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.


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.



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.










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)


Edit Your Comment

  1. The_Red_Monkey says:

    This article makes me happy I live in a part of California where it does not snow.

  2. GitEmSteveDave_GoneInAMmmBop says:

    Ahh, that’s why you suggest I hire the girls from Sunshine Cleaning. When I put Draft dodgers on the bottom of my doors they will eventually start to smell, and I’ll need someone to clean up the bodies!

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Pet people, help me out here.

    Our rabbit sits in his cage at night and I have no way of telling whether he’s properly warm at night or freezing his furry butt off. He’s been fine so far, but we’re not even into winter yet and we haven’t turned on the heat yet. I’ve thought about putting a bunny-sized sweater on him, but he’d hate it and he would try to chew through it. And we can’t let him into our room because he makes noise at night. I’ve batted around the idea of putting fleece blankets on his cage at night, but I don’t know if that would work.

    • GitEmSteveDave_GoneInAMmmBop says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Heated rock, like reptile owners use? He could get as close to it/sit on it if he wants, or not.

    • Pink Puppet says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: As my home gets ridiculously cold, I put a heating pad under a part of my rat cage in the winter. It gives them a warm place for the ratties to nest if they want it without affecting the whole cage. It’s just a matter of being cautious about the temperature of the pad.

      Perhaps something like that would help?

      • Skipweasel says:

        @Pink Puppet: We have a 15W heat pad for our 21 year old cat ‘cos she’s getting rather stiff these days. It goes off a night (she just gets on the bed with us) but all day she rarely leaves it except under hydraulic pressure.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @Pink Puppet: Is it safe to keep a heating pad on all night? I’ve heard that they’re fire hazards. Or are those heated blankets…

        He usually sleeps on a shelf area, so I don’t know if he would be warm if we put it under the whole cage. Rabbits chew on everything in sight, so if we put it under his shelf, he’d probably find it when he got down and he’d try to eat it.

        • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

          @pecan 3.14159265: Sounds like the reptile rock thing would be safer in that regard…

          Not that I know anything at all about caring for bunnies.. My cats seem to be self-heating.

        • mazzic1083 says:

          @pecan 3.14159265: A friend of the family raises rabbits and sells them as kind of a weird part time hobby. Needless to say she keeps all the rabbits in cages outside throughout the whole year. Whether it be super hot or cold the rabbits all do just fine so I think your rabbit will be A-OK protected from the elements, even if the thermostat is a bit lower.

          Hell they do have fur after all, lol

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            @mazzic1083: My rabbit is a wuss. I tried taking him outside to my parents’ yard and he wouldn’t go past the patio. The texture of grass freaked him out a little. And I’m not sure that just because rabbits can be outside at during all types of weather means they should be. Plus, if there were a few of them, they’d bunch together and keep each other warm.

            • mazzic1083 says:

              @pecan 3.14159265: I could see the co-habitation as a good point on conserving body heat, seems to be the fad for most all animals out in the cold.

              But I guess my point was more of the fact that since your rabbit is already indoors and protected from rain/snow/wind a few degrees cooler on the thermostat shouldn’t be a big deal at all for him/her (even if said rabbit is “a wuss”)

    • GitEmSteveDave_GoneInAMmmBop says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: [www.google.com]

      I swear Amy Sedaris covered proper rabbit habitats in her book: “I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence” , but for the life of me, I can’t remember what she said.

    • MostlyHarmless says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: When I said this that last time, it was a question. When I say it this time, it is a suggestion:

      “Stew or BBQ”.


    • floraposte says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I’d ask your local House Rabbit Society. Here’s yours: [rabbitsinthehouse.org]

    • MostlyHarmless says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I think of comfy and cozy animal habitats to help me fall asleep at night. From my many forays into that dreamworld, here is my suggestion:

      If the cage is big enough, or if you can combine two cages with a walkway in between, you can throw the blanket over one part of the cage. That will stop the drafts and act as an insulator. Combine this with the idea of a heated pad or the heated rock that the bunny can snuggle up to for warmth. Now your bunny has its own heated tent to get all sorts of comfy in.

      And that very thought makes me sleepy. And I REALLY do not want to intake any caffeine today. Looks like its time for a walk.

      • P=mv says:

        @MostlyHarmless: If you want to go the heating pad route, there are heating mats for reptiles that you put under the cage. They are designed for being on 24/7. They are efficient and will not overheat or burn your bunny. Combine that with a covered enclosure in the cage to capture the warmth radiating from the floor and you won’t have to worry.

    • gover57 says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: It has fur for a reason – to stay warm. same with dogs and cats. (hairless excepted) If you feel the need, put a small carboard box in the cage that it can crawl into – it’ll likely chew on it though, or drape a blanket over the cage at night. otherwise, leave it and it’ll be fine.. unless you shave your bunny…

    • Eels says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I am pretty sure that bunnies don’t mind the cold. They do live in the wild, you know? Many people keep their rabbits outside. If your house is of any sort of tolerable temperature to you, then there is no possible way that bunny is cold.

      • pop top says:

        @Eels: “If your house is of any sort of tolerable temperature to you, then there is no possible way that bunny is cold.”

        That is incorrect. Not only is the little guy running around on the floor (heat rises), but many rodents need to be a few degrees warmer than humans. For instance, my rats do the best around 70F, but my house is around 63-64F, so we make sure to give them t-shirts and blankets to snuggle in.

        • snidelywhiplash says:

          @squinko: Rabbits ain’t rodents. They’re lagomorphs. That said, they do have a slightly higher body temp than people, and provision should be made for warmth, as others have said.

    • henrygates says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: What do the bunnies outside do then? I think your bunny is just fine!

    • FLConsumer says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Bring the bunny indoors where he belongs! My rabbit has free reign of the house, litter-box trained. In the wintertime I put an upside down cardboard box on the floor with a few towels inside and a towel over the box. Bun loves it and no shivering bunny yet.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @FLConsumer: My rabbit doesn’t live outdoors.

        @robocop is bleeding: I’ve been thinking about the dog bed, but I feel like he’d ignore it completely and then I’d be out the money for a dog bed. I think for now, I’ll throw blankets over his cage at night and look into a microwaveable heating pad I can put under the cage.

    • robocop is bleeding says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: DON’T USE A HEAT ROCK!

      Those rocks all have wires and all it takes to have a well-cooked rabbit is a curious little bun attempting a curious nibble.

      We have three rabbits. When we lived in a much draftier apartment, I’d put a blanket around their cages to help cut down on drafts. You can use a cheap blanket from a Big Lots or something, or you can wrap the cage in a blue tarp, then a better blanket.

      Consider a bigger litter box. I’m not sure what your setup is, but in lieu of smaller littler boxes, we use plastic storage bins (the shallow under the bed storage type from Target) filled with Carefresh. Though it may be a bit stinky, the litter will give them something to burrow a bit in to if they get cold.

      We have one bun who likes the small dog bed we got for him. The others tend to ignore theirs. Your bunny’s tastes may differ.

      You can also get a thick cardboard tube, the sort used as a form for pouring concrete pillars, from Home Depot for your bun to snug up in.

      Or, you may just have to leave the heat up a bit more at night. The extra bucks a month are surely worth it when compared to a chilly, if not frozen, bun.

    • pop top says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: My mom puts a fleece blanket over her rabbit’s cage at night, and he seems pretty warm. How big is the cage? Maybe you could get one of those giant plastic igloos (or a big cardboard box?) and stuff it with a few t-shirts or a fluffy blanket, and then drape one over the top? He could have a sweet winter fort.

      My rat cage has a thick blanket on top to trap heat, a blanket that goes over the front to protect from drafts from the front door if we’re going in and out of the house, and several t-shirts scattered everywhere for them to snuggle in as they please.

      @mazzic1083: It’s actually not a good idea to keep house rabbits penned up outside. Besdies the obvious stuff like mites/ticks/fleas/etc., they could get attacked by wild animals (raccoons are excellent at breaking into things), or menaced enough by them that they would have a heart attack.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @squinko: The cage is a huge one, so it would take a pretty big blanket! He has one of the igloos, and he seems to enjoy that, but he doesn’t really sleep in it. Every morning when I come feed him, he’s away from it and chilling on his little shelf. I’ll probably try putting a fleece thing on the shelf itself and maybe he’ll like that. If he doesn’t, well, I’m out a piece of fleece (the rhyming!) and we’ll try something else. Mr. Pi refuses to get him a sweater though. He says he’d look ridiculous.

        • pop top says:

          @pecan 3.14159265: Head to Goodwill and get a large blanket, and just fold it up to cover the top. That’ll help trap in some heat. If he’s on his shelf, maybe you could clip some fabric to the outside of the cage where the shelf is, and maybe put something down on the shelf itself?

          He will definitely eat the sweater, but he’ll sure look adorable before the feasting begins. ;)

          @mazzic1083: If she’s raising them for meat then yeah, keep them outside. If she’s raising them to be house pets, then keeping them outside is a bad idea.

        • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

          @pecan 3.14159265: I think that in order to make the best possible suggestions we would need to see a picture of the cage.. and the cute fluffy bunny.. You know.. so we can make an educated suggestion…

          /Educational purposes, not cute overload.


          /(Not really, I want to see the bunny.)

      • mazzic1083 says:

        @squinko: Well to be fair the lady was raising them not necessarily as house pets but as a hobby and to sell. I guess you could say that the family who eventually does buy the rabbit might not want an outdoor bunny.

        And sure animals can be attacked outside, on my grandmother’s farm she’d lose cats all the time to coyotes in Ohio (weird, I know). But I think that’s part of the difference of house pet vs outdoor pet (or outdoor livestock I guess since some are sold?). She’d be sad for a day if a cat turned up missing but she also had about 30 others that needed to survive so you move on as opposed to a family with one indoor cat that gets run over or goes missing, it’s much more traumatic.

      • vim876 says:

        It is a terrible idea to keep domestic rabbits outside. I had a pet rabbit when I was about seven, (his name was Fred, after Fred Flinstone), and we kept him outside. One morning we found him dead without any marks or anything. My parents deduced that a fox had tried to get in and given him a heart attack. :( Domesticated bunnies belong inside!

  4. GitEmSteveDave_GoneInAMmmBop says:

    Also, most furnace companies will offer furnace repairs with an oil contract. I will NOT start up my furnace until it is checked out due to the chance of a CO problem. If you have pets, they can be affected way before an alarm for human levels will sound. It also saves you on oil as our techs replace all the nozzles, in case they gummed up, the oil filters, and gives us the most flame for our oil.

    And Ben, do Snuggie Hats count?

  5. bohemian says:

    We use thermal curtains and blinds to daylight the house. You have the curtains open facing wherever the sun it at in the morning or afternoon then close them when the sun isn’t shining through any longer. The thermal curtains trap the heat in. I also found it helps if you can get the thermal curtains tight against the edge of the window. I tuck the edge behind the metal pull backs.

    If your not home there are some companies that make mechanical curtain systems you can put on a timer.

    • downwithmonstercable says:

      @bohemian: Are thermal curtains just made of a thicker material? We have regular microfiber curtains, and on cold days there is a significant difference between the living room and the windowsill area when I reach my hand behind. I’m curious what it’d be like with thermals.

      • bohemian says:

        @downwithmonstercable: You can buy thermal drapes that are lined with something. We just made or added to existing drapes. Good quality polarfleece works well to line drapes. We have also used upholstery fabric, velvet or wool to line drapes with. Having two layers to the drapes where the wrong sides face each other allows a bit of air space in them and that seems to help also.

  6. zarex42 says:

    Turn the heat off if you’re gone multiple days? Are you insane?

    If you turn your heat off, and you live up north, a cold day will freeze your pipes. They’ll then soon thaw and burst, destroying most of your possessions, as well as the house itself.

    NEVER, NEVER, EVER turn your heat off. Just lower the thermostat to 50-55 or so.

    Turning your heat off to save money is horrible, awful, reckless advice. Come on, consumerist! Think before writing!

    • redskull says:

      @zarex42: Thanks, I was just about to say the same thing about the pipes. 50º – 55º might even be too low if you have an older house or inadequate ventilation (like my house). If you do turn your heat down that low, be sure to set your faucets (kitchen and bathroom sink, and tub) so that they drip constantly.

    • LeChiffre says:

      @zarex42: I think turning the stat down to 50f is nuts. I’d rather pay the extra cash.

    • mazzic1083 says:

      @zarex42: What’s funny is one part of the article says 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.

      Yet then later on they advocate turning off the heat for days…and I’m officially confused!

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @mazzic1083: Yeah, I thought that was weird too. I do that and it sure in the hell doesn’t save me any money. Mostly because the gas prices go up so much in the winter that any savings is offset.

        I use them because the kitchen and bedroom are unheated by the stupid floor furnace that’s in the entrance to the hallway, unless I turn the thing up to 100 degrees. :P

  7. ftk says:

    29. IF YOU LIVE IN SOUTH FLORIDA: Turn off the A/C for the three weeks that the temperature stays under 80 F.

  8. Skipweasel says:

    The one about drier vents – better is to have a condensing drier. All summer you can dry the washing outdoors anyway, all winter the heat you’ve paid for stays in the house rather than keeping the sparrows warm. The sort that use air to cool the damp outflow are better than the sort that spray water into a cooling tower in terms of keeping the heat useable.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @Skipweasel: There are also cheap heat exchangers for conventional warm-air dryers that reclaim a good portion of the heat the dryer is producing. These are usually switchable… you can direct the air through the exchanger in the cold months and straight out the exhaust in the hot months, and it’s much cheaper than a new condensing dryer.

      • Rachacha says:

        @GearheadGeek: Be careful however. On some of the cheap vents that simply pump the dryer air into your house, you need to be concerned about the warm moisture that you are now dumping into your house, generally in a confined area. When that warm moist air hits anything colder than itself, it will condense and you will now have a moisture problem (which will likely turn into a mold problem).

        Compare that with humidifiers which generally use room temperature air passing through a damp filter. The air coming out of the humidifier can not carry much moisture, and that cool moist air quickly mixes with the dry air in the house to gradually increase the humidity level.

        • GearheadGeek says:

          @Rachacha: That’s not a heat exchanger, that’s just a bypass that directs the dryer air back into the house. I wouldn’t recommend that because of the moisture AND because you’d have a carbon monoxide problem if you put it on a gas dryer. The ones I’m talking about are heat exchangers where just some of the heat from the dryer exhaust is radiated to the air inside your living space but the dryer exhaust air is still directed outside.

  9. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    Shouldn’t step one be:

    1. BUY A HOUSE

    That’d help me be able to use these tips.

    Unfortunately there aren’t many “Prepare your rental/apartment for winter” tip lists.

    Oh well, winter is usually a happy time in Texas.. our electric bills cut themselves in half on their own.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Kimaroo – No Stars Upon Thars: I think the curtains are relevant. I have floor to ceiling windows, and I don’t know if I can put up curtains unless I drill into the ceiling. :(

      • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: My lease says that I’m not allowed to install curtians. We did in the bedroom anyway (One window) because there is a light out side our window that stays on all night to light the sidewalk. But other than that we haven’t.

        Plus to curtian the whole place would be big bucks, and then you move and you’ll have different configurations of windows.

        We’re already talking about moving when our lease is up.. sucks. We’ve been in our current apartment for 3 years but the management company recently changed and well.. we’re wanting to get out now.

        • veg-o-matic says:

          @Kimaroo – No Stars Upon Thars: Say whaaaaat!? Not allowed to install curtains?

          Do you know if there are any provisions in your state’s rental/tenant laws that ensure your right to make minor modifications to your living space?

          • dulcinea47 says:

            @veg-o-matic: They don’t want you making big holes in the walls to put up curtain rods. I’m not allowed to install them either, tho I’m going to in the bedroom… still pondering how to do it while making the least possible holes.

            I still plan to tape/shrink wrap my windows which should help a fair amount.

    • oneandone says:

      @Kimaroo – No Stars Upon Thars: A lot of the window taping suggestions could work for renters. I think a while ago someone suggested taking these kinds of lists to a landlord and encouraging them to take on cost-saving measures.

      My landlord is a giant company that doesn’t seem to care too much. We have all utilities included, otherwise I would be livid about our poorly sealed, single-pane windows and non-programmable thermostat. As it is, I just crank the heat up a bit more and will definitely be looking at all windows when I buy a place.

      • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

        @oneandone: Mine is a giant company too, never lived in a place that wasn’t that way.

        Our windows sound similar to yours, and definitely not a programable thermostat..

        The difference is though that we do pay for our utilities : /

        I hate that our AC/Heat/Water heater is all Electric.. Our bills aren’t awful though because I switched companys that offered me a really low rate. My electric bill due soon (The end of Sept-most of October) is only 100 dollars. But I have a really good rate.

        I recently got them to put new weather stripping on the front door because the lawn guys would physically blow dirt in through the door with their leaf blowers. They didn’t do as good of a job as I would like, but atleast that is something.

  10. Skipweasel says:

    One that works all year is to have a cut-off switch for all the stuff that would on standby all night. We save 110W for ten hours a night by cutting off:
    2xPCs, 2xmonitors, 2xspeakers, 2xprinters, modem, router, wireless AP, print server, HiFi, telly, DVD, Cable box, 2x reading lamp transformers and a cordless phone holster.

    It all goes through a 40A switch on the wall.

    • FLConsumer says:

      @Skipweasel: I’ve done similar but use Smarthome’s Insteon switches/receptacles. Far cleaner install. I also have a master kill switch in the entryway which turns off everything that doesn’t need to be on 24/7.

  11. ilovemom says:

    I’d like an explanation on #24. While it may cost less to heat the house up from 65 to 75 (and btw, 75?? what are you my grandmother??) than from 45 to 75, the money you will save by lowering the heat to 45 outweighs the “additional” cost of the heat up.

    • mazzic1083 says:

      @ilovemom: I was thinking this as well, glad somebody beat me to it.

    • You Be Illin' says:

      @ilovemom: I agree. I’m pretty sure that advice violates one of the laws of thermodynamics.

    • snowmentality says:

      @ilovemom: It all depends on the amount of time it’ll be at 45 degrees.

      I once went through and did all the math for a similar situation. There is actually a threshold length of time when the amount of money saved by cranking it down to 45 outweighs the increased cost of the heat-up. If it’ll be at 45 for shorter than that length of time, the increased heat-up costs outweigh the money saved by putting it at a low temp.

      I did it for the case of a water heater, and for that situation the threshold was about 14 hours. The relevant thermodynamics equations aren’t hard (plug and chug with a little algebra). You have to make a few quick and dirty assumptions but you can at least get an estimate.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @ilovemom: I think it’s just a clunky sentence. I read is as meaning “Don’t turn the heat completely off, you can still save money by heating to a lower temperature.” It leaves lots of gray, though, and is entirely wrong when it suggests turning the heat off altogether if you’re going to be gone for a while (as has been pointed out earlier.) I think it’s superseded by 22 anyway, a programmable thermostat is your friend.

    • Eels says:

      @ilovemom: I think it has more to do with the fact that when you come home and the heat is off, you go, “DAMN it’s cold!” and then crank up the heat for a few hours until it’s 95 degrees in the place, and then you turn the heat down again.

    • neilb says:

      @ilovemom: #24 is a false statement. Furnaces operate most efficiently when they run for long periods of time. Thus, you are best if you can let it run waaaaay down then waaaaay up. Sure, it sucks for the house, but it is theoretically the most efficient way to heat. The lower mean temp you have, the less you have to lose to inefficiencies and the longer you run the furnace straight the more efficient each BTU is (this is why it is bad to buy an oversized furnace for the sq ft application/min temp day).

    • FLConsumer says:

      @ilovemom: You beat me to it. There’s only ONE situation where this statement actually proves true. It’s when you have multiple heat sources, particularly when a heat pump is involved.

      Heat pumps are > 100% efficient, moving more heat than they consume in electricity, even at low (0F-14F) temperatures. BUT as it gets colder out the heat pump moves less heat.

      In my case, it works out that running the electric heat strips for 1 hr = 6-8 hrs of heat pump running. So, when the temperatures get below ~35-40F, it’s cheaper for me to leave the heat running rather than doing a setback.

  12. Anonymously says:

    Can anyone speak to the benefits (or lack thereof) of inspecting an electric furnace? Is it still worth the cost? It’s not like there’s a ton of stuff to go wrong with the thing.

  13. JGKojak says:

    Wow… Ben…

    Saving money with an elec blanket is great and all… but keeping the house so cold you need a sleeping bag and/or an elec blanket doesn’t really encourage the, how do you say it… spontanaity of romance opportunities?

  14. Pink Puppet says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: Pff, I fail. Sorry, I should have clarified. I use a microwavable heating pad. There are some that last pretty much the entire night, but I’m at a library so I can’t look at the kind I have to recommend. I think I got it at a petstore.

    My theory is that if he’s uncomfortably chilly on his shelf then he’ll come down to get cozy and you’ll never risk it getting chewed up. Since rats chew like fiends, keeping it out of the cage has always been super high priority–even if it inconveniences them.

  15. vladthepaler says:

    BAD advice. Contrary to the last parenthetical in 24, you should NEVER turn your heat off. Frozen/burst pipes are very expensive to deal with. Turn the heat down if you’re going to be gone for a few days, but don’t turn it off.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @vladthepaler: To be fair, though, it depends on how cold it is. If it’s cold enough to freeze and for penguins to take up residence outside your home, yes, keep your heat on. But if it’s not that cold, you can deal with a few days without the heat if you’re going to be away.

      • zarex42 says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: Either way, it’s a really stupid risk to take. You’re risking all of your stuff, and a few hundred thousand on a house, to save what, a few bucks of oil?

        Not worth it, if you turn the thermostat down, and the heat is needed, guess what: it won’t turn on!

        Dumb, dumb, dumb.

      • Etoiles says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: Every lease I’ve ever signed states that I am not allowed to turn the heat in my unit below 56 or 58 (depending) lest the pipes freeze.

        Here in DC, not such a big deal. But when I was renting the 2nd floor of an 1870s house in Western MA? Yeah, we’d definitely have burst all the pipes if we kept it below 58.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: If it’s not that cold and you turn the thermostat down to a level that’ll prevent pipe-freezing, it may not even cycle on while you’re gone. That’s pretty cheap insurance against burst pipes.

  16. Scoobatz says:

    Even easier than # 3 — Insulate windows using Seal N Peel Removable Weatherstrip Caulk. It’s applied using a caulking gun and you can finish a window in a couple of minutes. Removal is fast, easy, and does not cause any damage (like removing double-sided tape sometimes does). It’s available at Lowe’s and Home Depot.

  17. Pink Puppet says:

    @GitEmSteveDave_GoneInAMmmBop: Why, of course, SteveDave! Whilst rats might not be trusted with microwave priviledges, I’d assume rabbits are a little more mature about that sort of thing.

  18. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    #27 is mine! Yay!

    Another blanket tip is to put the natural-fiber blankets and comforter/duvet on top of you for the warmth and breathability, and then put a synthetic blanket on top of the whole pile to hold in the warmth. Less sweaty than having the synthetic up against you because at least there’s some circulation through the layers. But DEFINITELY holds the heat in!

  19. downwithmonstercable says:

    I recently heard about caulking the seam around the windows inside the home. I think we’re gonna try that this year. I know we have pinhole air leaks somewhere around the windows, I’m curious to see how it works!

    Taping around the attic hatch is a good idea too, and insulating the garage. QUESTION – What’s the best way to insulate the garage if it’s a finished garage and drywall is up and everything? I am almost certain it’s not insulated. It is right below our kitched, so there’s no attic space to get into.

    • Wild Monkey says:

      @downwithmonstercable: I would say blown in cellulose. Just make sure the access holes are properly sealed after since you wouldn’t want fumes to leak up into the living space above. It’s a job better left to a professional unless you have experience with it.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @downwithmonstercable: My whole house was insulated after the fact with blow-in cellulose, so I’ll second Wild Monkey’s suggestion. In my house, they cut holes in the siding between each stud and blew in the insulation. I hate to think how uncomfortable this house was in its first few years, with just a floor furnace and no insulation. It was probably tolerable in summer with a big attic fan, but that had been replaced by central air before I bought it and I certainly wouldn’t go back.

  20. shepd says:

    For those mentioning about the pipes and keeping the heat on, you’re right on. There are methods to keep the heat off and protect the pipes, though.

    You could install pipe heater tape. You’ll need to open up any walls with pipes in them and install the tape, and provide access to wherever it plugs in. Not particularly convenient except perhaps for a small cottage.

    Or, you could drain the plumbing. Only useful if you won’t be using the water.

  21. temporaryerror says:

    I used standard size shrink wrap for a big 4×6 window in my old apartment. Worked well, and when the wind was blowing hard outside, you could see the shrink wrap billowing. It was a HUGE pain to put up though, as the plastic was about 10″ wide, and not very cooperative. I’ve used the clear plastic sheeting before, but don’t like it because it frosts everything (it’s not 100% clear)

    • HogwartsAlum says:

      @temporaryerror: I only use the sheeting on my bathroom window, which is in the shower (!! stupid old house !!) and covered anyway.

      I have a window in my office that is such a pain to use the plastic that it’s up all the time; sometimes you can hear it going WHAPWHAPWHAP and if I forget it’s there it scares the crap out of me!

  22. chrylis says:

    I’ve used Hunter’s programmable thermostats (both the button and the touchscreen varieties) and have been quite pleased with them; they offer the features of the more expensive brands at a significantly lower cost.

    Regardless of brand, though, installing a programmable thermostat is easy to do yourself, and the basic models cost only $20-25.

  23. H3ion says:

    Haven’t there been studies that indicate that sealing everything and making the house effectively air tight is not healthy? That there has to be some outside air exchanging with the air in the house? And running a thermostat at 71 during the daytime is too high. Put it at 68 and wear a sweater.

    • FLConsumer says:

      @H3ion: What constitutes the ideal indoor temperature is highly subjective and individual. My scrawny arse doesn’t do well with cold weather, no insulation. Summer temperatures at my house are ~78-80F 45% RH. Wintertime is usually 73F, 45% RH.

      That said, when I’m up north I tend to drop those temps another 5F cooler.

  24. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: I’ve heard of people tossing synthetic sheepskin “sleeping bags” in their bunnies’ enclosures to help keep them warm. Even a scrap of it would work, provided your bun doesn’t chew it up.
    I strongly, strongly suggest NOT using a reptile heating rock. They are well known in the reptile community for overheating and burning animals. If you choose to go the undertank heater/heat tape route, pick up a rheostat (cheap ones made by Zilla run $30 or so from Petsmart) that will let you control how hot the pad or tape gets.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @h3llc4t has a slow work day: He’ll chew it up. He chews everything up. It’s how I lost three sets of headphones, some boot tips, and got holes in my sweaters.

      @Eels: Yeah, some rabbits live in the wild. Mine doesn’t. Mine hasn’t seen what others see as “cold” – he isn’t wild, so his little body probably isn’t going to figure that out. My concern was that if it gets cold, I can put on a sweater, throw on a blanket or put on socks. But he can’t, and he can’t let me know that he’d like a pair of socks because his feet are cold.

  25. holocron says:

    DO THE ELECTRIC BLANKET…NOT, get an electric mattress pad. This has been covered here on Consumerist before. This is much more efficient than the blanket. Remember, heat rises. Why start with the heat above you?!?!

  26. Thricebanned says:

    If your windows are so drafty you have to plastic them over, you should look at some caulk or investing in new windows. You will never see a better time to buy them.

  27. MooseOfReason says:

    “I am chilly and my wife is hot”


  28. repete7 says:

    About the “close vents, cover vents” suggestions…You should only do this only after first carefully sealing all the joints in your heating ducts. Otherwise, you are more likely to force air out of the joints than into another room. I figured this out after I noticed that my unheated basement was nice and warm last winter.

  29. enine says:

    Toothpaste for cauling? First off when it dries out it will crack and flake off and then the first time it rains it will wash away. Besides toothpaste is more expensive than caulking anyway. Why not just do it right from the start. When I was first married and moving out of an apartment to a house my MIL camp over with toothpaste to fill holes in the drywall while I had the $0.99 little cup of drywall filler. She is one of those who will waste more time and effort trying to find a shortcut than just doing something right in the first place.

  30. PTB315 says:

    I sell commercial doors for a living and live in an uninsulated apartment. I took some peel and press smoke seal that we sell for fire-rated doors and put it around the frame on my bedroom door. It cut the noise down considerably and seems like it keeps the room warmer.

    Unfortunately the section of Syracuse, NY I live in was built mainly during the construction of the Erie Canal by my drunken Irish ancestors, and perhaps as a result of this or the times, the stupid door has way too big of a gap above and below the door. I have to get 2 door shoes and install one upside down on the top to try to better seal the opening. Bah.

    On the plus side I can tell any of you more than you would ever care to know about doors.

  31. dulcinea47 says:

    Re: #24 and it costing more money to heat the house from 40 to 70- I knew I had read about this somewhere- it was here: [michaelbluejay.com] on the right hand side under “the air conditioner itself.” Yes, that’s about a/c but I think the same principle applies. If you leave your heat at 65 all the time, it’s constantly kicking in, all day long, bringing the temp back up. If you turn it down to 50 or 55 when you leave and up to 70 when you come home, it only has to heat the house up once. Even though it’s heating up more degrees, it might be less overall energy… I don’t know how to measure that for sure.

  32. bjdhtgjvbhdgd says:

    As someone who studies physics and applied mathematics I’m pretty sure #24 is wrong. Consider this. When you come home from work and turn the heat back up, you have to replace all the heat lost when the furnace was off. Now, this is key, the rate at which heat flows is proportional to the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors.

    By keeping the heat on all day, you’re keeping the temperature difference high, and thus, losing more heat all day. So, if your house is colder, you’ll lose less heat. Granted, you’ll have to heat the house up completely at this point, but that’s still less heat you must generate and more money saved!

  33. DjSnipSnip says:

    About 21. Electric blanket: I wouldn’t because of EMF. It is one thing to be exposed to it for a couple of minutes, but wrapping yourself in it for hours every night during winter does not sound very good ..