It’s about this time of the year that all the personal finance magazines and blogs come out with articles on how to save money on heating. This time, I will join the fray and reveal my secret. The usual advice to save money on the heating bill is to turn down the thermostat and bundle up. This is good for the wallet, but the Mrs. really hates being cold.
My secret is the kotatsu table. This might not work for everyone though, especially taller folks that can’t sit comfortably on the floor. A kotatsu table is basically a coffee table with two top surfaces, a heating element, and a big blanket to keep the heat in. Every household in Japan has one and it is the best place to take an afternoon nap.
You can purchase an authentic kotatsu table, but it is expensive because they have to be imported. Instead, I will show you how to make one.
- $40 Coffee table – You need to find a coffee table with two top surface. A LACK Coffee table from IKEA is what we have. You can also search Craigslist for a used LACK coffee table. If you have long killer legs like Angelina Jolie, you probably want to get a taller coffee table.
- $55 to $100 heating element - There are some “kotatsu heater unit” for sale on EBAY for $70, but the shipping cost is another $30. An alternative is the “cozy legs” radiant heater. I found one on Amazon for about $55 or you can try the local Ace Hardware for $60. The cozy legs works okay, but it takes a long time to warm up, about 10-15 minutes. I would go with the real kotatsu heater if you want instant warmth. *2011 update. The real kotatsu heating element heats up much faster than the cozy legs. It’s 100 times better so I recommend that. It’s not worth cheaping out on this one, trust me.
- $0 old king size blanket – We like the king size, but a queen would probably work too. A comforter is better in colder climate.
- $? pillows to sit on. You can pick up some big pillows from IKEA while you’re there.
Instructions – Put the coffee table together and leave the lower panel out for now. Mount the heater element to the bottom of the coffee table (you’ll have to figure it out yourself.) :) Throw the blanket on top of the coffee table and center it. Put the bottom panel on top of the blanket and TA DA! you’ve got a kotatsu table. Don’t forget to put the pillows under your bums.
If you can sit on the floor comfortably, a kotatsu table will be the best thing that ever happens to you. We rarely turn on our force air heater these days. Our climate is temperate and the concrete condo retains the heat well so our indoor temperature hovers around 64 degrees Fahrenheit. We spend a lot of time under the kotatsu table every winter and save tons of money on heating bills. Our November electric bill went up $10 from our summer bill. Enjoy!
Let me know if you have any questions. I can send you more pictures in an email.