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. Even using a fireplace for heat can send money up the chimney in smoke if you’re not prepared. Paying for energy to heat our homes can be difficult in cold winter months and utility bills are no fun. So, what can you do?
Take advantage of these quick and easy (and inexpensive) ways to winterize your home.
1. 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. Weatherstripping may be a good idea if you have gaps in doors and windows. 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. Replace furnace filters so they work more efficiently and effectively. In winter, it’s important to change furnace filters often — probably once a month. A furnace filter traps dust, dirt, and pat hair and dander – and that’s good. But the clogged filters make your furnace work harder and can reduce the efficiency and lifespan of the furnace. Change the filters frequently for a happier furnace and a warmer house.
4. Insulate your attic if it’s not already insulated. If your home is older, inspect the insulation since it can settle over time, compromising efficiency. Bring your attic insulation to code and save money and heat. The Insulation Institute states that 90% of US homes are under-insulated. Find out if you have enough insulation here.
5. Make a small investment in having a professional clean your chimney — this will help avoid a potential fire from creosote build-up in the chimney lining and will make your chimney more efficient.
6. Make sure your hot water heater is well insulated, especially if it’s located in a cold attic, garage or basement.
7. Install heavy or insulated draperies in very cold climates, and consider using blinds to help keep cold out and heat in at night. Open them during the day to let sunlight warm the rooms naturally.
8. 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.
9. Reverse the 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.
10. Put child safety plugs in open outlets to keep air out.
11. Protect your pipes from freezing. Shut off outdoor spigots, turn off sprinkler systems and insulate pipes that run under your house in cold crawl spaces. Spigot freeze preventers can help prevent pipe or valve breaks.
12. Do a quick check of the roof and replace/repair any loose or missing shingles. Not only will this keep cold air out — you want have a nasty water leak surprise this winter.
13. Lower the thermostat by one degree and save 1% to 3% on your heating bill. Energy Hub says you can save a lot more than 3% for each degree you lower your heat in some instances.
14. 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.
15. Lower the thermostat every day and use a space heater to save up to $200 this winter, according to Good Housekeeping. Just heat the room(s) you use most and use only heaters with safety features. 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.
16. Check your ducts to keep you and your family healthy during the winter. Cleaning even mildly dirty ducts could offer an 11% savings on heating costs.
17. Close off unused rooms by closing doors.
18. 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.
19. Change your sheets and use flannel in winter. You won’t need the room as warm, so you save on heating costs.
20. 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.
21. Pile a stack of soft, cozy, colorful and comfortable blankets on a chair or in a basket, or even on the floor. They will be inviting for friends and family, offer warmth and make the winter season a little bit brighter. Add extra blankets to the beds as well, so family and guests can pull up a layer of warmth at night instead of cranking up the thermostat.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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).
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.
26. Don’t eat out — cook a hot, healthy meal for dinner. 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.
27. Sleep with a hot water bottle. Really. Or microwave a rice-filled heating pad and place it in your bed. But don’t use an electric heating pad, which can cause burns if used too long.
28. 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.
29. Rearrange the furniture and place larger sofas and chairs away from drafty windows if possible.
30. Have a party — the more people you have in your house, the warmer it will be.
31. If you decorate for the holidays, use light-emitting diode (LED) holiday string lights to reduce the cost of decorating your home. They last longer, are more durable and use less energy.
Stay warm this winter with these simple, inexpensive changes. Let us know if you have ideas to share with our readers.