10 Frugal Ways to Keep Your Home Warm This Winter

energy-bill-savingsNothing 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. With “Polar Vortex” trending just as much as the Royal Baby this year, it’s time to focus on every item possible to keep your heat costs under control.

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 duct work in our homes carries the heat from room to room. Duct work 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.

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.