8 Tips on How to Winterize Your Home

With winter fast approaching and temperatures dipping to new lows, heating bills will inevitably rise—but they don’t have to skyrocket if you beat the weather and prepare ahead of time. When you winterize your home, you’re not only staying cozy during the cold months, but you’re saving energy and money. Here are eight tips on how to winterize your home.

1. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans 

Did you know your ceiling fan can spin both clockwise and counterclockwise? This isn’t just a bit of trivia, but a great way to save money on your heating bill when the cold front hits. While running your fan in a counterclockwise direction cools your home during the summer months, when you switch to clockwise, physics takes over. Because the blades of your fan are ever so slightly angled, when they spin clockwise, rather than creating a downdraft of cool air, they circulate air that’s pooled near the ceiling. Heat rises, which means the air up in your eaves is naturally warmer than the air down on the floor. Circulate that air downward, and you cut your heating costs by as much as 10%. Don’t forget to clean your ceiling fan! You don’t want dust falling on you. If you have trouble reaching it, or have mobility issues, you can hire a cleaning service.

2. Don’t Touch That Thermostat

It’s a joke among dads everywhere—don’t touch the thermostat unless you want to lose a hand—but there’s something to be said about minding the set temperature during the cold season. After all, most households spend approximately 70% of their entire energy budget on heating and cooling. That kind of usage adds up fast, especially if you consider that for every degree you lower your thermostat during cold weather, you save an average of 1 to 3% on your monthly heating bill.

So, how do you keep your heating bill in check this season? Remember to turn down the heat every time you leave the house, or consider investing in a programmable thermostat. Some of the fancy ones can cost a pretty penny, but, when you consider that it’ll save you approximately $180 a year, the investment certainly makes sense.

3. Check for Drafty Windows

One sure way to save money on both heating and cooling is to install storm doors and windows. Doing so seals out drafts, reduces airflow, and increases your energy efficiency by up to 45%. If you’re considering purchasing storm doors and windows for the upcoming season, you may be eligible for a tax credit that’ll cover 10% of your cost, up to $200 for windows and $500 for doors.

If, however, storm doors and windows are beyond your budget, there are far more frugal ways to block out drafts. Pick up a window insulation kit for a few bucks to seal out cold air. Caulk around exterior perimeters of windows to create a wind-blocking seal between the window frame and house siding. Add weather-stripping to the inside of windows. There are a variety of types, most of which come with an easily installable adhesive backing. Or, you can use a silicone adhesive. And make sure both of your window sashes on double-hung windows are meeting the rails snugly to prevent cold air from creeping into your home.

4. Think About Insulation 

Not all insulation is created equal. If you continuously find yourself grabbing for a sweater during the winter months, a lousy insulation job may be the reason. Often, there isn’t enough insulation between walls and around windows. Some of the major culprits of terrible insulation are the attic floor and basement ceiling—if these aren’t thoroughly insulated, cold air will find its way into your home and have you reaching for the thermostat.

If you decide to boost your insulation, you can get up to 10% of your cost reimbursed by the government, up to $500. If you’re a low-income household, you may be able to qualify for nearly $7,000 worth of weatherization improvements through state-run government programs.

5. Get an Energy-Star-Certified Furnace

If you’re in the market for big improvements, one of the best things you can do for winter energy efficiency is purchasing a high-efficiency Energy-Star-certified furnace. A great furnace will save you money throughout the years and improve the overall value of your home.

Energy-Star-certified units will save you between 15 and 20% on your energy bill. And, yes, there are federal tax credits to be had. They typically cover $150 for the furnace itself and $50 for an air circulating fan.

6. Get Personal

Still cold? Throw on a sweater, buy yourself a cozy pair of flannel pajamas, pull on some thick socks, and invest in an electric blanket. Small tweaks to your indoor wardrobe—like wearing slippers over your socks while inside—can make a big difference in how tempting it is to crank up that heater.

7. Invest in Foam Outlet Protectors

Regular outlet plates are nothing but thin plastic. If you have spaces in your walls where cold air can lurk, that cold air will escape into your home through the holes that house your outlets. If, however, you purchase foam outlet protectors, you can effectively insulate the backside of plastic outlet covers to keep that air from escaping the interior walls. Foam outlet protectors are affordable, can be purchased either online or at any home improvement store, and can be installed by the most inexperienced DIYer.

8. Don’t Forget to Bring the Outdoors In 

Often, we’re so focused on the inside of the home; we fail to winterize outdoor items that can be damaged by extreme cold. If you have potted plants or flowering trees out on the patio, bring them inside before the temperatures fall below 45 degrees. If you have a permanent outdoor garden, remember to protect your plants with frost blankets during particularly harsh cold snaps.

Got a grill? Depending on what type it is, severe cold can damage your gear. If you have room in the garage or basement, bring it inside. If it’s a propane grill, close the tank valve and disconnect the tank. The tank must always stay outdoors, so don’t store it inside the house if you do end up bringing your grill inside. Also, consider your outdoor furniture. If it’s made of plastic, extreme temperatures can make it brittle.

Don’t forget outdoor equipment like lawnmowers and weed whackers. Give them a good cleaning before tucking them away for the season. If you have a snowblower, make sure it’s in proper working order before the first nor’easter finds its way to your doorstep. And last, don’t forget to stock up on ice melt before the snow falls.

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