Has winter weather reached you yet? In our neck of the woods, we seem to have skipped from shorts weather to winter in about 36 hours last week. We’ve flipped the AC to the heating system, are scrambling to find the girls’ winter boots and coats, and are excited to test out some of our recent house-warming home improvements. Want to warm YOUR home and save money this winter? Then read on for some of our fave house-warming, money-saving hacks!
Surefire Ways to Warm Your Home For Less This Winter:
1. Seal those drafts
Cost: free to $-$$
If you’ve ever sat near a chilly window on a cold winter day, you know what I’m talking about. There are so many things you can do to keep the cold air coming into your home (and your warm air leaking out). And most of them are low-cost or free:
- Put down your storm windows on all your windows and doors, and make sure your windows are locked.
- Caulk leaky spots around window edges, door edges, and other places you feel a draft.
- Get (or make!) a few draft stoppers to go at the bottom edges of drafty doors and windows.
- And/or install winterizing kits over your windows (and if you have them, doorways you don’t use during the winter, such as to an outside porch).
- Invest in some thermal window coverings to keep out drafts. (Bonus: they’ll also help make sleeping spaces dark, even when the sun is up – perfect for napping little ones!)
TIP: Check with your electric company to see if they offer home-energy audits. These have always been super-informative when we’ve had them done. Sometimes they’re free; otherwise, your electric company may charge $30-$50 for the audit, but will then leave you with at least that much worth of supplies to help fix the issues the audit identified.
2. Install a programmable thermostat
When it comes to balancing warm house with lower heating costs, programmable thermostats are a huge help. This change alone can help you make a huge dent in your winter heating bills, by automatically adjusting your temperature at times you specify:
- When everyone’s off at school or work, your thermostat can significantly lower your indoor air temperature so you’re not wasting heating dollars all day on an empty house.
- Ditto when everyone’s in bed at night; cooler temps at night make for more restful sleep, and it’s also easy to pile on more blankets while sleeping than it is to walk around with ten layers on during the daytime.
- Likewise, programming the thermostat to warm things up shortly before everyone gets up for the day, or before everyone gets home from school and work, means you’ll come home to a toasty-warm house without burning fuel all day to keep it that way.
- It can do the same when you go on winter vacation for a week, without letting your house get so cold that pipes freeze.
If you’re at all electrically handy, there’s a good chance you can replace your old thermostat with the programmable kind on your own (as my husband did in his old house before we sold it). Otherwise, this is an easy and inexpensive fix for your electrician to take care of for you. And many of the newer models of programmable thermostats come ready for integrating into your smart-home setup.
3. Upgrade your home’s insulation
One of the first things we learned at our current home’s energy audit, shortly after we bought it, is that our attic insulation wasn’t up to snuff with current recommended R-factors. Partly, this is because they have increased over time; partly, blown-in insulation compacts and settles over time.
Well, I’m happy to report that we finally acted on this recommendation in recent months. And had we realized how little it would ultimately cost us to add insulation to our attic, we would have done it years sooner. As it is, our electric supplier currently has a rebate program going on for energy-saving home improvements. Which means we’re getting a $450 rebate on our just-over-$1000 install! Even in the month or two since we’ve had this done, we’ve already noticed lower electric bills despite similar temps at this time last year.
4. Upgrade your heating system
This is one of those home-maintenance things that homeowners just have to do every so often. Just like you’ll probably need a new roof every 25 years or so, and new appliances every 10-20 years, you should look into upgrading your home’s heating or heating/cooling system ever couple of decades.
Why? Because newer systems run MUCH more energy-efficiently than older ones do. This is important not only for trimming your electric bills and your family’s budget, but also for helping to counter the effects of climate change. If your system is more than 15-20 years old, you’re definitely due for an upgrade. Even if you aren’t eligible for local, power-company-based, state, or federal incentives to make energy-saving improvements, you can still recoup your costs in lower heating bills over a matter of years.
5. Explore alternate heating/electric options
And when you upgrade, it’s worth considering whether your current means of heating your home is the choice you want to stick with for the long-term:
- If your climate permits it (they don’t do well in temps that regularly hang out below freezing), you might consider a heat pump, which are more efficient than other types of heating systems.
- If you’re in a region that relies on heating oil or electricity, might harnessing solar power, wind power, or geothermal heating be worth considering?
Given ever-rising prices for fossil fuels and electricity, as well as the wildfire threats and related power-grid challenges that are becoming routine in many parts of California, there’s no better time to rethink how you heat your home.
6. Replace older windows and doors with more energy-efficient ones
This is more of a long-term investment, but definitely one worth considering. Window and door technology has come a LONG way in recent decades. And if you live in a home that’s more than a few decades old, this step could make a huge difference in how well your home keeps the cold out each winter, and the heat out during the summer.
There are plenty of brands out there, including those that seem more interested in advertising and sales than anything else. (I know; I’ve looked into some of them over the years as “future research,” and the junk mail hasn’t stopped coming since!)
- If you have a Consumer Reports subscription, you can check there to get a sense of how different brands compare.
- Definitely ask your neighbors who’ve had windows replaced.
- And if you already have a regular contractor you work with, ask which brand(s) they use. It seems that most contractors in our area will install only one or two brands, because of some mix of price point and guarantee/warranty on the windows themselves. So the installer/contractor you pick may well determine which brand of window you’ll buy.
RELATED POST: Why and How To Choose a Contractor
If you have a lot of windows to replace, it may make the most sense to do a few at a time each year – that’s the route we’ve ended up taking, working on the draftiest and most problematic windows/doors first.
7. Consider upgrading your siding to concrete siding
- sick of having to repaint your home every few years?
- tired of rising summer temps baking your vinyl siding into a warped mess?
- tired of the ocean’s salt water eating away at your siding, and/or hurricane-force winds ripping it off?
- done with trying to repair the damage caused when termites and carpenter bees start eating your home, or mice and other pests tunnel in through your home’s exterior?
If so, I’ve got two words for you: Cement siding.
What is cement siding?
Never heard of it? Well, here’s the short version: Cement siding is a relatively new product. But even though it’s only been around a few decades, it’s based on technology that’s been around for thousands of years. And the good news is, if you decide to deal with your ongoing siding woes by using cement siding solutions instead of vinyl, aluminum, or repainting those wooden clapboards yet again, you’ll reap a ton of benefits:
- Unlike other siding, pests can’t tunnel through or chomp on cement siding.
- Because it’s heavier and sturdier than other options, it’s less likely to come loose at the seams and create entry points for pests (not to mention exit points for your summer AC and winter heat).
- As a result of this and its composition, it makes a much better home insulator than many other options, and thus will actually help keep your home warmer in winter.
- It can withstand winds of up to 130 mph, making it a sound choice for anyone wanting some extra insurance against hurricanes and tornadoes ripping off their home’s exterior.
- The fact that it won’t burn also makes it a no-brainer choice for anyone worried about house fires or wildfires.
- And because it blends in so naturally and can take on so many different looks, cement siding is even an option for older homes in a growing number of historical districts that prohibit aluminum or vinyl siding.
Yes, it costs more than vinyl siding upfront. Yes, it still needs painting (though each paint job should last a decade or more, which is much longer than repainting that old wood). And yes, you should still wash it yearly. But because of its many benefits over all the alternatives, this is totally something worth considering as a long-term investment in your home.
What are your fave tips and hacks to warm your home (and save money at the same time) each winter? Let us know in the comments!
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