With winter coming, there’s a good chance you dread the spike to your heating bill. Whether you use gas or electric heat (or even if you have a fireplace or pellet stove), it can be difficult to keep the warm air in your home.
The right preparation can help you avoid steep heating costs. But will it cost an arm and a leg to make it happen? The good news is that it doesn’t have to. If you want to get your home ready for winter, here are some low-cost ways to boost your home’s energy efficiency:
- Install a Programmable Thermostat
Why heat the home when you’re not around? For between $60 and $80 you can get a programmable thermostat that automatically changes the temperature. It’s possible to set different programs for weekdays (when you’re at work) and weekends (when you might be home more). You can set up different daily time periods based on your schedule.
Of course, you don’t have to buy a programmable thermostat to take advantage of these savings. I set my temperatures morning and evening. I like to have the heat lower during the day when my fireplace is in use. In the evening, after the fire has died down, I close the damper to keep air from escaping up the chimney, and the thermostat turns on to keep the house warm.
Figure out the best use for you, and set a program that works.
- Use Weatherstripping
Most standard weatherstripping packages cost between $10 and $20. That’s not too bad when you consider that weatherstripping can help you block cold air drafts from your outside doors. Install the weatherstripping inside a door frame to tighten the seal and reduce drafts.
You can also get a door sweeper for the bottom of the door if air is leaking beneath it.
- Put Plastic Over Your Windows
For between $10 and $15, you can get plastic film for your windows. Depending on your window sizes, a package can cover one large window or work for two or three smaller windows. Follow the instructructions to size the film to your window, and then use a blow dryer to shrink the plastic for a better fit.
This will help limit drafts from your windows and keep cold air out — and warm air in. If you have curtains over the windows that can boost your ability to insulate.
- Caulk or Foam for Other Air Leaks
HouseLogic claims leaks could add as much as $300 to your heating costs each year. You can reduce those leaks with the help of caulk (about $3 to $5 per tube) or expanding foam (about $5 to $7 for a 12-ounce can). Look for air leaks around electrical fixtures, fans, outlets, and other places where there might be air exchanged with the outside. You’ll most likely find these types of issues in your attic or your basement, but they can also be around windows, skylights, vents, and other areas on your main floors.
- Change Your Furnace Filter Regularly
If you have a furnace, it’s important to change the filter every month during the winter. It will help keep your furnace running properly, and reduce the amount of maintenance that needs to be done. Other times of the year, change the filter every three months. You can get a flat fiberglass filter for between $1 and $3. Other filters that have higher efficiency might run between $10 and $30.
- Insulate Hot Water Pipes and Your Hot Water Heater
When your hot water runs through pipes, it cools a little, wasting heat. You can find foam insulators designed to snap on pipes. You can also insulate your water heater with a special blanket (keep any burners clear). Get instructions from your utility company. It will cost $20 to $30 for a blanket for your water heater, and between $2 and $5 for six-foot pipe insulators.
And, while you’re at it, turn down the hot water, so it’s closer to 120 degrees, instead of at the standard setting of 140. You might be surprised at how much this can save you during the winter.
- Use Your Ceiling Fan
Believe it or not, running your ceiling fan properly during the window can help you better heat your home. Most fans have a toggle switch that will let you change the rotation to clockwise (instead of counterclockwise). Put the fan on a low setting, and the fan will push heated air down, keeping it from rising. That way, you can set your thermostat lower.
You Can Spend More
If you have the means, you can add insulation or change your windows to be more energy efficient. However, if you are looking for ways to keep your home’s heating costs lower, without breaking the bank, employing a few of these tips can help you stay warm this winter.