10 Frugal Ways to Keep Your Home Warm This Winter

by Kentin Waits on 30 September 2011 13 comments
Photo: TPS12

Nothing can put your budget on ice quicker than a cold snap. Energy costs are rising across the board, and defending every dollar we spend on heat has never been more important. Forecasters say that the dry summer portends a severe winter, so as the temperatures start to dip, let’s explore ten frugal ways to winterize your home. (See also: 5 Steps to a DIY Home Energy Audit, via Currency)

1. Seal Leaks

It’s time to plug, seal, and caulk. Caulk both the inside and outside of your windows. Outside, focus on the sealing around all the edges of the sills with a water-resistant product. Inside, use a temporary silicone caulk around all moving parts of the window. In the spring, when it’s time to open everything up, the silicone will break loose easily and not damage paint or varnish.

2. Bring Out Storm Windows

If you have an older home with single-pane windows, it’s time to take off the screens and put on the storm windows. Though this can be a huge chore, and often storm windows don’t fit that snugly, they do offer another layer of physical protection against the cold.

3. Insulate

Though more expensive than the other strategies, insulation gives you a big bang for your winterizing buck. Keep it simple and don’t get lost in complex R-value calculations. Just remember this simple rule of thumb — you should have at least 12 inches of insulation in your attic.

4. Replace Air Filters

Replace the air filter in your central heating and cooling system. Use a handheld vacuum while the filter is out to get rid of dust and cobwebs that may have accumulated in or around the filter slot. A clean air filter will not only reduce dust inside, it’ll reduce the amount of energy it takes for your heater to work and extend its life.

5. Duct and Cover

The ductwork in our homes carries the heat from room to room. Ductwork that’s not well-insulated, disconnected, or dirty impedes air flow and makes your heating system work harder. Check ducts in the attic and basement, vacuum them out, and seal loose connections with a metal-backed tape.

6. Protect the Pipes

Like the ductwork in your home, any pipes that carry water need to be insulated from below-freezing temperatures. If you have a crawl space under your home or a basement that’s not insulated, wrap your pipes with fiberglass insulation or use pre-molded foam rubber sleeves that you can pick up at most home improvement stores.

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7. Turn on the Fan

Ceiling fans are a great way to help cool your house in the summer, and they come in handy during the winter months too. In preparation for colder weather, reverse the direction of airflow on your fans. Since warm air rises, the fan blades will push the air down and help keep the toastier air in circulation. How do you know if your fan is rotating in the right direction for winter? Here’s the trick — turn your fan on and look up. For winter, your fan’s blades should be moving clockwise.

8. Close Off Unused Space

Close vents and doors to rooms and other areas you don’t use regularly. Typically, the ambient heat from the rest of the house will keep these areas warm enough to keep pipes from freezing. For other areas of your home that may drop below freezing, refer to tip #6 and insulate those pipes!

9. Optimize Your Cooking and Baking Schedule

Generations ago, our heating system was our cooking system. The wood-burning oven, coal stove, or fireplace served the dual purpose of feeding the family and keeping them warm. Pay tribute to this efficient idea by turning down the heat when it’s time to cook and waiting to cook when everyone’s home and can enjoy the added warmth (and be available to do the dishes afterward).

10. Let the Sun Shine In

You don’t have to invest a lot of money to enjoy some of benefits of solar energy. Leverage passive solar power during the day by leaving your curtains and drapes open. Your rooms will soak up the heat and release it at night.

So grab a sweater (or two), make some tea, and enjoy your cozier and warmer home this winter — it just might be a long one.

What are some fast and frugal methods you have to keep your home warm on those cold winter days?

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Guest's picture
Guest

I read a good tip (was it here?) on a frugal blog that has really stuck with me: if you're able to walk around your house in January wearing shorts and a tank top you are wasting energy. I plan to spend this winter in hats and sweats if I have to.

I also love the tip about baking. I get my bake on during the winter in a major way, then freeze things for use in the spring.

Meg Favreau's picture

I love that tip. I'd say the same thing holds in the summer as well -- if you're comfortable in your house (or office!) in pants and long sleeves, your air conditioning is too high.

Guest's picture
Daisy

I definitely need to seal leaks. I'm living in a home built in the 1950s and it has had its fair share of wear and tear. Last winter, I recall my room being as cold as it was outside (30 degrees and lower). While being snuggled under 10 blankets kept me warm, it shouldn't be something I need to do each winter!

Guest's picture
Justin

I have a fireplace that I will convert into a wood burning stove. I have tons of firewood outside so this should do a great job of keeping my home warm this winter.

Guest's picture
Debbie M

It's hard to read these seriously when yesterday's high temperature was over 100 degrees (surely for the last time this year). But most of these methods are good for keeping the house cool, too.

Another idea is thick, insulating curtains (after dark in winter, during daylight in summer). Another is planting deciduous trees around (they let the light and heat through when they lose their leaves but shade the house in the summer). And there are storm doors as well as storm windows.

Guest's picture
Christine

I was not aware there was caulk you could easily remove in the spring. I plan to use that as we have some very drafty windows as our house was built circa 1960. Thanks for the tips!

Guest's picture

I an hoping that this Winter is not as cold as the previous two Winters in the UK. Gas and electricity prices keep rising. I can't turn our thermostat down any more and I'm already wearing double trousers and two fleeces.

Guest's picture
Kyle

"Your rooms will soak up the heat and release it at night." - Not sure where you get your facts but this is just silly. Sure, the sun will help heat rooms during the day but carpet, furniture, lamps don't somehow store heat and release it when the sun goes down. Especially when it is only 20 degrees outside.

Guest's picture
JustAGuy

I agree that it is a pretty silly oversell, but I'm pretty sure it is a fact. Anything, a block of concrete, will store heat when its warm and then release it when it gets colder. It not some mystery technology its just plain thermodynamics. Check out the second law if you still don't believe http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics

Guest's picture
Kyle

I understand the thermodynaamics aspect, but for this to really be anything noticable at night, the sun would have to heat your walls and furniture to the point where you couldn't touch them, LOL

Guest's picture

Some good tips here. I can't believe I'm too lazy to do any of them.

Guest's picture
Nyaya

One way to keep warm in winter and cool in summer is to plant shrubs and trees which can grow to 2-3 meters about 4-5 meters away from the house so that they can grow closely and as a thick barrier. This will reduce warm and cool air blowing directly into the homes through windows and doors. Another way is to use reed mats if you have metal fences or fences with gaps. Use north facing bedrooms where possible as your bedrooms as they get good sunlight during the day and keep cool at night. Use rugs and socks at home to keep warm. wear appropriate clothes for the season

Guest's picture
Mike Loshe

Thanks for the share. Another tip would be to utilize a heater rental instead of a traditional furnace. By using a heater rental you can simply heat the space you are in instead of the entire house thus saving you money on your heating bills.