Get Ready to Weather the
Cold, and Save Energy and Money
As you’ve no doubt noticed, winter is right around the
corner. So its a good idea to make sure your home is buttoned down and ready to
face the cold ahead.
Properly winterizing your abode may only take a few minutes, and can save you
some serious money in heating costs, as well as protection of your investment.
These days, we’re guessing that sounds pretty good.
Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Put Up Your Storm Doors and Windows
It may seem like a pain to haul them out of the attic or basement, but if you
have storm doors and windows don’t forget to install them. If you don’t have
them, it might be worth getting an estimate, because the simple act of
installing a storm door can decrease energy loss through the opening by 45
Look for Energy Star-certified models if you are buying new. And don’t forget
to make sure your storm windows are securely fastened—they don’t do much good if
you accidentally leave them in the “up” position. It can also help to put
plastic film over windows on the inside of your house. The kits are cheap, easy
to install, and may surprise you with how invisible the plastic becomes after
going over it with a hair dryer (as directed).
2. Dodge the Drafts
One of the most important things you can do when getting ready for winter is
to make sure you seal up your home as tightly as possible (at this point, don’t
worry about sealing indoor air pollutants in with you—its much better to seal
up tight, and later judiciously vent by opening a window or turning on a fan).
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30% of your
energy use, and that can add up quick.
And drafty rooms are uncomfortable, too. Get draft snakes for leaky doors or
windows, or better yet install weather stripping. Caulk up any cracks, holes or
Use the incense test: carefully move a lit stick along walls; where the smoke
wavers, you have air sneaking in.
3. Install a Smart Programmable Thermostat
Most households spend a whopping 50 to 70% of their energy budgets on heating
and cooling, so minding the thermostat is one of the fastest ways to save. For
every degree you turn the heat down, you’ll save between 1 and 3% off your
A programmable thermostat makes this effortless, and you can save even more
by customizing the program to your lifestyle. They’re easier than programming a
VCR, and the average family saves $180 a year with one—yet they only cost around
$50 and are a quick install.
4. Check Those Filters
Most manufacturers suggest changing or cleaning furnace filters once a month
during heating season, so mark that on your calendar. Dirty filters restrict
airflow and increase energy use.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know that those disposable fiberglass
filters you get at hardware or drugstores trap a measly 10 to 40% of debris.
Much better are electronic filters, which trap around 88%, or even higher. The
good news is discount models start as low as $50.
5. Give Your Heating System a Tune-Up
Just as cars need periodic tune-ups, so does HVAC equipment. Save up to 5% on
heating costs with a properly cleaned and maintained system.
offer free annual checkups – if you request them before peak heating time. Your
heating contractor or manufacturer may offer a service plan as well.
6. Winterize Your A/C and Water Lines
The last thing you want to do is leave water in your cooling systems or hoses
to freeze. So drain them, and make sure you don’t have excess water pooled in
equipment. If you have box air conditioners, take them out of windows and store
them away. If your central A/C has a water shut-off valve, go ahead and turn
that off. If you are in any doubt about what to do, consult with your
equipments manual, on the company website or call a representative.
Similarly, make sure any garden hoses are drained and stowed away. Turn off
exterior water spigots and address any leaks.
7. Boost Insulation
If you want to save more money on heating this year, see if you can boost
your insulation. You may be able to insulate exposed hot water pipes, for
example, or get a jacket for your water heater (you can also save money by
turning that down). Make sure the floor of your attic is insulated, as is the
ceiling of your basement.
If you’re feeling ambitious, check behind power outlets to see if theres any
insulation in your walls. If you want to invest in saving money later, it maybe worth it to get an estimate to have insulation blown in by a pro.