Working outdoors in extreme cold weather

The upper Midwest has been struggling through multiple days of record low temperatures. Because of how much I’m away, I have been avoiding programmable thermostats due to fear of dead batteries or microprocessor lockup. I could simply put a plain old mechanical thermostat in parallel with the programmable one as a backup, with the mechanical one set to 50 degrees to prevent freezeups. Instead I have been too busy, and just manually set the thermostat to 58 degrees when I’m leaving for the day or days.

Thermostat settings in very cold weather

I tried leaving my thermostat to 58 degrees and wearing a sweater, but this simply slowly made me feel too cold, to wear I realized I was lingering at the sink to warm up my hands with running water. Growing up, we kept the house to 72-74 degrees, and I just got used to that. Yes I did a lot of work outside, but we’d come into the shed or house to warm up periodically, and we wanted it warm to get the most of it. A single thermostat for a large home meant the gradients could be considerable. Here I cut off the heat registers to two of the bedrooms, since there are no pipes in those walls. No pipes in any walls here except bare minimum interior as needed, a smart move. I remember a childhood trip to the deep South, seeing plumbing on the outside of homes, I was very surprised by that.

The key to staying warm in a work van with a minimally working heater and zero insulation has been the heavy Carhartt coat and bib overalls. Yes put aside that London Fog. You want non-snagging fabric and a water resistant fabric.

Portable heater for worksite

Also, a quality portable utility heater if working in unheated spaces–be sure it has an adjustable wattage in case the circuit can’t handle full power. This is more for hand warming and periodic warmups in front of it vs. heating the whole room, but in small enough spaces it takes the edge off the cold.

Generator for furnace in cold weather

Quality generator to run the furnace–the old distribution wiring here by the lake fails a few times a year. Despite the VIPs living in the neighborhood, the power isn’t restored as quickly as one might expect. Of course we all have generators and inverters, so it’s more of an annoyance than significant inconvenience.

Backup cell phone

I also carry multiple cell phones–yes the Nextel is great, but in a pinch I want to have access to 911 via all networks on analog cellular. Despite the various digital standards, the phones can fallback to analog for compatibility in roaming and 911 calls. Ham radio: goes without saying.