23 Brilliant Winter Tricks for Warming Your Home

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Your house should be a refuge from frigid weather, not an extension of it. Luckily, raising the temperature in your home a little can be as easy as getting a new rug and some drapes.

1. USE A SCREEN

A red, wooden folding screen with intricate cut outs.
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When people used to gather around their fireplaces at night for warmth and entertainment, they used large, decorative screens to keep as much warmth in the room as possible. The old trick will still work today—and will add some interesting decor to the room as well.

2. GET A SMART THERMOSTAT

A circular thermostat that's silver on the outside with an electronic screen that shows the number 76 on an orange background.
George Frey, Getty Images

While we're talking thermostats, if you have an old model, consider replacing it with a smart thermostat that learns and adjusts itself accordingly. It knows when you've been sleeping (or when you're out of the house), so it automatically turns the temp down. Smart thermostats also know when you're awake, and give you those extra degrees to make sure you stay toasty with zero effort on your part. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lowering the temps when you're not home can save you as much as 10 percent a year on your heating bill.

3. LET THE SUN IN

A woman in a white sweater with her back turned to us is opening heavy curtains, letting the sunlight stream in.
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Pay attention to the way the sun hits certain rooms in your house. Take advantage of its natural warmth by keeping curtains and blinds open during the day to let some rays in.

4. TRIM YOUR TREES

Green ivy almost completely grown over a white-paned window.
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The sun is a great resource for warming your house, sure—but it won't do much good if your windows are blocked by branches and shrubs. Before the cold weather hits, make sure to trim up plants and trees that may be preventing light from getting in.

5. PUT A BALLOON IN YOUR CHIMNEY

Logs burning in a fireplace with large flames licking off of them.
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Not just any old balloon—a chimney balloon designed to block drafts when your flue or damper is broken or missing. You can't light a fire with it in, of course, but if you're not using your fireplace anyway, it's a good way to keep the cold air out.

6. SHRINK WRAP YOUR WINDOWS

Fingers pulling on a sheet of clear plastic wrap.
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According to EnergyStar, adding a layer of clear plastic over your windows really does help better insulate your home during the colder months. The plastic is inexpensive and easy to install, so it's a good DIY project for even the most amateur home improvement enthusiast.

7. MAKE SURE YOUR CEILING FAN IS SPINNING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Looking up at an older wooden ceiling fan with frosted glass sconces.
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Your ceiling fan isn't just for cooling. During the colder months, switch the blades to a forward or clockwise rotation to pull the air up, then push the warm air down the sides of the room.

8. UNBLOCK YOUR HEAT REGISTERS

A white HVAC register set into a tan wall with neutral-colored carpet in the foreground.
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If your couch or your bed is sitting on top of your heat register, the underside of your furniture is probably feeling the heat—but you aren't. Make sure you're not blocking any of that precious heat, rearranging your room layout if necessary (sorry, feng shui). While you're at it, clean those suckers out, too—a blocked register can cause problems with your HVAC system.

9. OPT FOR ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES

A white furnace that is unattached to anything, on a white background.
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If your heating and cooling system is older, replace it with a more energy efficient option. It will cost you upfront, but your overall savings (more than $100 per year) and overall comfort will be worth it.

10. CHANGE YOUR FURNACE FILTER

A hand putting a new furnace filter into a furnace.
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Your filter should be changed every three months at a minimum, but once a month is a better idea during peak times of the year. If your filter is dirty, your system works harder to keep you warm—or may not keep you warm at all.

11. QUIT USING YOUR ATTIC FOR STORAGE

An attic being framed and insulated, with tools splayed out across the floor.
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If your attic floors are just wood (and thus a great place to stack boxes and holiday decorations), you're losing a lot of heat. Pulling up the wood and covering the floor in another layer of material, like blanket insulation, can take as much as 50 percent off your heating bill.

12. OPEN THE BATHROOM DOOR WHEN YOU SHOWER

A clear shower door open to show the tiled wall inside. A white bathtub is off to the left.
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Though it's tempting to keep all of the warmth in the bathroom for when you get out, letting the steam out will help raise the humidity and the temperature in the rest of your dwelling.

13. ONE WORD: RUGS

A white sheepskin rug on a rustic wooden floor.
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The same theory about bare wood floors in the attic applies to the rest of your place. We don't suggest you lay insulation down in the living room, but adding a few rugs will help absorb the cold coming through the floor. Put a pad under the rug for added oomph.

14. ADJUST DOOR THRESHOLDS

A welcome mat with a gold door threshold behind it.
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If you can see light under the bottom of your front door, cold air is definitely getting through. Many times, you can raise the height of your threshold by turning the screws. Otherwise, invest in a new threshold—or at the very least, get a draft stopper.

15. SEAL DUCTWORK

A shiny silver piece of ductwork.
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Making sure your ducts are properly sealed and insulated can make your heating system 20 percent more efficient. Properly sealed ducts will also help keep your house cooler in the warmer months, so you'll still be appreciating your efforts come July.

16. DO A HOME ENERGY AUDIT

A person holding a pencil over a piece of paper with a book open in the background.
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You can have the most efficient furnace in the world, but it won't be able to keep up if your home is full of air leaks. The Department of Energy has a list of places and items you should check for leaks, including some easy fixes. You can also hire a professional to conduct the audit.

17. GO GREEN

Closeup of an indoor houseplant.
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Get ready to work that green thumb! Adding a few key plants to the house will create more humidity, making your house feel warmer. English Ivy, rubber plants, and spider plants are all good choices for this purpose. Bonus: Keeping plants in your home will also help improve the air quality.

18. ADD DRAPES

Heavy turquoise drapes adorn the windows in a modern-looking living room with a low white couch and sunburst mirror.
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Like a good rug, a thick pair of drapes will help block some of the cold air coming in from windows. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy says curtains can reduce your heat loss by up to 25 percent. Choose wisely; sheer or lacy options might look pretty, but they won't be very effective. Just make sure your new drapes don't block any HVAC vents!

19. CLOSE DOORS TO RARELY-USED ROOMS

Heavy wooden doors locked in the middle with a padlock.
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Why waste energy on rooms you don't use? Keep the heat concentrated in the areas you do use by closing the door to that guest room that never gets used or the bathroom down in the basement you haven't set foot in for weeks.

20. THWART AIR LEAKS AROUND OUTLETS

A white outlet with a cord plugged into it on a lime green wall.
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The electrical boxes behind outlets are known for being drafty because they're rarely sealed well. Popular Mechanics recommends removing the cover, then filling the gaps around the boxes with acrylic latex caulk (larger gaps may require foam sealant). Top all of that with a foam gasket, then replace the cover plate.

21. LIGHT SOME CANDLES

A candle in a white candle holder sitting on top of a rustic wood table. A knit blanket and an open book lie nearby.
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It sounds a little facetious, but candles put off a decent amount of heat in a smaller space. Get even more heat by making this mini space heater out of terracotta pots.

22. PLUG ANY HOLES THAT GO OUTSIDE

A hand is holding electrical work that has been pulled through a cement wall.
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Think dryer vents, electrical work, oven vents—any hole that leads to the exterior of your house should be sealed well with caulking. If they're not, you're probably losing heat.

23. SNUGGLE YOUR PETS

Three dog noses stick out from a gap in a colorful knit blanket.
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OK, this one won't keep your house any hotter, but it will warm your lap and your heart. Win-win.

5 Clues Daenerys Targaryen Will Die in the Final Season of Game of Thrones

HBO
HBO

by Mason Segall

The final season of HBO's epic Game of Thrones is hovering on the horizon like a lazy sun and, at the end of the day, fans have only one real question about how it will end: Who will sit the Iron Throne? One of the major contenders is Daenerys of the thousand-and-one names, who not only has one of the most legitimate claims to the throne, but probably deserves it the most.

However, Game of Thrones has a habit of killing off main characters, particularly honorable ones, often in brutal and graphic ways. And unfortunately, there's already been some foreshadowing that writers will paint a target on Daenerys's back.

5. THE PROPHECIES

Carice van Houten in 'Game of Thrones'
Helen Sloan, HBO

What's a good fantasy story without a few prophecies hanging over people's heads? While the books the show is based on have a few more than usual, the main prophecy of Game of Thrones is Melisandre's rants about "the prince that was promised," basically her faith's version of a messiah.

Melisandre currently believes both Daenerys and Jon Snow somehow fulfill the prophecy, but her previous pick for the position died a grisly death, so maybe her endorsement isn't a good sign.

4. TYRION'S DEMANDS FOR A SUCCESSOR

Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke in a scene from 'Game of Thrones'
HBO

A particular scene in season seven saw Tyrion advising Daenerys to name a successor before she travels north to help Jon. She challenges him, "You want to know who sits on the Iron Throne after I'm dead. Is that it?" But that's exactly it. Tyrion is more than aware how mortal people are and wants to take precautions. He's seen enough monarchs die that he probably knows what warning signs to look for.

3. A FAMILY LEGACY

David Rintoul as the Mad King in 'Game of Thrones'
HBO

Daenerys is the daughter of the Mad King Aerys II, a paranoid pyromaniac of a monarch. More than once, Daenerys has been compared to her father, particularly in her more ruthless moments. Aerys was killed because of his insanity and arrogance. If Daenerys starts displaying more of his mental illness, she might follow in his footsteps to the grave.

2. HER DRAGONS AREN'T INVINCIBLE

Emilia Clarke in 'Game of Thrones'
HBO

The fall and subsequent resurrection of the dragon Viserion was one of the biggest surprises of season seven. Not only did it destroy one of Daenerys's trump cards, but it proved that her other two dragons were vulnerable as well. Since the three-headed dragon is the sigil of her house, this might be an omen that Daenerys is next on the chopping block.

1. THAT VISION

Emilia Clarke in 'Game of Thrones'
HBO

All the way back in season two, Daenerys received a vision in the House of the Undying of the great hall in King's Landing ransacked and covered in snow. Before she could even touch the iron throne, she was called away by her dragons and was confronted by her deceased husband and son. This is a clear indication that she might never sit the throne, something that would only happen if she were dead.

7 Tips for Winning an Arm Wrestling Match

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iStock

Geoff Hale was playing Division II college baseball in Kansas City, Missouri, when he sat down and started flipping through the channels on his TV. There—probably on TBS—was Over the Top, the 1987 arm wrestling melodrama starring Sylvester Stallone as Lincoln Hawke, a truck driver who aspires to win his estranged son’s affections. And to do that, he has to win a national arm wrestling tournament. Obviously.

Neither the worst nor the best of Stallone’s efforts, Over the Top made Hale recall his high school years and how the fringe sport had satisfied his athletic interests, which weren't being met by baseball. “I had never lost a match,” Hale tells Mental Floss of his arm wrestling prowess. “The movie reminded me that I was good at it.”

That was 13 years ago. Now a professional competitor known as the Haleraiser, the full-time petroleum geologist has won several major titles. While you may not have the constitution for the surprisingly traumatic sport (more on that later), you might still want to handle yourself in the event of a spontaneous match breaking out. We asked Hale for some tips on what to do when you’re confronted with the opportunity to achieve a modest amount of glory while arm-grappling on a beer-stained table. This is what he told us.

1. KNOW THAT SIZE DOESN'T MATTER.

A child uses books to help in arm-wrestling an adult
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Well, it does. But really only if your opponent knows what they’re doing. Otherwise, having a bowling pin for a forearm isn’t anything to be wary about. If anything, your densely-built foe may have a false sense of confidence. “Everyone has arm-wrestled since they were a kid and thinks they know what it is,” Hale says. “It looks easy, but there’s actually a very complex set of movements. It’s good to check your ego at the door.”

2. PRETEND YOU’RE PART OF THE TABLE.

A man offers to arm wrestle from behind a table
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When you square up with your opposition to lock hands—thumb digging into the fleshy part, fingers wrapped around the back—don’t lean over the table with your butt in the air. And don’t make the common mistake of sitting down for a match, either. “It limits you from a technique standpoint,” Hale says, and could even open you up to injury.

Instead, you want to plant the foot that matches your dominant hand under the table with your hip touching the edge. With your free hand, grip the edge or push down on the top for stability. “Pretend like you’re part of the table,” Hale says. That way, you’ll be able to recruit your shoulders, triceps, and biceps into the competition.

3. REMEMBER TO BREATHE.

Two men engage in an arm wrestling match
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If you’re turning the color of a lobster, you’re probably holding in your breath. “Don’t,” Hale says. Remember to continue taking in air through your nose. There’s no benefit to treating the match like a diving expedition. The lack of oxygen will just tire your muscles out faster.

4. BEAT THE HAND, NOT THE ARM.

Two hands appear in close-up during an arm wrestling contest
iStock

There are three basic techniques in arm wrestling, according to Hale: the shoulder press, the hook, and the top roll. The shoulder press recruits the shoulder right behind the arm, pushing the opposing appendage down as if you were performing a triceps pressdown. The hook is more complex, varying pressure from all sides and incorporating pulling motions to bend the wrist backward. For the best chance of winning, opt for the top roll, which involves sliding your hand up your opponent’s so your grip is attacking the top portion nearest the fingers. That way, he or she is recruiting fewer major muscle groups to resist. “When you beat the hand, the arm follows,” Hale says. Because this is more strategy than strength, you might wind up toppling some formidable-looking opponents.

5. IN A STALEMATE, WAIT FOR AN OPENING.

A man and woman engage in an arm wrestling contest
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While lots of arm wrestling matches end quickly, others become a battle of attrition. When you find yourself locked up in the middle of the table, wait for your opponent to relax. They almost always will. “In a neutral position, it’s good to stay static, keeping your body and arm locked up,” Hale says. “You’re just waiting for your opponent to make a mistake.” The moment you feel their arm lose tension, attack.

6. TRY SCREAMING.

A woman screams while winning an arm wrestling contest
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Arm wrestlers play all kinds of psychological games, and while some might be immune to trash talk, it’s likely your rival will be influenced by some selective insults. “You can make someone lose their focus easily,” Hale says. “In a stalemate, you can give them a hard time, tell them they’re not strong. It’s intimidating to be out of breath and to see someone just talking.”

7. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, GO SECOND.

A man struggles while losing an arm wrestling contest
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Arm wrestling exacts a heavy toll on winners and losers alike: The prolonged muscle contractions can easily fatigue people not used to the exertion. If you fear a loss from a bigger, stronger opponent, conspire to have them wrestle someone else first, then take advantage of their fatigue.

If all goes well, you might want to consider pursuing the sport on more competitive levels—but you probably shouldn’t. “It takes a toll on the body,” Hale says. “I’ve got tendonitis and don’t compete as much as I used to. On the amateur level, it’s common to see arm breaks, usually the humerus [upper arm] bone. The body was not really made for arm wrestling.”

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