Dear Handyman Leigh,
It's cold! And no matter how many pairs of pants and coats I put on I just don't feel warm at home. Do you have any recommendations for heating my apartment—and for keeping the heat in?
—It's Not Getting Hot In Here
Dear It's Not Getting Hot In Here,
I know the feeling, Chengdu is definitely more of a summer city. Come out from under that electric blanket and try some of my winter tips:
1. Maintain Your Air Conditioner
It seems that a lot of us make do with using our air conditioner as a heater in the colder months. This is not an ideal solution at the best of times, but you can at least keep the thing working as well as possible. Why not call up an HVAC repairperson and top up the coolant?
2. Or Upgrade Your Heating Unit
Apart from air-conditioning units, there are a number of other heating options to explore, from low-investment (hot-water bottles, electric cushions and foot warmers, USB-powered hand pouches) to mid-range (old-fashioned coats, hats, scarves, and gloves) to high-investment (electric radiant heaters, oil-filled radiators, and gas-powered heaters).
3. Block Draughts
Now that we're warming up the air, we need to keep it in your apartment. As a rule, most Chengdu apartments are at least a little bit draughty. You can check yours by lighting a stick of incense and watching what happens to the smoke in various places—near your front door? Around the window frames?
Draughts can leach away 25 percent of your precious hot air so you'll need to deal with any you find. Hang curtains, tape up windows, and seal any cracks with a "draft snake"—which can be bought at IKEA (try the snake or crocodile in the soft toys section), or knit yourself a DIY version (see page 6), use a rolled-up towel, or stuff a knee sock or tights leg with uncooked rice and tie up the open end.
4. Let the Sunlight In
Whenever possible, let the sun shine into your apartment. This sadly isn't so often, but make the most of it when you can. It'll warm up the walls, drive out dampness, improve your mental health and, best of all, it's free.
It's likely that heating your apartment will cause the windows to steam up. This in itself isn't a problem; however, if left to its own devices, this moisture can turn into breeding grounds for mold and bacteria. Make sure to either clean the sills of your windows now and again (the condensation will eventually drip down to the bottom), or simply open them and air the place out during the daytime.
5. Drink Hot
This is my favorite way to keep warm in the winter: Wrap up and march over to Auchan's imported section. Then spend the evening drinking hot chocolate and watching a movie in bed. Soup or green tea are both acceptable substitutes.
That's all for this month. Keep warm, keep healthy!
This article by Leigh Byrne was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 41 ("ice, ice, baby"). Illustration by Judy Seto.