12 Tips To Winterize Your Home (On Any Budget)Share
Winter is coming—is your home ready? Protect your biggest investment, fight off the chill, and slash your utility bills this season with these budget-conscious tips.
These free fixes will have you ready for winter fast.
1. Clean your gutters.
If you’re able and willing to do this yourself, the only cost is your effort. Clearing debris from your gutters is an important step in winter preparation, both for safety reasons and to avoid potentially expensive home repairs.
2. Reverse your fan’s direction to clockwise.
Reaching for a fan’s pull chain might not be the first thing you think to do when the house is feeling chilly—but this seemingly counterintuitive trick can help you save on heating costs. You may recall from a long-ago science class that hot air rises and cold air sinks. When a fan’s blades circle clockwise, they produce an updraft, and that updraft moves the warm air hanging out around your ceiling downward and closer to you.
Many fans have a motor switch that allows you to change the direction of the blades from the default counterclockwise to a clockwise direction instead (of course, you should make sure your fan is off and at a complete stop before you get up there to make the switch).
3. Flush your water heater.
Over time, sediment can accumulate in your water heater’s tank, reducing the unit’s efficiency and driving your water heating costs up. Flushing water through the drain valve clears things out and keeps your water heater running at its best. Be sure to consult with your owner’s manual before proceeding. Bonus tip: if you’re okay with shelling out around $20 to $40 for a water heater blanket, you can save seven to 16 percent on water heating costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
4. Winterize your A/C and hoses.
It’s time to drain your air conditioner pipes and switch off your A/C unit’s water shutoff valve. If you use window A/C units, get those out of the windows and into storage—you may not realize it, but they’re basically saying “hey, come on in” to nippy winter winds. And last but not least, drain and store any outdoor hoses and turn off any outdoor water spigots.
Less Expensive Fixes
For around $50 or less, these DIY methods can improve your home’s energy efficiency and keep your family more comfortable.
5. Weatherstrip windows.
Drafty windows are a major culprit behind home energy loss, with heat loss through windows accounting for up to 30 percent of residential energy use. The good news is that you can winter-proof your windows in an afternoon with supplies from your local hardware store. There are a number of different weatherstripping materials for vinyl and wood windows, so talk with an expert at your aforementioned hardware store if you’re unsure which to choose for your home. Here’s a primer on weatherstripping.
6. Buy or make a draft snake.
Door drafts could be draining as much as a third of your home’s lost heat. Enter the draft snake, a simple yet effective little household accessory that keeps wintry air where it belongs (outside your home) and your money where it belongs (in your wallet). You can buy one of these for around $20 or less. Or if you have a crafty inclination, you can make one in a couple of hours, using some fabric and some sand or kitty litter.
7. Find and fill cracks.
Air leaks can sap your home’s energy efficiency, but thankfully, a caulk gun and a few tubes of caulk compound make an inexpensive fix in many cases. Here’s how to get started.
8. Replace or clean furnace filters.
Furnace filters should be replaced or cleaned once per month during the heyday of heating season. A dirty filter restricts airflow and increases your energy costs. Consider jotting down a reminder on your calendar or adding a notification to your smartphone.
More Expensive Fixes
These winterization steps may cost you more upfront, but can save you money and hassle in the long run.
9. Buy a programmable thermostat.
A programmable thermostat makes it easy to save on heating energy while you’re asleep or not at home, and you can find a good one for under $100. Program it to run 7°- 10°F lower during the eight or more hours you’re at work each day, and/or lower it in rooms other than bedrooms at night, and you could save about 10 percent on your heating costs.
10. Switch to permanent furnace filters.
If you’re willing to spend more money—anywhere from $50 to more than $1,000, depending on the model—switching to a permanent filter will reduce waste while sparing you repeat trips to the home improvement store. As an added perk, genuine HEPA filters and permanent electrostatic filters can reduce the spread of airborne viruses, bacteria, and mold through your home, which might mean fewer sniffles this winter.
11. Install storm windows and doors.
If your current door is older and less insulated, installing an Energy Star-certified storm door may improve your home’s energy efficiency. Storm doors also make it easier to let natural light and ventilation into your home, a plus in the drab and stuffy days of midwinter. Meanwhile, storm windows can make a difference once the winter wind picks up.
12. Give your heating system a tune-up.
Your car isn’t the only machine that could benefit from an annual tune-up. Yearly cleaning, inspecting, and maintenance will keep your furnace running at its most efficient, which means lower heating costs for you. While the more handy homeowners among us can go DIY on basic furnace maintenance, issues like irregular flame, short cycling, or excessive soot should be checked out by an HVAC professional.
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