How a Japanese Table Can Lower Your Heating Bills

Most times when I start looking for new ways to cut down on my utility bills I make the mistake of taking an all or nothing approach. I look for things like solar and wind power as opposed to buying electricity from a utility company, cooking with a solar oven instead of gas, or canning and smoking meat as opposed to storing it in the refrigerator. But, it doesn’t always have to be all or nothing, and for most people that isn’t even an option. That’s why it’s important to find ways to simply lower our usage of traditional energy in the home, and the most expensive utility is the gas bill.

No matter how you look at it a full-size home is a hassle to heat. If you go with a wood stove you still have to buy or chop down the wood, electric and gas heating systems are expensive, and any alternative method will fall short in any area that has particularly harsh winters.

But, maybe that’s the problem. We keep trying to heat the entire house when what we really want warm is ourselves. And, that is exactly the way the Japanese look at it. They use a device called a Kotatsu that warms not the household, but the people in it.

A kotatsu is a small wooden table with an electric heater attached to the bottom side of it. Across the top is a heavy blanket or light mattress. Most of the time we spend in the living area anyway, with a kotatsu you can stay warm and cozy without worrying about heating the rest of the house when you aren’t using it. The blanket or mattress traps the warm air in under the table.

Via: Matthew McVickar – Kotatsu – (Flickr)

In Japan, during the colder months, families make the kotatsu the center point in the living area of their house. It becomes a place they eat dinner, watch TV, or just socialize throughout the day. And, it makes so much sense it’s hard to believe it’s an idea that’s been almost exclusively used in Japan. With a set up like this, during the cold months, you could stay comfortable even if you kept the rest of the house just warm enough to not cause any damage when you aren’t using it.

Lowering your utility bills doesn’t always have to be about switching out your existing systems, even lessening your dependence on them just a little is enough to make a difference. If you are using less energy you are leaving less of a carbon footprint and spending less money, and those are two pretty big benefits to get from such a small table. If you’re not willing or able to make the jump to complete alternative energy a kotatsu is a much easier change to implement.

Feature Image: Via prelude2000 – Kotatsu, Kuroyuri Hut – (Flickr)


  1. Spaniards have used similar tables for centuries as well. Although traditionally they would put live coals in the heater, whereas today they use electric heaters.

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