing because I could see it. Great gusts of exhaled air condensing into fog. Fun. 

Actually somehow it was fun. 

A greater challenge than living at 6.6°C will be persuading the sceptics that I’m not living in frostbitten misery and that Mrs Accumulator hasn’t left me for any dude with his thermostat set to 21. 

But let’s give it a go. 

Draught dodgers

A big part of what’s made this work is we set it as a challenge for ourselves. One that we’re solving together, while taking it in stages, alongside regular check-ins to make sure neither of us is hating life. 

Starting in late October we rationed ourselves to two hours of heating a day in the morning. 

When it’s freezing outside, our draughty old Victorian home struggles to get over 17.5°C, even with the heating on 24/7. 

We’ve never been able to ponce around in T-shirts and pants in the depths of winter anyway. 

In student days, we spent one winter in a flat sans central heating. And we have heard plenty of tales from boomer parents about nights spent huddled together in front of the one fire in the house. 

Britons didn’t used to live in dwellings heated to 21°C. More like 12°C

That sounds bleak by today’s standards. But we started out thinking no more ambitiously than: “Let’s find out what we can put up with. Let’s save some energy. Let’s put the money to better use than heating a house that doesn’t want to be heated.”

And we wouldn’t be eschewing all mod cons – as the short, sharp fashion parade above makes plain.

A big difference between Britain today and Britain before central heating is that most of us can now afford whatever clothing it takes to give us a personal tog-rating worthy of a double duck duvet. 

Just chillin’ in my crib

The science of thermal insulation using clothing is also now widely understood. Indeed you’ll know most of it already.

The bulk of the work is done by wearing three distinct layers:

  1. The base layer that wicks moisture away from the body. Ideally this is made from merino wool or appropriate synthetic fabrics. 
  2. A thick insulating mid-layer that traps air. Think heavy wool jumpers (as worn by a fisherman) or a fleece. (Those sheep know what they’re doing).
  3. A windproof outer layer. Not needed indoors unless your windows are outrageously gappy. 

There’s even a US unit of measurement of clothing insulation called the ‘clo’.

A warm clo inside

You can award every garment you’re wearing a clo rating. Add up your clo units to find out whether your outfit can handle the prevailing temperature even as your sweet backside is parked on the sofa. 

That last distinction is not only a beautiful image. It’s also a crucial part of maintaining our thermal comfort zone. 

Experience tells us that our 21st Century sedentary lives do not help us stay warm. 

But 1 clo’s worth of clothing is enough to keep humans comfortable at 21°C while at rest. 

An example of a 1 clo ensemble is a military uniform. A three piece suit – plus undies – is also worth a clo. 

Interestingly, 1 clo equals 1.55 togs, which is the British unit we know and love from our duvets.

Anyway, every extra clo you wear means you can comfortably lower the temperature another 1°C. Which saves another 10% in energy use. 

A superb article called Insulation: first the body then the home by Kris De Decker shows you how to use this clo-business to throw together outfits from your wardrobe that can handle any temperature. 

But I didn’t do any of that. 

I just kept piling on layers as the thermostat ticked down like the depth gauge in a bathysphere: 

  • 16°C – a comparative doddle.
  • 14°C – was totally bearable. I took to wearing my woolly hat indoors. 
  • 12°C – felt quite hardcore. Mrs Accumulator and I exchanged glances. Neither one of us caved.
  • 10°C – I appeared on Zoom wearing full body bag, muffler, and hat. My mum pished herself. 
  • 8°C – I regularly popped a hot water bottle down my padded pants. If this thing burst I was done for. 

Mrs Accumulator sensibly used a microwavable heat pack instead. No third-degree crotch burn danger for her. 

How are we doing now? Still smiling? 

I couldn’t believe it. Though we needed to adapt at every stage we were both completely comfortable. 

Granted, I felt cold at times. But no more than living in this house during a normal winter – when the heating was on full blast but we didn’t think much about what to wear. 

The heat pack is genius. As long as your core is warm then that good-time glow extends to your hands and feet. 

We both spend too many hours tapping into keyboards (witness the waffle above.) But even that’s not a problem at 8°C when you’re inside a heated Chillbreaker. 

And it’s never going to get any worse than that. Because it transpired 8°C was our minimum room temperature provided we got two hours of heating. And that on the coldest day ever recorded in my part of the world. (Right now it’s 5°C outdoors and 12°C indoors.)

You quickly adapt to a new mean temperature. (With the emphasis on the mean.) I used to feel chilly at 17.5°C. Now that temperature seems like tropical spa break luxury. 

And how’s Mrs Accumulator holding up? 

She just challenged me to do without our two hours of daily heating.


Back to The Good Life

I’ve told you this story for your (possible) entertainment. It’s not meant as a “Come on Britain, put your bloody backs into it!” polemic about how we’ve become a nation of softies. 

I’d prefer to live in a Putin-less world of wind turbines and heat pumps keeping us all toasty. One in which the Chillbreaker remains hanging on its peg because power is too cheap to meter.

Nor do I think state-sponsored Selk’bags should be compulsory for the frail and elderly, the very young, or those with illnesses exacerbated by the cold. 

If we have visitors then we don’t write “dress warm” on the invite. We crank up the heating to make everything seem ‘normal’ by the time they arrive. We get that not everyone will dig our ‘frugal casual’ look. 

But you’d be mistaken if you read into this a tale of forced frugality and the folly of FIRE. We could burn the cash on heating if we wanted to. 

We’ve just got better plans for it. 

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

Bonus appendix

Our annual energy bill looks like it’ll tot up to around £1,200 on the standard rate if we stick to our current regime. That’s roughly what we would have paid before the energy crisis.

Whereas our energy provider is now estimating £2,750 for the year if we opened the gas taps like it was 2021.

If anyone would like to buy a Chillbreaker, then may I recommend purchasing from Legion Safety. They were the one company I found in the US who would (a) send the goods to the UK and (b) charge a reasonable shipping cost. 

Their online reviews aren’t uniformly brilliant, so I thought I was taking a chance. However, Legion’s customer service was very good. Getting the item through UK customs was straightfoward, too. 

I’ll write a brief guide in the comments if anyone’s interested. 

There is a French company who will ship Chillbreakers, too, but it was more expensive. 

I’d also love to hear people’s thoughts on alternative outfits. Sleeping bag suits look viable. What about skiwear? 

Finally, apparently the British unit of insulation, the ‘tog’, was derived from ‘togs’, the classic slang term for clothing. Togs was borrowed in turn from ‘toga’ – the Latin word for the famed Roman fashion item. Love that. 

  1. This was before the UK Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme was announced. []
{ 55 comments… add one }
  • 1 AoI January 31, 2023, 11:46 am

    This is as hilarious as it is inspiring. Bravo to you and Mrs A. What a great effort and example of how a bit of creativity and positivity can mitigate the unforeseen and un-provisioned challenges to one’s FIRE plans.

  • 2 miner2049r January 31, 2023, 12:36 pm

    will be deploying similar later in 2023, when us miners have fired. my backup plan if the Mrs doesnt take to adjusting to the back to the 70’s and 80’s house heating we grew up in and starts looking for the fabled due with the 21c is is a one day a week supermarket job where it is warm and will pay for the house heating, the only question would be which of us will be loading the van lol. Great article humor,finance and science love it!

  • 3 Bill G January 31, 2023, 12:40 pm

    Chapeau TA! I admire your combined fortitude even as it puts my cycling to the office (which is genuinely toasty warm) this month in the shade.
    BTW – Uniqlo’s HeatTech range of clothing may be a more flexible option for most people rather than the overgrown boiler suit. Their long-limbed thermals and proper winter-weight trousers are a marvel.

  • 4 Mark January 31, 2023, 12:47 pm

    Good experiment but….
    I’d be looking longer term into installing draught exclusion, under floor insulation (ground floor and upstairs), increased loft insulation up to 400mm and internal wall insulation to try and bring up the efficiency of the house rather than braving the cold next winter! Probably about £3-4000 investment if done by DIY.

  • 5 Grumpy Tortoise January 31, 2023, 12:49 pm

    Great post TA. We’ve got gone to your hard-core levels but have reduced the thermostat in our flat from 21 degrees down to 19 with little or no adverse effects apart from saving money. Another good tip Mrs GT and I have found is to wear long-johns under our trousers and bed socks at night.

  • 6 Pea W January 31, 2023, 1:24 pm

    My main concern would be potential impact to the house, leaving it to those temps for a long time (eg damp/mould etc.). Good on you for trying it though!

    That said, it also put me in mind of this article which I’ve just found again having read it when it first came out: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-63602501.amp

    I hope your heart, lungs & brain are alright? Though perhaps this article is a commentary on the latter…

  • 7 Lewis January 31, 2023, 1:28 pm

    We haven’t had the boiler on at all since some time early 2022. Cold showers and no heating!

  • 8 MarkR January 31, 2023, 1:45 pm

    “My mum pished herself.”
    Gosh, your fingers must have been cold if you typed an ‘h’ instead of an ‘s’.

  • 9 Keith January 31, 2023, 1:57 pm

    Do you have a strategy for condensation and its attendant mould risk? We have kept our thermostat down during the past three months compared to last year and managed to use half the amount of gas – at twice the cost! But we have had to be much more vigilant about streaming windows and damp patches on walls and have found that going below 14C makes controlling for this almost impossible, even with a dehumidifier (which in itself operates less efficiently at lower temperatures), opening windows, and extractor fans. All that moist air from the lungs and steam from boiled kettles, cooking and showers have to go somewhere.

  • 10 Graeme Donald January 31, 2023, 2:07 pm

    Superb, witty and highly amusing article. Glad you both survived the cold snap.

  • 11 Prometheus January 31, 2023, 2:12 pm

    You might want to monitor humidity levels if running your house that cold. Humidity rises with colder temps.

    Anything over 70ish% over long periods promotes mould growth.

  • 12 Andy January 31, 2023, 2:13 pm

    We did something similar.

    My wife works from home, and puts a 180w heated fleece on, which keeps her toasty warm. I found myself at home not working during the cold snap. I stayed in bed as long as possible, then wrapped up in a (bed) quilt around the house. We also used blankets whilst sat on the couch. In the evening, we *sometimes* put the heating on for a few hours, with the thermostat set to 15 degrees. We also have a wood-burner and (for now) a free supply of wood, this was utilised 2-3 times per week. But, mostly it was cold, really cold, and we did have 2 frozen pipes and condensation on the windows. Fortunately the pipes thawed without bursting.

    Anybody have a good source of free wood??

  • 13 Sarah January 31, 2023, 2:18 pm

    Great experiment! Be careful of mould and take care of your heart

  • 14 Andy January 31, 2023, 2:19 pm

    Check out the British Army ECW suit (extremely cold weather), for £75 here:
    Looks pretty similar.

  • 15 Doodle January 31, 2023, 2:21 pm

    Brilliant! …… and very funny to boot.
    I thought I was frugal but I feel like I’m positively EXTRAVAGANT now!

    I think I’m in the north pole when the air is chilled I can see my breath in it (and then can’t stop the missus moaning – even with the duck tape over her mouth) so have to have heating on a bit and look at the bills when they arrive with one eye closed and one squinting!

    The “thermal all-in-ones” definitely look the business though – but does anyone ask when your next space trip might be? Saving you the cash though so nobody can’t argue with that – it’s what all us Monevators aim for (although I’d probably still begrudge paying the quite high costs of them.)

    I’m layered up with t-shirts, sweatshirts, thick fleecy loungewear tops & bottoms, hats and sometimes thick dressing gown – just daren’t go to the door when anybody knocks! Also throw into the mix throws, blankets/duvets and hot water bottles and watch TV in bed more. Have an over bed table so I can use laptop, eat, drink there etc. also if I want.

    Also Martin Lewis was recommending halogen heaters as supposedly only around 14p an hour to run (a sort of average sized one) but when I looked a while ago, most places I could see were sold out of them.

    However as others have said, I am a bit worried when the air gets too chilly and very cold due to damp/mould problems which I have had before in cold winters in my 1960’s built semi – vertical blinds and walls got some mould on and then costs more money to rectify. No use getting a lung condition – as even if your portfolio might be doing rather well, you might not be around too long to spend it!!

  • 16 Ian January 31, 2023, 2:42 pm

    Most freezers and fridges are only rated to work down to an ambient temperature of 10’C. Watch out that you aren’t damaging your freezer or that the food in it isn’t getting spoiled.

    For this and the risk of mould damage to the building/us, we won’t let the temperature in the living room drop below 13’C, which gives 10’C in the kitchen.

    But I never thought we would be comfortable watching TV at 14’C! It has kept our energy bills at what they were last year even though we were on a cheap fix back then. And makes going out for walks in the winter so much easier.

    COP26 started us on this journey last year.

  • 17 ermine January 31, 2023, 2:59 pm

    Nice story, but a cautionary tale – BTDT. In the last house. Not as extreme as you. House had a flat roof extension, which was apparently uninsulated, we hardly used that in the winter. One word. Mould. I got to Marie Kondo a lot of books, thankfully I wasn’t that attached to. It was a major pain to service the switches in an amplifier before I sold it on ebay, because this gunk coated the metal contacts, not enough to see, enough to make contact ratty. I junked the cables, because the world doesn’t have enough IPA (from the chemists, not the pub) to clean this crap off the plastic insulation which seems to attract it. You couldn’t even necessarily see this crud, though you could feel it, on plastic surfaces in particular.

    It didn’t get obviously damp, this wasn’t like my parents’ place in the 1960s, heated by a single open coal fire, there you could see the water run down condensing the opposite wall as the fire draws in a hoolie from the single-glazed sashes, and the black mould on the oppsite wall to the fire. The house this happened in was double-glazed, but it showed the error of trying to heat the house from the well-placed wood burner going to the chimney running through the centre of the house. It was mainly that extension room that suffered. The rest of the house was fine. Saving money can cost you a fortune, redecorating that was a bear, as well as all the stuff I got to throw out

    The experience informed our choice of the next house, no extensions, no flat roofs*, no real character, central chimney again, but reasonably easy to prevent that happening.

    You’ll probably get away with it one winter, this took a few years I think. It’s a false economy to harm a significant capital asset. Seeing your breath in the air is telling you something, and indoors that ain’t necessarily good. You can reduce the likelihood of it happening by painting the rooms inside which face external walls with insulating paint (before in our case the normal paint for the walls). This doesn’t work as internal insulation to any perceptible effect but does greatly reduce the tendency for condensation/mould on those surfaces. But you still have to heat the room, at least sometimes. And insulating paint is quite dear.

    This isn’t to critique people who haven’t got the choice. But beware taking this solution is a house you own with double glazing and reduced airflow, because you have stopped draughts. I didn’t have that problem in my first house, because: sash windows and individual room gas fires, no CH, so massive airflow.

    * I have had the experience twice. Never again – no flat roofs ever. I have done my time patching these blighters up.

  • 18 Norman January 31, 2023, 3:24 pm

    @MarkR: Typo! “My mum pished herself.”

    “pished” is the Scottish equivalent of “pissed”!

  • 19 JP January 31, 2023, 3:35 pm

    Absolutely loved this piece. Hilarious, but also a serious side as these warm suits might genuinely appeal to many frugalites! The cost savings are clearly significant, if you are on a tight budget. I would want to ensure my home was heated enough to help avoid frozen pipes (to extent insulation might not be enough). Im not sure if that works, but we had heating go on for an hour or so overnight during the very cold snap, just in case.

  • 20 Griff January 31, 2023, 4:05 pm

    Ah and that’s why my freezer was struggling I should have realised. As for the barmy temperatures you talk about, I could only dream of them when I was a lad. An extra coat on the bed was the only luxury we had.

  • 21 EcoMiser January 31, 2023, 4:24 pm

    I’ve let the air temperature get down to 8°C in previous winters, but I’m getting old and soft, so the central heating now kicks in at 13°C.
    Nothing fancy in the clothing line, just lots of layers, including a couple of fleece liners from walking jackets. Didn’t need gloves, or hot water bottle, or heat pack, just keeping the core body warm.

  • 22 MrOptimistic January 31, 2023, 4:58 pm

    Surely all your clothes hanging in wardrobes will get damp ? Of course, when you go out ( you know, to buy food and stuff), getting changed into proper clothes must be a chastening experience ( please tell me you do get changed, you don’t want people suspecting you’re wearing a nappy underneath do you ? ….oh, please tell me you’re not wearing…..).

  • 23 Foxy January 31, 2023, 5:41 pm

    Nice one @TA. Another “lifehack”:

    Intensive weightlifting is a very good way of keeping warm. Your resting caloric burn is higher for almost 24h. Try it.

    It can also lead to arguments if only one of you does it. Speaking from experience 😀

  • 24 weenie January 31, 2023, 6:54 pm

    Very funny, well done TA and Mrs TA!

    My heating only came on in November, it comes on twice a day (1 hour in the morning, 2 in the evening) so off during the day while I’m wfh. Thermostat is at 18 degrees. I’ll be turning the heating off come the end of March – it’ll be spring!

    My investment was in an Oodie (around £60-£75) and a microwavable heatpack. Not great for lounging on the sofa however, as I get so cozy, I end up falling asleep!

    I also have radiator foil/reflectors which probably helps keep the heat a bit.

  • 25 Neverland January 31, 2023, 7:01 pm

    Reddit got there way before you:


    “Do you even thrift?”, created … October 2012 … a year after the money moustache blog was created

  • 26 Curlew January 31, 2023, 7:25 pm

    Ha, ha! After reading TI’s intro, I was left wondering where this article was heading. “…off his rocker”: has TA gone on a world cruise? Sold his index trackers and bought into dozens of pricey investment trusts?
    Good on you and Mrs TA for trying this out method of cost avoidance. I was immediately struck by the cold house angle (damp, mould) but I’m glad other commenters have brought this to your attention. (My father was giving me texted grief when I told him that my house had got down to 11 degrees at one point in December – but at least my house is being heated to 15/16 degrees twice a day). I bought a small fan heater which I’ve used a few times for ten-minute blasts but putting on extra layers mostly does the trick.

  • 27 G January 31, 2023, 7:33 pm

    Mrs A is clearly a keeper, but still well done for reframing it as a challenge.

    So far this winter, we haven’t breached £50/month energy bill (which with the government top up means we’ve enjoyed a payment holiday all winter).

    Windows open for 15-30 mins/day reduces humidity and mould growth. Mould killer keeps away the odd minor growth.

    Heating comes from wood burning stove powered by free wood from our woodland/wherever else it can be scrounged from.

    Solar PV, of course, but that doesn’t offer much this time of the year.

    Nothing is left on standby etc. Overnight the only thing on is the router and the fridge (no freezer).

    Every appliance is most energy saving. In some applications, we’ve got the led light bulbs down to 1-2W.

    Mrs G, although she complains mightily, is also a keeper.

  • 28 Dave January 31, 2023, 8:22 pm

    Trouble is the standing charge has been hiked that much, that costs a packet without using anything much so its 6 jumpers and 2 jackets for me although can’t get through doorways very easy and waddle around like the Michelin man.

    A bloke at the bus stop the other day said he found an excellent way of keeping warm at home was lots of rumpy pumpy.

    So I’m just off round the neighbour’s to see if she’s up for saving lots of money – as wifes not interested!

  • 29 L January 31, 2023, 8:22 pm

    I never knew TA was a Scot!

  • 30 Hans January 31, 2023, 9:49 pm

    Fantastic, giggled my way through this as never before on monevator.

  • 31 Peter January 31, 2023, 10:04 pm

    I know few people who spend thousands of pounds on their holiday abroad but cannot force themselves to spend few hundred more to keep their homes warm. Something is not right.

  • 32 Ryan Gibson February 1, 2023, 7:29 am

    Really enjoyed this article. I love that it introduces real life to personal finance. Sometimes the content can be heavy (which it should be) and it’s a good break-up to have well-written, fun content like this.

    It feels like an interesting challenge and I do admire the effort you’ve put in to keep those bills low. We have made some real effort to use less Gas but it all feels a little limp towards your efforts 😀

    We have a detached property built in the late 1970’s and realised the cavity wall is empty and doesn’t have insulation. The kids’ bedrooms were on the Gable end of the property and had limited sunlight due to the neighbours’ house. They were always freezing at night.

    We invested in cavity wall insulation this year as well as monitoring our use, wearing more layers in the house etc. Our Gas usage is approximately 40-45% down on the same period last year which we are super pleased about. The bills are obviously still higher though! The cavity wall insulation seems to have made a big difference to the kids’ rooms especially.

    One area we’ve identified as a potential improvement is the heat downstairs vs upstairs. Downstairs is largely open plan so can feel cooler at times. We’ve looked at a wall-mounted air conditioner (basically a heat pump) for the kitchen/diner as they seem to be brilliant in terms of efficiency and are obviously electric. We’ve also looked at smart radiator valves to perhaps zone upstairs and downstairs so we can heat downstairs occasionally without the need for upstairs. They all come at a cost so it would be good to know if anyone has experience with either.

    I’ve heard great things about the air conditioning units but there’s obviously an upfront expense. It’s whether it’s worth it or perhaps just using the boiler less which is only 3 years old and as efficient as it can be.

    Thanks again for writing.

  • 33 Learner February 1, 2023, 7:31 am

    Well that elicited a few LOLs, bravo!

    Living near mountains now, I appreciate proper insulation and quality windows. It was -21C this morning and absolutely no bother for the old baseboard heating to keep the flat at 21C 24/7. My utility bill shows a small variance year round (in the summer it’s AC instead of heating, spring and fall are the cheapest seasons).

    Growing up, I remember electric blankets, hot water bottles, waking with a cold nose above the duvet and seeing my breath in the air in the morning. Don’t miss that at all, but thanks for the reminder TA 🙂

  • 34 HariSeldon February 1, 2023, 12:17 pm

    Very amusing but perhaps if looked at as an unexpected bill of £1,500, that probably will not reoccur to the same extent, then a halfway position of living at say 16 degrees would have been practical…

  • 35 BeardyBillionaireBloke February 1, 2023, 1:27 pm

    In a previous winter I’ve sat in my chair under a thin plastic foil space blanket (the sort I keep in the car). In December I bought one of these more solid types to sit under indoors but it’s been warm enough I have not used it much yet.

    Reflective Insulated Tarp All Weather Blanket

  • 36 The Accumulator February 1, 2023, 1:45 pm

    @ Lewis – that is hardcore! I take cold showers too but must admit I turned on the hot during the cold snap. How do you hack it?

    @ Bill G – thanks for the Uniqlo tip. Will check that out.

    @ Pea W – haha, yes brain function low but I blame that on being dropped on my head as a baby.

    Seriously though, the Beeb article rightly points out the dangers of letting your body temperature drop – but that’s not what we’re doing. We’re insulating ourselves with enough clothing to remain healthy. The picture of the journo in the article shows him in thin shirt and shorts as they reduced the temperature. He couldn’t keep his core temperature up. One way is to generate body heat through activity. Another way is to wear enough clothes. Hence polar explorers, Inuits, Vikings etc.

    @ Keith, Prometheus, Ermine, Curlew – All good points. I’ve been keeping my eye on condensation and mould risk. Ventilation is not an issue in this old place – which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s an old Victorian property that doesn’t mind being cold. As Mrs TA says: “We live in a wind tunnel.”

    @ Doodle – agreed. We’d turn the heating back up if the house was getting damp and mouldy.

    And yes – answering the door does mean a quick strip of the space suit. No point presenting as a complete nutcase on a first meeting. Maybe on the second.

    @ Graeme – Cheers! 🙂

    @ Mark – you’re right about improving draught proofing – that’s a job that needs doing. Internal and external wall insulation is out – an old property like this needs to be able to breathe. Insulation that puts that at risk can do more harm than good. A retrofit that dealt with the peculiarities of the building’s construction could easily run into high five figures if not six. Loft insulation is done – though not to 400mm standard. Will look into that. Upgrading the windows could help – expensive but I’m looking into it.

    @ Andy – A cosy woodburner sounds ace. I’ve tentatively looked into infrared heaters to give us that ‘heat the main room in the house’ option. Haven’t done the maths though.

    @ Other Andy – thanks for the army surplus link. Very handy.

    @ Ian – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Whatever your current thermostat setting is, many will be able to go lower and remain comfortable. I would not have believed it possible until trying but you definitely adapt. I’ve always hated being cold too.

    I didn’t get into the environmental impact of turning down the gas but I agree this is one way we can make a difference.

    @ JP – good point about frozen pipes. Don’t want that. The heating is set to come on automatically if we enter that danger zone.

    @ Griff – yes, this is water off a duck’s back for some – especially anyone born before central heating was widespread. I’m glad we’ve got more options now.

    @ Ecomiser – exactly that! Keep your core body temperature up and you’re happy as Larry. Heating the air around me inside the suit is the same principle as heating the air for the entire house.

    @ MrOptimistic – haha. I’m not that daring.

    @ Weenie – I did not know about Oodies! Looks very snug.

    @ G – You’re going great guns. Have opened the bathroom window like you suggest when needed. It lets the warm air in from outside 😉

    @ Dave – best money saving tip ever! You don’t get that from Martin Lewis.

    @ HariSeldon – cheers and absolutely right. When we started out I didn’t expect it to go this well for us. As in, I thought we’ll reach our limit and keep the heating on to maintain 14degrees or 12 or whatever. There’s many different ways to skin this particular frozen cat as the responses are revealing.

    @ BeardyBB – thank you! Will investigate.

  • 37 Tom-Baker Dr Who February 1, 2023, 5:26 pm

    Great read! Hilarious:-))

    The central heating in my house is programmed to switch off when my wife goes to work and only switch back on half an hour before she comes back. The radiator in my study is set to the minimum setting because it is ideal for the computers and the Bonsai trees;-) During this cold spell, it was about 5C in there. I have to confess I enjoy much more these sort of temperatures than a scorching summer.

    As they say in Sweden and you found out for yourself: There is no bad weather, only bad clothing. Like Foxy (#23), I find that doing some pull-ups, squats, or just going upstairs quickly a few times can keep you quite warm whatever the weather.

  • 38 Ducknald Don February 1, 2023, 5:28 pm

    Probably our best investment last year was an electric blanket. A cold bedroom is much more tolerable if you know the bed is cozy.

    We have been adding more insulation to the loft but it has dragged on because there was so much crap that needed clearing out first. Just finishing as spring arrives!

    We are on Economy 7 in a 3 bed which is pretty dire. There is no gas available but I am pondering putting oil fired heating in. I’m not sure it will save much but should be much more controllable. Sadly the house isn’t suitable for a heat pump.

  • 39 FIRE'd@43 February 1, 2023, 8:25 pm

    Great article – thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Completely co-incidentally, we also decided to set ourselves a challenge to see how low we could go, re: minimizing amount of time central heating was on!

    We also put the central heating on for 2 hours in the morning (5.30am to 7.30am), but had just attempted to layer up with clothing, to keep warm throughout the day.

    However, I found myself getting cranky from being colder than I would have liked (despite wearing the branded Heat Holders thermals & multiple layers), but also not wanting to spend loads more money on heating the whole house, as a new early retiree.

    The solution I found worked great for me, was a wearable heated electric full-body blanky with sleeves, from Amazon – which I wear for a burst mid-morning, and a burst mid-afternoon.

    It has worked brilliantly, using minimal energy, but keeping me toasty warm, even long after I’ve taken it off!

    It is very long, so perfect for using either when sat on recliner sofa, or while standing at my stand-up desk, using laptop (to binge read articles from the ‘Weekend Reading section from Monevator’, of course!).

    It’s open-style in the back, but that is easily rectifiable by pulling the openings close together, and tying a scarf around the waist to hold the whole thing snug.

    One of the best purchases I’ve ever made for £72.99, as I hate being cold, and this item has kept me toasty all winter, using minimal amount of electric.

    I will put the link below, to this item made by Navaris, sold on Amazon, just in case it helps anyone else:


    Thank you TA and TI for all your great blog posts, as I have learnt so much from both of you!

  • 40 Always Late February 1, 2023, 9:59 pm

    Tog or TOG? The backronym is Thermal Overall Grade. I think that one was invented by duvet salespeople to sound smart.

  • 41 Ben February 2, 2023, 8:25 am

    TRVs (thermostatic radiator valve) are a good halfway house solution. They allow you to heat rooms selectively. Keep the room you’re using most at a normal comfortable temperature. Other rooms, with doors closed and drafts excluded, can be left cold and won’t suffer condensation as there’s nobody in them exhaling water vapour.

    As others have noted, ventilation and heating are important to prevent damp. More importantly, old houses are prone to dry rot in hidden timbers and unventilated voids if too cold. Expensive to put right.

    A better long term solution is using the passive house system of mechanically ventilating a house (using a heat exchanger to recover heat from exhausted stale air) while insulating and draft proofing to a very high standard. Central heating is then no longer needed. This means you can have a house as big as you like with no impact on running costs other than higher council tax. Much better than being forced to downsize in retirement from a cold wind tunnel that’s too expensive to heat.

  • 42 The Investor February 2, 2023, 9:27 am

    @Always Late — I’ve never heard the word ‘backronym’ before, and I’ve heard a lot of words! Nice start to the day, I’m sure Mrs @TA will be delighted to add to the backstory of why she has to de-ice the kettle before making a cup of tea… 😉

  • 43 Mark February 2, 2023, 9:44 am

    @ The Accumulator – there have been significant jumps forward in the last couple of years in terms of breathable insulation. I am looking at retrofitting a 1900s terrace (85 square metres) and it’s about £8k for it to bring a company in to do it internally on the external walls. As long as the dew point remains in the wall then a vapour barrier should do the trick.

  • 44 The Accumulator February 2, 2023, 11:44 am

    @FIRE’d@43 – love the blanket. Even more stylish than my chillbreaker 🙂

    @ Mark – Can you share the link to the company you’re using? They may be able to help me as I renovate too. If you’re aware of the research by the likes of Heritage Scotland, Heritage England, Historic Environment Scotland and the Society for Ancient Buildings into the issues of retrofitting traditional buildings then great. If not, it’d be worth your time digging into before you embark. No simple answers I’m sad to say. Each solution depends on the individual circumstances of your building i.e. balancing the demands of ventilation vs thermal efficiency vs fabric of the building and prevailing weather. The building regs haven’t kept pace with the research which can lead to conflict between standard practice and the requirements of your property. In short, it’s a minefield!

  • 45 FIRE'd@43 February 2, 2023, 1:08 pm

    @ The Accumulator – Thanks for your comment! The blanky (or slanky – which is the more accurate term, as it’s a heated blanket with sleeves), hit the cozy warm sweet spot for me, while using minimal energy.

    However, my husband has been toughing it out with just clothing layers, and 2 hours of heating in the morning.

    Your blog post was super useful, in that he is going to buy the more “manly looking” Chillbreaker for himself, using the company that you kindly researched and recommended.

    In the ‘bonus appendix’ section of the blog, you said you would share further info about how to get the Chillbreaker through customs, but I can’t see any of that info in the comments section yet.

    Admittedly, we’ve never ordered anything off the internet that has required form-filling at customs. If there is important info regarding that which we should know about in advance, before he orders the same Chillbreaker you got, please do add a comment here.

    Thank you again for all your great posts – I’ve learnt so much from them.

    Hardest part for me since quitting work a year ago, was trying to switch mindset from saving / accumulating, to spending those hard-earned savings & investments.

    If you could consider writing a blog on your thoughts / advice, on how to make that transition less scary, that would be wonderful.

  • 46 DGibs February 2, 2023, 2:43 pm

    Woof. NO Danger of the my good lady getting in on that adventure. We started using Tado valves last year and have seen our gas usage drop 10% comparing this to last January. But, the rooms we needed to be are significantly warmer than last year. So, not much of a direct saving but significant when viewed with the additional warmth. (Caveat to all of that is our bills prior to the rises were in the £50 a month range are are now in the £160 range – so we were never big users anyway).

  • 47 The Accumulator February 2, 2023, 4:55 pm

    @ FIRE’d@43 – I have a slanket but not a heated one. Well jel.

    Re: Chillbreaker shopping. I hadn’t gone through customs before either. The internet makes it sound like a nightmare but in the event it was straightforward. Here’s a quick guide:

    Contact Legion Safety and ask them if they will ship the product to the UK. They quoted me $150-$160 shipping fee for 2 Chillbreakers – and it was $155 in the end.

    The person who helped me at Legion was Alex Burkut. Ask for him if you run into any difficulties.

    One thing to note is that you won’t pay US sales tax on the items, though you’ll pay VAT when they land in the UK.

    At the time, the Legion Safety website couldn’t cope with a UK purchase so Alex and I corresponded on email and he manually put the payment through with the credit card details I gave him. That might sound unsettling in this day and age but people gave out their credit card details over the phone regularly pre-internet so that was fine.

    With that done ask Legion Safety to write:

    ‘Goods to be declared by importer’ on the customs paperwork.

    This is what UK Gov advises when you’re handling the import duties yourself:


    Legion Safety don’t deal with UK customs but it’s all fine because your goods will be assigned to a UK courier on arrival and they’ll make it simple (if my experience was any guide).

    So just emphasise to Legion Safety about the importance of adding the ‘Goods to be declared by importer’ element.

    I got confirmation of this from Kenneth Adamson, General Manager at Legion Safety, who was another good guy.

    The goods will ship and the next you’ll hear is from a UK courier company that will ask you to pay UK VAT and customs duty, along with their courier and admin charges to receive delivery.

    Pay that and you’ll received the goods within a few days. The whole thing took about a month from placing the order with Legion Safety to being the proud owner of a new Chillbreaker 🙂

    You’re not the first person on here to say you’ve found it hard to release the purse strings after going FIRE.

    I have two thoughts for you off the bat. Firstly, you’ll likely become more comfortable with spending over time. You’re only retired a year after probably 20 years plus in the workforce and being quite frugal by nature? I personally know someone who took three to five years to get used to the idea that it was OK to spend.

    Secondly, if you find yourself doing a little bit of paid work you quite enjoy then you can legitimately think of this as bonus pocket money that’s yours to spend without fear or guilt. This happened to me quite by accident but it makes all the difference.

  • 48 PortlyGent February 2, 2023, 5:45 pm

    Interesting article – sent to my wife to enjoy

    The final post about handling VAT on purchases from the USA is invaluable – thank you. Small companies won’t sell to the UK now – those I have used in the past anyway – and they are owner/makers so there is no UK alternative. Thank you for the clear summary.

  • 49 FIRE'd@43 February 2, 2023, 11:03 pm

    @ The Accumulator – Thanks a million for writing the excellent detailed process re: customs clearance. A whole new world, and very useful indeed to know all this in advance!!

    Yes – FIRE’d myself from work at age 43, after working 70-80 hour work weeks, for 17 years. I’d just had enough of working and felt burnout, and wasn’t actively pursuing FIRE at any point during that time.
    I hadn’t even heard of the FIRE concept, due to no free time for reading about such things, from working all hours, and not much else!

    Just luckily, I have had a saver personality (unlike my husband who has a natural spender personality!), all these years. So, when I felt like I was hitting a brick wall burnout with working, I contacted a financial advisor to ask how much longer I needed to keep working before I could retire, and he said I could actually stop at that point. One of the best moments of my life, to be told that!

    And I did just that pretty much straight away. I can say there is a distinct taste and smell of freedom – which I have loved, over the last year! Found it very easy to fill my time, and been “decompressing” slowly but surely, and feel better and better and time goes on.

    I have only been reading the Monevator emails religiously for the last year, after I quit work, as I accidentally came across your website at that late stage in my life!

    Apologies for messing up your google analytics, by spending so much time reading every link in your emails.

    But from reading your many fantastic blog posts, I was quite horrified to realize the sheer amount and volume of ‘financial mistakes’ and ‘bad financial decisions’ I’d made over the years, just from “financial illiteracy” (as never covered in school or during the 7 years spent at Uni)!

    I calculated the losses I have made to be in the region of £250k over that time, from ‘financial mistakes’ due to various reasons + losses made by husband to be another £200k, from him not knowing much about finances or money either.

    So, had I known some of the very useful stuff you write about on your blog, I could have quit work even sooner, by not wasting £250k + £200k unnecessarily, on overpaying taxes!

    It feels particularly bad because we didn’t get to enjoy that massive amount of wasted money on ourselves – it went straight to the tax man in taxes!

    I feel quite bad now in hindsight about that, and found myself trying to be extra frugal in a futile attempt to make some of that back in retirement, which I know is unrealistic!

    I am in awe of some of the people who post comments underneath your blog posts, who are so switched on about everything financial, and have learnt from their comments too.

    Trying to reframe it positively, I feel blessed to have found your website, learned so much from your blogs over the last year, and determined to make much better financial decisions in the future, from everything I now know!
    Hope you both keep up the great blogs, for many more years.

  • 50 The Accumulator February 3, 2023, 6:37 pm

    @ FIRE’d@43 – Don’t be too hard on yourself. The vast majority of us make a string of financial mistakes before finding our way. One positive is that you found it at all. Some never do.

    I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way. I did roughly tot up my ‘loss’ once and quickly did my best to forget all about it. As a wise person once said: “We can’t change yesterday but we can change tomorrow.”

    It’s wonderful that you’ve found yourself in such a fantastic position at a young age. Though you’ve clearly worked very hard for it.

    I hope you revel in your new found freedom and enjoy building a new life for yourself. I’m nearly two years in and still can’t quite believe it.

  • 51 Stuart B February 4, 2023, 10:41 am
  • 52 arty February 4, 2023, 2:23 pm

    Noone using the electric jackets/vests?
    I find one of these, with a decent battery pack , allows me to set the heating to 10 degrees and stay comfortable, without having to be connected to the electric socket:

  • 53 Donna February 5, 2023, 1:04 pm

    Why would you subject yourself and your loved one to this? My view is that I like living in a warm house and I will pay what it costs, I am well paid and I should enjoy my money in this way. Everyone complains about heating when the biggest drain is council tax at over 3k. I see what I get for my money when I heat the house, but does anyone see true value in council tax bills?

  • 54 Ray February 6, 2023, 8:35 am

    The easier way to buy a Chillbreaker is to log on to Amazon .com with your normal login details and buy from a seller who will deliver to UK.

  • 55 The Accumulator February 6, 2023, 10:56 am

    @ Arty – Wow! Those look like a fusion of Tron and the Ready Brek kid. Mrs TA may well be in for one of these.

    @ Donna – We’re enjoying the challenge and discovering there are different ways to live. It turns out it’s fine. Of course, everyone is free to spend their money how they see fit but it’s worth trying new things, no? I guess I could opt to not pay my council tax but then they might not collect my bins or send the fire brigade round when I need it?

    @ Ray – the trick is to find someone who will deliver to the UK. Did you find a company who will?

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