“No Heat” Contest: How Long Could You Go Without Turning on the Furnace?

"If you open up the refrigerator, you don't feel the coldness," said 8-year-old Peter Warren, of Ridgewood, N.J., describing one way to stay warm when Mom won't turn the furnace on.

But the "no heat" competition has his approval, and that of 6-year-old Perry Reyes as well as 14-year-old Harry Nichols, both of Maplewood, a bedroom suburb of New York.

"I don't like to lose," said Harry in referring to the Maplewoodonline.com Web site that serves as an "'honor system" clearing house for the contest.

The fall started with nearly three dozen families seeing how long they could go without turning on the furnace. Now, in mid-December, it's down to perhaps half a dozen.

The rules state families can actually use space heaters, and even their fireplaces. Though that's not environmentally friendly, they believe the amount they save on natural gas or oil is a small green statement. And then there's the utility bill.

"My last bill was $21 and normally this time of year it's three, four hundred for the gas," said Laura Nichols, who shared the "No Heat" award with the Reyes family last year.

Though Nichols said formally it should be called a "Furnace Abstinence" award, just about everyone seems to refer to it as "No Heat." And even when the last furnace is turned on -- last year it was Jan. 1 -- most families seem to keep the savings going by keeping the temperature set low, or not at all once everyone is dressed in warm clothes.

In fact, they say the secret is layering your clothes, and there's a side benefit. The whole family tends to gather on one sofa during the evening.

"It gives us more of an excuse to snuggle with our kids," said Ben Reyes.

Then again, not many friends come over to visit in the winter. Lucy Warren, 13, said, "Today I went to my friend's house, they always have their heat on."

How do the kids manage getting ready for school? Harry described it this way.

"First you run to your dresser and grab what you need, then you run downstairs to the bathroom and then when you take a shower the steam is actually your only heat," he said, adding that it's warm enough to dress in the bathroom.

As for all those savings, Lucy's mom, Leigh, said, "This year we're gonna try and use it to go away on a summer vacation."

Sounds like a plan.

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