16 Low-Cost Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter

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Using these tips to fix gaps, cracks and inefficiencies will make your home cozier and more affordable in cold weather.

Heating costs can throw a wrench into your winter budget. But you can limit the losses by addressing the gaps, cracks and waste that drive up fuel costs. Such fixes are available at a lower price than you might imagine.

Run through this checklist of fixes to make your house cozier and your heating more affordable this year.

1. Install weatherstripping

Check your home’s exterior doors for cold air leaks. Do this from inside the house. The high-tech approach is to use a laser infrared thermal gun to detect cold drafts. The low-tech way is to move a lit candle around the door frame; the flame will blow toward you in a draft.

Seal a drafty door by installing foam or felt weatherstripping inside the door frame. Ask at your hardware store for the correct products and installation instructions.

Cost: $10 to $20 per package for most standard products.

2. Install a door sweep

Use a door sweep to stop drafts from entering your home under an exterior door. A sweep is a flexible piece of rubber or plastic that’s held to the door’s lower edge by a strip of aluminum.

Cost: $5 to $35.

3. Seal attic air leaks

Find and seal gaps that could be allowing as much as 30 percent of your heated or cooled air to leak outdoors. These leaks add up to $300 a year to heating and cooling costs, HouseLogic says.

Pull back attic insulation to find and seal cutouts in drywall for electrical fixtures, pipes, fans and outlets. Also check wiring, chimneys, flues, vent stacks and ducts, and seal them on the inside. Use caulk to fill smaller gaps and pressurized expanding foam for bigger openings.

Cost: Caulk costs about $2 to $3 per tube. Expanding polyurethane foam runs less than $5 for a 12-ounce can.

4. Close the damper

Heated or cooled air flies up the chimney when you leave the fireplace damper open. Make it a habit to shut the flue after the fireplace has cooled.

Cost: $0

5. Add attic insulation

Insulation keeps you home cozy and keeps expensively cooled and warmed air indoors where it belongs.

“Typically, houses in warm-weather states should have an R-38 insulation in the attic, whereas houses in cold climates should have R-49,” says This Old House, explaining how to install batting-type insulation.

Insulating an attic, basement or crawl space is moderately difficult, and beginners should use a professional. If you do, ask if you can perform parts of the job to reduce the cost.

Admittedly, insulating is not a cheap job. But the payback can be huge, and you may find rebates and financial incentives. See Energy.gov’s guide to sources and to a calculator to estimate the return on an insulation investment.

Cost: Prices vary, depending on factors such as insulation type, local labor costs and size of the attic.

6. Install a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat can save up to $180 a year on fuel costs, according to EnergyStar. The thermostat can save fuel by automatically lowering (or raising) your home’s temperature while you’re away. It also keeps temperatures consistent, saving fuel.

Do not use a programmable thermostat with a heat pump unless the thermostat is meant for use with heat pumps.

Cost:

  • Wi-Fi-enabled “learning” thermostats are expensive — $250 and up.
  • Simpler programmable thermostats, like this $60 Honeywell, for example, are a great deal: They offer separate programs for weekdays and weekends and let you program up to four different periods in a day.

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