7 DIY Tips to Winterize Your Home for Cheap

By G.E. Miller on 19 October 2010 (Updated 2 February 2011) 3 comments
Photo: akeg / Flickr

There are two kinds of home winterization tips. The first variety often involves spending a load of money to upgrade your energy efficiency. While definitely worthwhile and timely with many federal energy tax credits expiring this year, these fixes can still be very costly (think adding insulation, getting a new energy efficient furnace, energy efficient windows, etc.).

(See also: 5 Ways to Save Water, Energy, Money, and the World in One Afternoon.)

The other variety of home winterizing tips focus on the things that you can do on a weekend afternoon for very little money (or free) with a little bit of elbow grease. The cost savings of doing such work generally comes in the form of preventing costly fix-it repairs that come from neglect. Here are seven things that you should do around the house every year before the first sign of snow hits.

1. Clean Out Your Gutters

Gutters that are dammed up with leaves can result in ice dams, which can lead to all kinds of costly outdoor repairs — damaged shingles, roof leaks, broken gutters, etc. Additionally, if your gutters are clogged up, water could be falling right next to your foundation and leads to possible flooding in the basement.

Estimated Cost: Free, as long as you don't fall off the roof and end up with a medical bill.

2. Drain Your External Faucets

Water that is sitting in pipes that lead to outside faucets can freeze and burst, ultimately flooding your basement and leading to possible water damage and mold problems. Simply close off the interior faucet valves by turning them clockwise all the way to the right. Then go outside and make sure that every last drop has come out of the faucet.

Estimated Cost: Free

3. Caulk

Search for drafts around windows and doors on a cold windy day. Place a tissue paper over the suspected draft area. If the paper flutters, you've probably located the draft. For drafts under doors, you may have to buy a rubber draft stopper to place at the bottom of the door.

Estimated Cost: $3/tube (One tube should be more than enough.)

4. Repair Your Shingles

If you have cracked, missing, or otherwise damaged shingles, have them replaced immediately so that you don't get roof leaks. Strong winds, falling tree limbs, and sun weathering can all lead to damaged shingles. You might as well check them out while you're up on your roof cleaning out your gutters.

Estimated Cost: $1/shingle

5. Flush Your Hot Water Heater

You can flush a hot water heater any time of year, but you might as well throw it in with the other maintenance work you'll be doing since you really only need to do it about once a year. If you don't, sediment can build up at the bottom of your water heater and cause it to lose efficiency or even leak.

Simply take one of your water hoses and fasten it to the water faucet at the bottom of your water heater. Turn off the water heater so that you don't get burned by hot water accidentally. Run the hose outdoors, preferably, but if you can't do that, then a laundry tub should be sufficient. Open the valve and let the water drain out completely, rinsing out the sediment with it.

Estimated Cost: $0.001 for the water

6. Replace Your Furnace Filter

Furnace filters, in a clean basement, can lead to a more efficient furnace when replaced about every six months. I usually replace mine when I first turn on the heat and then when I switch over to air conditioning in the summer.

Estimated Cost: $5-$15, depending on the furnace

7. Programmable Thermostat

Most programmable thermostats can be purchased for $30-$70. In a cold climate, you might be able to save that much in a month alone if you set one up to be cooler while you are out of the house and at night, and warmer when you are at home. And they are easier to install than you may think (half-hour job, max.).

Estimated Cost: $30-70

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Stephen

I love my programmable thermostat! Like the article mentioned it's super easy to install and program. I'm not sure exactly how much money I'm saving but I can imagine it's a lot!

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Guest

I even did a little research and got a rebate for $30 from my gas company for installing a programmable thermostat. Since I went for the $45 model I'm sure I was in the positive on my investment in the first month of use.

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Probably the next most cost effective repair is to make sure the ductwork under the house is sealed at all the joints. Sometimes these joints separate and heat the underside of the house. This is a waste of money. Crawl underneath your house with a flashlight and fix any seperated joints with the duct tape that has a silver backing. It's not hard work, but it is messy. The payback in energy saving can be substantial.