With the cold season closing in on us here in Nebraska, it’s time to take inventory of our heating systems. It’s important to make sure your furnace is in functioning order, otherwise you may just turn into a popsicle during the night.

In this part of the season, we get countless calls for furnace repair and heater installations. While it might seem like a burden to get these things repaired or replaced, it’s not so bad when you think about what it would be like to not have a heater at all.

Indeed, life was a lot tougher before we were blessed with automated heater systems. Are you curious about how people kept warm before the days of HVAC systems? Here are some of the common methods they resorted to:


Fire, of course, has been the most dominant method of providing warmth since the dawn of mankind. Even now in modern times, the role that fire plays for warmth isn’t trivial — many homes have fireplaces installed and families often opt for their warmth instead of turning on their heater.

But unlike today, fireplaces in old times were the only major source of heat, and were thus designed differently. Today’s fireplaces are deeper and wider than most older fireplaces, allowing you to comfortably keep all the wood in its own little alcove.

Older fireplaces were the opposite — they were more shallow and a bit more intrusive, because they had to be in order to distribute heat more efficiently through the home. They also depended on a healthy supply of wood, unlike today’s gas fireplaces, which are much more common now.

Fires will likely never go out of vogue as a reliable heating method. While HVAC systems and furnaces are the best options for homes, running your fireplace will save you money in the long-run if you don’t need to heat your entire home. Fire Pits are also still the best option for staying warm outdoors — and who doesn’t like sitting next to a campfire under the stars?

Sheets and Blankets Galore

One of the earliest things humans did to stay warm was looking at the fuzzy, furry animals that surrounded them, and thinking, “they’re onto something.” For as far back as recorded history can remember, humans have been using animal pelts and coats to keep warm. This is where clothing originated from, but animal skins and furs would eventually be used as blankets and bedding as well.

From the earliest caveman days, humans have only been improving on sheets and blankets, eventually culminating into wonderful inventions such as the comforter and down blanket.

While blankets are still used by virtually everyone for a good night’s sleep, they’re not nearly as important as they used to be — in pre-HVAC times, the strategy was basically to pile on as many sheets and blankets as could possibly fit on the bed and hope for the best.

Even our well-insulated homes with glass windows and firm doors aren’t immune to the night chill. Blankets are often essential if you’re not running your furnace. Imagine, then, how much worse it would be in older times with open windows. It wasn’t really an option not to pile on as many blankets as possible.


Today, rugs are mostly used for aesthetics. No hardwood floor is complete without a nice rug to round it out, but did you know that rugs used to serve a much more practical purpose? In pre-heater days, people had to do whatever they could to stave off the cold anywhere and everywhere — that includes the ground.

Carpeted floors are relatively recent in the grand scheme of human history, and in older times, it wouldn’t have been uncommon to have stone floors, which get extremely cold. Rugs were often used to provide the poor feet relief from the freezing ground.

That’s not to say you can’t get great mileage out of a rug today — there are few joys in life that are more satisfying than laying on a comfy rug in front of a warm fire, for example. But the bottom line is that rugs aren’t really needed in modern homes, whereas they were a necessity back before furnaces were common.

Draught Excluders

It’s possible you have no idea what a “draught excluder” even is. We wouldn’t blame you — they’re not really commonly used these days, and if they are, they’re typically known by other names, such as “door snakes,” “door socks,” or, for lack of better words, “rolled up towel.”

That’s exactly what a draught excluder is — some kind of object placed in front of the crack at the bottom of doors, to prevent warm air from leaking out of the room. You can find them today, but most people would probably just roll up a towel or something similar to achieve the same effect now.

Blocking openings in doors or windows is a good way to keep heat inside a room, so this option is particularly helpful if you’re doing it in a room which houses a fireplace.

If you ever want a good way to test the efficacy of a draught excluder, try blocking the bottom of the door next time you shower. You’ll find that the steam is much more prevalent and the bathroom itself will be much more toasty by the time you step out.

Bed Warmers

Of all the things we’ve listed so far, they all more or less still exist in day-to-day life. But now we arrive at the bed warmer, which is likely something that the overwhelming majority of our readers have probably never used, or maybe even heard of unless they’ve watched Pirates of the Caribbean.

Bed warmers, in a nutshell, were metal pan-like devices filled with steamy hot rocks that were inserted into the sheets at night to provide heat. Predictably, they did exactly what their name implies and made beds warmer.

Not everyone used bed warmers all the time, but if you lived somewhere cold enough, it was a necessity for braving the freezing cold temperatures overnight.

Body Heat

Saving the best for last, one of the most tried-and-true methods of staying warm is good old fashioned body heat.

Any survivalist will tell you to bundle up tightly with your companions if you ever have to endure a night in the cold with limited shelter. That’s because body heat is an amazingly effective way to keep warm.

Did you know that in past eras, it wasn’t uncommon for groups of people to sleep in the same bed? Children, for example, would often all share a sleeping space rather than having their own beds. If you sleep somewhere cold, cuddling up with someone is often the best solution.

Want to stay warm without running your furnace bills really high? Consider snuggling up to your loved one, turning on “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and cuddling the night away. There are worse ways to spend an evening.

Heating and Furnace Repair in Omaha

With all that being said, the best way to keep warm in these modern days is through your HVAC. We have the luxury of living in homes which are laced with effective heating systems that can reach every room with ease.

Do you want to have to resort to these antiquated methods to stay warm this season? We’re going to guess the answer is probably “no.” If you’re in need of furnace repair, installation, or general maintenance, contact us today! We serve clients in Blair, Omaha, and all the surrounding areas.