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Home Winterizing Tips

  • 8 MIN READ|
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  • by Joseph Priebe|
  • December 15, 2014 |
  • Personal Finance

Read these home winterizing tips and save money

The chilly winter months are once more on their way, and for many people this is their favorite time of year. But many others view the colder temps as a headache and a time when their budgets are stretched thin or even to the breaking point.

Without a doubt, winter can be the most expensive time of the year, and that’s not even counting the holidays when we tend to spend more money than at other times on the calendar.

Why? Well, one simple reason is that humans are generally willing to put up with hotter weather, and tend to use their air conditioning units less when they are trying to save money, but allowing the home to get cold is not an option. There are many more health risks associated with colder weather than with warmer.

You’ve probably heard or seen the television or radio announcements that recommend winterizing your home in order to conserve energy and save money. If not, then we would like to present our list of ways you can winterize your home while not only saving money immediately, but also saving it in the long term.

These are things you can do with your home; in some cases your house, but in some cases these tips will also apply if you live in an apartment.

Inexpensive Money Saving Tips to Winterize Your Home

Defend against Drafts

Drafts can be a utility vampire. 5-30% of your utility bill this winter can be blamed in part on the drafts in your home. Most drafts are due to airflow that comes underneath a door. Simple solution: place a rolled up towel at the bottom of a door wherever you feel a draft. Make sure you are still able to open the door in case of an emergency, but just that simple act could save you up to a quarter of your heating costs.

Change Your Filters

Most people think their filters can last for years, but you should change them once a year before the really cold weather sets in. A blocked filter can put strain on your heating system and cause unnecessary wear on the blower unit. Filters cost at most a few bucks. A new blower motor will almost certainly cost you much more than that.

Run Your Ceiling Fans in Reverse

Warm air inevitably rises to the ceiling, and if you have a well-insulated home, it will stay there while those spaces nearer to the floor are colder and much more likely to touch off the thermostat. Most ceiling fans have a reverse switch on them, and circulating that warm air to the lower parts of your home will cause the heater to turn on fewer times.

Drain Your AC and Water Lines

Simple and very cost effective in terms of saving you from a serious potential headache in the Spring when you may discover one of your water lines has burst due to freezing over the Winter. Simply shut off your valves while the systems are running. Of course, if you’re lucky to live in one of those climates that doesn’t experience freezing temperatures, lucky you. We might just pop in for a visit when it gets too cold where we are.

Turn Down Your Water Heater

Try turning down your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Most water heaters are set at 140, but you might be surprised at how much you don’t need that extra hot water, and you’ll save up to six percent on your water heating bills. Tired of your water heater coming on four to five times per day? You might think about investing in a tank-less water heater.

Insulate Your Pipes

This is especially important in areas where the temperature frequently drops below freezing in the winter. This is also a lot less expensive than you might think it is. Check the exposed pipes around your home. If they’re warm to the touch, then it’s a good idea to insulate them in order to help lower utility costs and prevent freezing.

Pipes that freeze frequently are subject to bursting and you do not want that to happen. That will lead to a very costly repair and possibly water damage to your home or property. The reason we said it’s less expensive than you might think is that pre-insulated sleeves that have slits down one side for easy installation can be purchased at your local home improvement store.

These are very simple to install and do not require the services of a technician. Some are pre-measured to specific lengths, while others can be cut to fit the size of the exposed pipe that needs to be covered. See this page, and scroll down to step #4 for more details.

Seal Your Ducts

This take some effort, but can also be done easily and with little expense. If you have a central air system, then you have ducts. In an older home, ducts can develop gaps and cracks in their seams which will leak warm air into places where it’s not used. In really serious cases, you could be losing up to a third of your warm (or air conditioned in the summer) forced air through gaps in the seams.

The tough part is getting into the spaces where your ducts are located and determining if they leak. It would take some doing, but the best way to be sure they don’t leak would be to seal up all the places where duct sections are joined. And how do you seal up these leaks? Some of you know what’s coming, but others will be completely surprised. The answer is: duct tape! That’s right, you would actually be using duct tape for its original intended purpose and we all know very few people do this. But that’s why the solution is so inexpensive.

Duct tape isn’t just a low-cost solution, it has so many other uses as so many of us know from experience. Duct tape is truly the most wondrous invention of the modern age. Ok, that might be an exaggeration. But we’re pretty sure entire vehicles in some parts of the country are being held together with duct tape.

Get Your Heating System Tuned Up

Of course, we can’t all have a service technician come in every single year and have a look at our heating system. But every three years or so, it’s a good idea to have an expert run some diagnostic tests on your heating system. Sometimes, they can find a problem you had no idea existed, such as worn belts, or electrical motors that may be running inefficiently.

Check with your local utility company. Many public utilities will offer free checkups on systems, but we recommend you call as soon as possible as some of them only have a limited number of HVAC certified technicians available and reservation slots can fill up quick. If you don’t make it this year, make sure you call in early next year.

Do You Still Have One of Those Old Analogue Dial-Type Thermostats?

You can get an electronic thermostat for a reasonable price (usually around twenty five dollars). These are programmable thermostats that can be set for lower temperatures during hours when no one is home or when everyone is sleeping. The average three-bedroom home can save up to one hundred and eighty dollars a year with a programmable thermostat.

If you’re renting, check with your landlord about having one installed. A programmable thermostat will run the heating system less often and save wear and tear. It can extend the life of a heating system by years, and this is usually something that would appeal to a landlord, as they will avoid or at least put off the expense of having to replace a costly heating system.

Caulking and Weather Stripping

That draft coming in at the side of the window? That could be costing you five to thirty percent extra in monthly utilities this winter. Caulk costs very little, is easy to apply and will last for years. Got a nagging feeling that you’ve got a draft somewhere but you just can’t seem to locate it? Get an incense stick (how groovy the aroma is entirely up to you. Some incense has very little smell to it) and carefully move it around places you think you might have a draft.

If the smoke does anything other than go straight up, you’ve got a draft. Any place in the house where one material meets another, such as windows, fireplaces and hearths, or where pipes and wires come into the home (cable companies are notorious for drilling holes too large for cable and thus leaving a place for a potential utility-draining draft to make its way into your house).

Weather stripping is especially effective on window sills where they may be a gap between the window and the sill. Even the narrowest of gaps can allow unwanted cold air to flow in.

Wear More Clothing

Jimmy Carter was roundly criticized for advising people to “put on a sweater” during the energy crisis of the 1970’s, but you’d be surprised how effective an extra layer of clothing can be against a slight chill. We’re not suggesting you shut your heater off and wear winter clothes indoors, but some heavy fleece sweats and a cozy beany for the head will actually warm you very effectively, allowing you to lower the thermostat a few degrees during the winter while still allowing you to be comfortably warm.

A wrap-type blanket (we can’t mention the brand name, but these are basically wearable sleeping bags) are good when watching TV or sitting at the computer. Make sure your feet are covered with either socks or some good warm slippers. Turning the thermostat down even just two degrees during the evening hours can add up to some significant savings at the end of the month.

Boost Your insulation

How old is your home? When was the last time you had new insulation installed? Have a look in your attic and take a pic with your smart phone. Many insulation experts will give you free advice based on the pic you send. Of course, getting new insulation is not a cheap option and is a decision that must be carefully considered.

Pricier Winterizing Tips

Replace Your Old Furnace and Save Money

If you have a central furnace with forced air that’s more than twenty years old, you could seriously save up to fifty percent on a new, energy-efficient furnace. You’ve seen products with the energy star label on them, be they appliances like refrigerators or something like a computer monitor. Newer central air furnaces – especially when combined with a programmable digital thermostat – run at peak efficiency and do not waste unnecessary electricity or natural gas.

That’s because they are built with smart technology, electric-efficient air blowers, hypersensitive heating elements that put out twice the heat with half the energy (compared with models older than 1994). In addition, a new heating unit could substantially increase the value of your home. Many home buyers look for the energy star label as a selling point.

The same kinds of technologies that have made your cell phone more than ten times as “smart” in the last five years are going into things you might not have considered, such as a central heating unit. In fact, some units can be accessed with your phone allowing you to turn it on before you get home, or simply reprogram it if your home hours change and even just shut it off if you forgot to do so when you headed out on vacation.

Solar Power Can Make You Money

This is a technology that was affordable only to the wealthy just a few years ago. With new advancements in technology in addition to more and more people upgrading to solar power for their homes, a lot of homes have not only “gone off the grid” but sometimes generate enough electricity to actually sell back to the power company. Home solar technology could actually make you some money.

Ok, so we can’t all afford to install solar power in our homes, and as of now, it does take some considerable investment. But there are small ways you can save money, even in the winter, with solar technology. Do a search for portable solar rechargers. There are devices that use solar technology to recharge your phone, your portable music speakers or other small, rechargeable devices in your home.

Many of these solar recharging stations cost less than twenty dollars, and when you think about how many times you recharge your phone, or add up the rechargeable devices in your house, it could be enough to balance out the increase in heating costs this winter, or at least offset them by a significant margin.

Here’s hoping next winter will be a little snowier. Well, maybe not in Phoenix or Vegas…

Got Some of Your Own Ideas for Winterizing a Home?

Please feel free to share them in the comments section. And if you find yourself in chilly weather but short of cash, come see us at CASH 1. We have services available for payday loans in Nevada and title loans in Arizona. We can help you stay warm this winter.

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