28 Cash-Saving Ways To Get Your House Winter-Ready

Brrrr! It’s getting cold and it’s time to get the ol’ homestead ready so Jack Frost isn’t picking your pocket through your unsealed windows and faulty furnaces. In the comments section on the popular “9 House Fixes To Save $ Before Winter Starts” post you guys left lots of great ideas on how you’re getting prepared this winter, so here’s 28 of the best of them so we can all learn and save together.

1. THERMAL CURTAINS: They keep a room a couple of degrees warmer in cool weather and a couple of degrees cooler in warm weather. Much faster and cheaper than replacing windows, even with the tax credits available.

2. REVERSE CEILING FAN ROTATION

3. TAPING WINDOWS: We used the double sided tape on the mesh screen itself as it comes out. When it was taped we then used the plastic shrink wrap on both sides and then used the hair dryer to shrink it. The upside is that we had a quick way to install and remove the plastic. We then taped around the edges of the screen itself in the window and the whole thing took about 10 minutes a window and cut down on almost all of the air flow.

4. OR USE CLEAR VINYL: Go to Home Depot or Lowes, and buy heavy gauge clear vinyl in 4 foot wide rolls. They keep it with the other insulation stuff like weatherstripping (and the shrink kits).

Then go online and look for “gaffers tape” which is a cloth-based tape that has an adhesive that holds like iron but removes later without leaving gummy residue. Like duct tape but without the crap it leaves behind when it dries out. You can get it in various widths and colors; I prefer to use 2″ wide in white to match my paint (Amazon sells the ProGaff brand). Cut the vinyl to fit onto your window frames, and seal it to the window frame with the gaffers tape. Use small pieces at first on the corners and the mid points of the long edges to get it stretched tight, then seal all the way around with longer continuous strips to make a pretty airtight seal. No heating or shrinking required.

In the spring, heat up the tape with a hair dryer first and peel it off slowly. It should come off totally clean. If you’re careful you can probably fold up the clear vinyl and use it again the next season. It’s pretty rugged, and most cats and dogs would have a hard time tearing it.

5. FOAM STRIPS ON DOORS: On the outside door itself we installed the foam strip around the border of the door itself on the frame. This cut down the air flow a lot and the door itself does not get caught up on this as it is on the frame and not the door.

6. FLAPS ON DRYER VENTS: If you have a dryer that has an exterior vent look at getting a vent flap that opens when you are using the dryer and closes when it is not in use. That also cuts down on the cold air getting into the place a bit (not totally, but, every bit helps).

7. PLUG HOLES WITH TOOTHPASTE: One recommendation I got (from a contractor) was use toothpaste to plug holes (ala caulk)…obviously don’t use the crazy stuff with the stripes or it’ll look stupid.

8. ELECTRIC RADIATORS: We turn the gas heat all the way down to 50, then use electric radiators in the bedrooms to keep it around 68. Saves us about between $50 and $150 per month net during the winter on the gas bill vs. the slightly higher electric bill. Gotta love off-peak electricity pricing… Very important to note you don’t want to set the thermostat too low as burst pipes will cost more than the heat bill.

9. CLOSE THE VENTS

10. COVER THE VENTS

11. SEAL THE BASEMENT STORM CELLAR DOOR: I put plastic over the basement storm cellar door. That will keep the cold from invading the house there.

12. REPLACE INSULATING TAPE AROUND ATTIC HATCH

13. PUT DRAFT-DODGERS AT DOORS TO ROOMS THAT REMAIN MOSTLY CLOSED

14. HANG CURTAINS

15. PUT RUGS ON TILES

16. DRAIN AND PUT AWAY HOSE

17. CHECK HOSE INSULATION

18. LAP BLANKETS FOR LIVING ROOM

19. HEAVY BLANKETS FOR BEDROOM

20. BUST OUT THE SWEATERS

21. DO THE ELECTRIC BLANKET: I realized a very nice savings when I installed it and bought an electric blanket. The temp setting drops to the lowest (60) at 8:00 p.m. and stays there till 6:00 am where it goes up to 71. At 71 I am chilly and my wife is hot so it is a compromise. I figured the savings for the first full heating season at around $600. All that for not keeping the house warm while we are asleep.

22. PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT: Honeywell programmable t-stats FTW. Instead of just doing a 1-2 degree over/under, they target a certain number of cycles per hour, and then change the duration of the cycles to keep the house comfy. Also, the setpoint times are done by getting your house TO the setpoint by the time you select, as opposed to turning on the system at the same time every day. This makes it better able to deal with the differing heating demands of 40-degree days vs. 0-degree days.

Some local utilities will give away programmable thermostats for free.

23. ZERO-DEGREE SLEEPING BAG: Buy a zero degree sleeping bag and turn the heater down loooooooooow. Oh yea. I’m cheap.

24. DON’T TURN HEAT COMPLETELY OFF: If you are not going to be home for much of the day, don’t turn the heat completely off, just lower it to something like 65f (it cost more money to heat a house from like 40f to 75f than it does to keep the house at 65f).

25. INSULATE INSULATE INSULATE!: Our garage is located right below the living room and prior to our moving in it wasn’t insulated. The result was that the living room would hover around 55-60 degrees in the winter and make the furnace work longer and harder than it needed to. Our gas bill was horrible every month. After we put in the insulation ourselves to save some cash (and to allow us to afford better insulation) the living room easily stays around the same temperature as every other room in the house. This is not only true in winter, but summer as well.

26. GET YOUR FURNACE SERVICED: Call the company you get your oil/gas from and tell them you need your furnace serviced. They will come out, check the filters, adjust the burner, check for leaks, etc. We had it done last year at the house we rent and it almost *halved* our oil consumption.[1]

[1]results probably non-typical because who knows when it was last done.

27. ADD EXTENSTIONS TO DOWNSPOUTS SO WATER RUNS 3-4 FT AWAY FROM FOUNDATION: We added a “stream” to take the water a good 15 or 20 feet away from the foundation (after having some basement water problems). The gutter (for the whole back of the house, we have a very simple roofline) and the sump outlet both come out in the same place, so we built a little stream lined with an impermeable liner, filled it with river rocks for pretty, and it runs down to a “hollow” that we planted up with prairie swamp plants (that love alternating soakings and parchings).

It draws many compliments and keeps the water well away from our foundations.

28. SNUGGIE: Buy and wear snuggie full-time.

(Photo: jakeliefer)