It’s hard for me to imagine it, here in Florida where we are all still sweltering in a solar sauna, but it is winter already in many parts of the country. I saw yesterday that it was snowing somewhere already! Wow. I would love a single day below 85 degrees! But even so, it got me thinking about how expensive winter is and how it is hard to stay warm in a tough economy. I have family up there, facing the blast on less money this year, worrying about the heating bills. So it gave me the motivation to look around for some solutions.
I wrote a few posts last year on insulating the home and how to winterize the home cheaply and easily. I thought it was time for an update, with some new ideas thrown in. So if you’re starting to shiver and find yourself shopping on ebay for sweaters, then maybe you can use some of these tips. I promise I will only focus on ideas that cost very little but will work. And, of course, I will stick to the natural side of things and not go suggesting you add abestos! (lol). So, if you’re getting chilly and want to cut back on the green stuff you spend, then give my list a read. It will only take a minute.
Insulation, of course, is the first order of the day. If you happen to be doing some updating around the house or have easy access to the current insulation, you need to take a good look at it and make sure it’s sufficient. You can add insulation in the attic by using something like fabric scraps or old clothing you would otherwise toss out. When insulating the attic, whether it’s with foam, scraps or prefab sheets, build it up to at least 12 inches, with the optimum being around 15 inches in thickness. Consider hanging rugs on the walls, especially around the window frames and door jambs. Blankets, throws and spreads that are not needed on the beds are also game. If they are also decorative, all the better.
Seal all the indoor heating ducts and even if your ductwork is hidden in the walls and floors, you can still seal duct leaks on your own in the attic, basement, or garage. Don’t forget the areas where ducts meet the floor or wall vents. Sealing these ducts can save you as much as a $100 a year. Don’t forget to insulate around the windows and doors! Where you see the light coming through cracks, you are also seeing the cold air coming in. Buy some caulk and go to it. Or use weather stripping, door sweeps, even shrink wrap and any other imaginative material. Plug window drafts with rope caulk, wide tape or folded newspapers. And don’t forget the vents and pet doors, either. Seal up behind the dryer vent and where hoses drain water from the home. This little bit of work can save you a bundle.
Don’t forget to insulate the water heater. If you haven’t already done so, get a heater jacket or insulate with more blankets or rugs that you haven’t used elsewhere. Just be careful to use material that has been fire proofed or cover the blankets with fire resistant materials and tie around the heater. If you have a fireplace, you need to check the flu. If you have the older metal doors, you should check them every year for new leaks and use metal filler if needed. They must close tightly. Try a new metal strip along the groove; this will often seal it quickly.
Cover the outdoor water pipes with insulating jackets, blankets or layers of old newspaper. You can also use old clothing to insulate water pipes that are exposed to the cold. If the area tends to get wet or real windy, surround the clothing with plastic bags and tie them down. Whatever you use, wrap it around and secure tightly with outdoor tape, rubber bands or bungi cords. Leave these in place to keep your water hotter and put less strain on the water heater. If you are hit with a storm, you can just go out and open the faucet, letting a trickle flow. This will keep the pipes from cracking and save you a fortune in repairs.
You should also install a Programmable Thermostat. I can’t say this enough but it seems like very few people even consider it. It’s a fantastic money saver and I know this first hand. We just moved into a new pad this summer, in the middle of the hottest blast of the year! We immediately installed a new programmable thermostat and since then, our bills have been much more reasonable. It allows you to schedule your cooling or heating periods around your daily activities. If you do buy one, get an Energy Star-certified brand. This unit only costs you about $30 while it saves you $100 or more every year on heating costs by automatically turning the heat down when you are asleep or away. Program it correctly and you won’t have to think about it again.