During the winter, your home should be a cozy haven against frigid outdoor temperatures. Bumping up your thermostat is one way to make your house warmer, but that can lead to excessive energy costs.
To keep your heating bill down without sacrificing comfort, look for alternative ways to warm and weatherize your home in the winter. Permanent measures include installing new windows and checking your attic’s insulation. Quick, inexpensive fixes are things like purchasing a door draft stopper or letting the sun’s warmth in when the sky is blue.
Here are some winter hacks designed to help keep the cool air out and the warm air in your home where it belongs.
1. Install a programmable thermostat.
Programmable thermostats give you more control over your home’s temperature throughout the day, so you don’t have to keep it at 68°F around the clock. Keep your house warmer while you’re awake, then program the thermostat to automatically lower the temperature at nighttime or during other times when no one is home. Schedule the temperature to return to normal before you wake up or return home, so you’re not stepping into a cold house.
For even more control, choose a smart thermostat ($249, The Home Depot) that lets you adjust the temperature from your phone even if you’re not home. It’s an easy DIY upgrade that can save you tons on heating costs.
“Smart learning thermostats self-program based on a combination of current temperature and your preferences and patterns while at home. As the weather outside changes, so will the temperature in your home, and depending on your patterns and settings, the thermostat will adjust accordingly,” says David Steckel, Senior Director Strategic Partnerships and New Ventures at Thumbtack. “If the thermostat has not sensed any movement in a few hours during the day and the temperature drops, the thermostat will know you’re not home so it will not turn the furnace on. This behavior can save up to 10% on your heating bill.”
2. Make sure heating vents are open and not blocked.
It’s a myth that closing vents will save money by not heating unused rooms, says Bailey Carson, home care expert with Angi. “Your home’s HVAC system was selected for your home—including all of its rooms—so regardless of how many vents are open, the system will generate the same amount of hot air,” Carson explains. “Fully closing vents can actually cause your system to overwork, resulting in higher energy bills and damage over the course of time. Partially closing them can help pump air into the right areas, but be sure to leave them at least 25% open.”
You can also help your heating system work as efficiently as possible by ensuring warm-air vents, radiators, or other heaters around your home aren’t blocked. Move any rugs, furniture, or curtains obstructing the airflow. You should also regularly clean these areas and replace your furnace filter to prevent dust buildup.
3. Add a door draft stopper.
Cold air can easily find a way into your home via doorways, but a draft guard can help. Often covered in fabric and weighted with sand, these handy objects are placed in front doors to prevent cold air from seeping in. You can even make your own if you’re so inclined. Simply cut a length of fabric to fit your doorway, sew it into a long tube, then fill it with your choice of stuffing before sewing shut. A draft stopper won’t eliminate the cool breeze that wafts in when you open the door, but it will help while the door is closed.
4. Insulate windows with plastic film or bubble wrap.
Plastic film and bubble wrap are surprisingly easy and cheap window insulators. Window film insulation kits include transparent shrink film that creates a barrier around drafty windows. After cutting the plastic sheet to the size of your window, apply adhesive tape around the window frame and use a hairdryer to seal the film to the tape. (Don’t worry: The plastic peels off cleanly at the end of the season.)
To use bubble wrap, select a medium to large size ($15, Target). Small bubble wrap is too thin and won’t do much to block cold air. Measure your windows and cut the bubble wrap to size. Then, use a spray bottle to spread a thin layer of water on the window. Immediately after spraying, press the bubble wrap to the window with the bubbles facing the glass. The water will make the bubble wrap stick and last all winter, keeping you warm.
5. Seal your windows.
While on the topic of windows, sealing them is another good move. Replace old caulking and add weatherstripping to keep the draft out and your home warmer, says Carson. To do this, first, remove any deteriorating caulk from the window frame. Next, use a caulk gun to slowly run a bead of caulk down the seam of the window. Smooth the caulk with your finger to finish. If you want to go the extra mile, seal the interior of your windows, too.
“If your windows are due for an upgrade, this is also a great time to swap them out for storm or insulated windows to improve your home’s energy efficiency, and keep you warm this winter,” suggests Carson.
6. Open curtains on a sunny day.
This house-warmer hack is totally free! Before you leave for the day, check the weather. If the sun will be out, open the blinds and curtains around the house to let nature heat your home for free. At night, close all curtains to prevent cold air from seeping inside.
7. Put your ceiling fan on reverse.
This is an often-overlooked hack. Your ceiling fan runs clockwise during the summer to pull warm air up and keep you cool, explains Carson. However, fans can be helpful in the winter as well to keep your house warm.
“Set them to run counter-clockwise and they will circulate the air and help push warm air down to where you can feel it,” Carson explains.
8. Keep interior doors open.
No, not doors that lead outside, of course, but the doors throughout the interior of your home. At first blush, this might appear to go against the theory that closing the doors to some rooms will mean less area to heat overall. But Carson says, “keeping your doors open throughout your home will allow air to circulate. This will help regulate the temperature throughout the whole house.”
“If there are areas that aren’t connected to your central HVAC system, and they’re not being used, then blocking them off can definitely help keep the heat in the right rooms,” adds Carson. “However, wherever there are vents, there will be heat coming out, and keeping those internal doors open will help the [warm] air circulate.”
9. Boost insulation.
Although this step might be slightly more involved, checking your insulation as winter approaches can be a smart money-saving move. “If you haven’t inspected your insulation in a while, it might be time to take a look. The added insulation will help regulate the temperature in your home without the energy escaping through the attic or basement,” explains Carson.
10. Bake some treats.
Need a get-warm-quick idea? Crank up the oven to help warm your house while you bake your favorite treat. When you’re finished baking, open the oven door just a crack while it’s cooling down.
Important: Ensure the oven is turned off when the door is cracked. The heat will warm your kitchen quickly and inexpensively. Close the door when all the heat has escaped. We don’t recommend doing this with small children or pets in the house.
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