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How to Save on Heating Bill AND Stay Warm!

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 year, 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.

DIY kotatsu do it yourself

My secret is the kotatsu table.

This might not work for everyone though, especially taller folks. 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.


lack ikea kotatsu table

  • $40

    Coffee table

    – You need to find a coffee table with two top surface. A LACK Coffee table from IKEA is what we have. If you have long killer legs like Angelina Jolie, you probably want to get a taller coffee table.

cozy legs kotatsu table heater

  • $55 to $120

    heating element

    – There are some “kotatsu heater unit” for sale on EBAY for $70, but the shipping cost is another $50 and that’s just the cheapest one. 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 pretty well, 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.

  • $0 old king size


    – We like the king size, but a queen would probably work too. A comforter is probably better in colder climate.

  • $?


    to sit on. You can pick up some big pillows from IKEA while you’re there.


– 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


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 usual air 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!

Crystal’s Comments and Question:  I’d suggest finding the pillows at Sam’s Club if you already have a membership or Wal-Mart if you don’t since they run about $10 for two.  🙂 Also check out the best money saving apps we reviewed to see if you can find discounts on stuff like this. Do you see a kotatsu table in your future?

25 thoughts on “How to Save on Heating Bill AND Stay Warm!”

  1. LifeAndMyFinances

    I think I can safely say that I would not have thought of this on my own, but it sounds great! I am quite tall though, so I would have to find a pretty huge coffee table….

  2. Moneycone

    I love posts such as these! This sounds very interesting and I can definitely see one in future!

    Question: Is it safe to put a blanket over the heating element…I mean shouldn’t it require some ventilation?

  3. Nicole

    I think there’s an episode of Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge (The Wallflower or Perfect Girl Evolution in the US) in which Sunako built a kotatsu from scratch like this. 🙂

  4. krantcents

    Good ideas. I am not quite ready to take the leap, but I live in southern California. It is a lot warmer even in the winter. I use a setback thermostat set at 68 during the winter and 78 in the summer. Cooling is much more of an issue here.

  5. retireby40

    @Moneycone – The heating element is electric coil so you don’t need ventilation, but don’t leave it on when you’re not sitting there to be safe.

    @Nicole – I haven’t seen that show. 🙂

    @krantcents – I guess it depends where you live in southern CA. My brother’s rental place was an old drafty place and it was freezing when I visited a couple years ago.

  6. Jenna

    Seems like a fire hazard to me…

  7. Everyday Tips

    I am cold all the time, so I would need the table to attach to me and follow me around.

    It sounds toasty though!

  8. Squirrelers

    Interesting! Seems like it would be peaceful place to take a nap, which by itself would be worth it. As long as its safe with the portable heater, it would be good for health benefits and not just saving money. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  9. Khaleef @ KNS Financial

    This is easily one of the most creative ideas that I’ve seen! It would really be a conversation piece as well.

  10. Aloysa

    Since I love taking naps, I really need to look into it. Unfortunately, our condo cannot accomodate it now. But our future house might! 🙂

  11. retirebyforty

    I was able to attach the cozy legs panel with cargo straps from Home Depot and it works pretty well.

    I think the kotatsu is safe especially if you get the kotatsu heating element. Like I said, every household in Japan has one and they are not going up in flame all the time. 🙂
    It turns back into a regular coffee table when the weather warms up so it’s very useful for us.

    Disclaimer: Do not leave this on when you’re not there. I nor Crystal are responsible for any incident or accident. This post is for entertainment purpose only. I hate disclaimers.

  12. Invest It Wisely

    Very interesting! I might be too tall for this to work out, but it certainly is an interesting concept.

  13. Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey

    Very cool idea! I don’t think I could pull this one off though. I am a little too tall!

  14. retirebyforty

    I guess this is one of the rare occasion that being short is an advantage. 🙂

  15. Amanda L Grossman

    Neat Idea! I used to live in Japan, and with their paper thin walls, we would freeze in the winter. I also enjoy their heating pads under carpeting…oooohhhh.

  16. Galena Vacation Rentals

    What a neat idea! And to think I was excited by our new electric blanket…. 🙂

  17. First Gen American

    This is a great non-traditional post. I was half expecting the thermostat tip and hoping for something new and this definitely is it.

    I think I’m going to make a kotatsu desk. I usually have a space heater running under my desk, but this just gave me an idea to put a tablecloth on my desk so that the sides can keep the heat in.


  18. Forest

    Sounds really cozy and always better to make these things yourself. Gives you a sense of achievement every time you look at it I bet :)…. Next step cutting down the tree and making your own table from scratch!

  19. Robert @ The College Investor

    Great post! I needed this two weeks ago before my utility bill doubled!

  20. retireby40

    @FirstGen – A kotatsu desk is a great idea. You probably need a thicker blanket than a table cloth though and don’t forget to turn it off when you leave.

  21. Sustainable PF

    Great idea! Not sure it would work here in Canada where it gets pretty darn cold, but perhaps a good idea for a room heat source.

  22. retireby40

    I would work great in Canada, it’s just as cold in Japan. You would need to get the real kotatsu heating element though.

  23. Sandy @ yesiamcheap

    I’m curious enough to try this. I need more photos and stuff since I’m horrible at instructions but great with a visual. More photos please!

  24. Judith

    I see a fire in your future. A 40 watt light bulb started a fire in my headboard with built in reading light.

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