For many of us, winter is a time when we discover a few more cracks and crannies for the cold air to find its way inside. Not only does that make it harder to stay warm and cozy, it sends money out the door as the electric or gas bill climbs. So, what can you do?
Don’t stay home shivering. Take advantage of these easy and inexpensive ways to stay warm in the winter.
Insulate your house to keep out the cold.
The number one thing you can do to stay warm this winter without cranking up the heat is to insulate your house.
1. Seal gaps. Gaps around windows and doors are the most common places for air to find its way inside. Use caulking or repair those gaps to avoid the loss of heat and eliminate cold wind blowing in. The U.S. Department of Energy says that between 5% and 30% of energy use is due to drafty doors and windows.
2. Add weatherstripping. If you have gaps in doors and windows, consider purchasing weatherstripping. It’s available in local home improvement stores so you can do it yourself and save even more. The Department of Energy helps you determine what kind of weatherstripping you need here.
3. Insulate your attic. Check to see if your attic has proper insulation. If it’s not insulated, you’ll want to add some. If your home is older, inspect the insulation since it can settle over time, compromising efficiency. Bringing your attic insulation to code will save you money and keep heat from escaping. The Insulation Institute states that 90% of US homes are under-insulated. Find out if you have enough insulation here.
4. Install drapes. Heavy or insulated draperies can help keep heat inside your house in very cold climates. Consider using blinds to help keep cold out and heat in at night.
5. Plug your outlets. Put child safety plugs in open outlets to keep air out.
Don’t skimp on home maintenance.
You can improve your the heating efficiency of your house if you keep up with routine maintenance.
6. Replace furnace filters once a month. In order to keep your furnace working more efficiently and effectively, it’s important to change your furnace filters often in winter, probably once a month. A furnace filter traps dust, dirt, pet hair and dander, but if it gets too clogged, your furnace has to work harder. That can reduce the efficiency of your furnace, not to mention its lifespan. Change the filters frequently for a warmer house.
7. Get your chimney cleaned. Make a small investment in having a professional clean your chimney this fall. This will help avoid a potential fire from creosote build-up in the chimney lining and will make your chimney more efficient.
8. Insulate your hot water heater. Make sure your hot water heater is well insulated, especially if it’s located in a cold attic, garage or basement. Wrap it in a water heater blanket to keep the heat from escaping. The less work it needs to do the heat that water, the less you’ll pay and the warmer you’ll stay.
9. Check the roof. Do a quick check of the roof and replace or repair any loose or missing shingles. Not only will this keep cold air out,but it will prevent a nasty water leak surprise this winter.
10. Clean and repair air ducts. Check your air ducts for leaks that let hot air escape and clean any dust and debris out of the system. This will both keep you and your family healthy during the winter and make your HVAC system more efficient. Cleaning even mildly dirty ducts could offer an 11% savings on heating costs.
Make smart choices to stay warm.
Find ways to keep your body warm without turning up the thermostat, and you’ll feel cozier while saving on winter utility bills.
11. Wear layers. Focus on keeping yourself warm rather than your house. Comfy socks, flannel pants, layered clothing, even fingerless gloves can keep you warm without turning up the heat.
12. Eat warming foods. Swap your soda for a steaming cup of tea, coffee or cocoa, and put on a pot of soup for lunch. Cook a hot, healthy meal for dinner and leave the oven door open to allow the heat to escape into the room as you enjoy your meal. There is a reason we want to eat more in the winter; your body craves fuel to heat itself. Listen to your body and eat to stay warm. Oatmeal, starchy vegetables and protein will help.
13. Get cozy with sheets and blankets. Change your sheets and use flannel in winter. You won’t need the room as warm, so you save on heating costs. Add extra blankets to the beds, so family and guests can pull up a layer of warmth at night instead of cranking up the thermostat. Sleep with a hot water bottle or microwave a rice-filled heating pad to further warm up your bed. But don’t use an electric heating pad, which can cause burns if used too long.
14. Rearrange the furniture. Move larger sofas and chairs away from drafty windows if possible to stay warm. To make your living areas even warmer and cozier, pile a stack of soft, comfortable blankets on a chair or in a basket in your living room, or even on the floor. They will be inviting for friends and family, offer warmth and make the winter season a little bit brighter.
15. Keep floors warm with rugs. Put rugs on hardwood floors during winter, especially in bedrooms. This keeps floors warmer and your feet will be cozier, too. You can lose as much as 10% of your heat through uncovered floors if not insulated properly.
16. Open shades, close doors. Open your curtains, shades or blinds during the day to let sunlight warm the rooms naturally. Close off unused rooms by closing doors, so you don’t waste money on heating empty spaces.25. Focus on keeping yourself warm rather than your house. Comfy socks, flannel pants, layered clothing, soft blankets and a hot cup of tea or cocoa can keep you warm without turning up the heat.
17. Optimize your fans. Reverse ceiling fans to counter-clockwise. This helps push hot air down and is especially useful if you use a fireplace or other source of wood heat.
The bathroom fan is nice for pulling out steam from a shower in summer, but it also pulls warm air out of the room in winter. Use it only when needed and don’t leave it running when you leave the room. Better idea? If possible, leave the door open when you shower.
Same thing for the vent over your stove. Use it as needed but don’t leave it running unnecessarily because it pulls warm air out.
18. Use candles for heat and ambiance. Light candles for ambiance and get the added benefit of warmth. Just use extra precautions to keep flame away from curtains, flammable objects or fabric, and never leave burning candles unattended.
19. Warm the air with a humidifier. Add moisture to the air with a humidifier to warm it up. It also helps to keep the bathroom door open after a hot shower or bath to allow moisture to infiltrate other rooms and provide warmth. (A kettle of water for warm tea puts moisture in the room, too).
20. Prep your radiators. If you use radiator heating, use tin foil behind the radiators to reflect heat back into the room rather than allowing it to flow into the walls.
Find a balance between saving money and staying warm.
Adjusting your thermostat just a bit can save you dollars without making you chilly.
21. Turn down the water temperature. Hot water heaters are normally set at 140 degrees. Moving them down to 120 degrees can save as much as 5% to 10% on water heating costs without sacrificing warmth.
22. Lower the thermostat. If you lower your thermostat by one degree, you can save 1% to 3% on your heating bill. When you’re away for the day or for an extended period of time, turn the thermostat down 10-15 degrees and save 15% to 20% on energy costs.
23. Use a space heater. You can save money by lowering the thermostat in your house every day and using a space heater to heat only the room(s) you use most. Use only heaters with safety features, and if you have animals or small children, make sure they are unable to get to the space heater. Also, make sure you have some way to remind yourself to turn it off when you leave the house. Some space heaters have timers, tip-over shut-off protection and remote controls to make your life easier.