10 Ways to Fight Winter Cold and Save Money

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Winter is right around the corner. Even if that news sends a shiver down your spine, fear not! You can make the season more tolerable and save money by using our winterizing checklist. Here are 10 steps that can save you money for many winters to come.

1. Reset ceiling fan blades

If you enjoyed cool indoor breezes from your ceiling fans last summer, you’re still enjoying cool breezes this winter — unless you flick the switch that sets the fan for winter use.

In summer, fan blades should rotate counterclockwise, pushing room air down on you. The breeze you feel beneath it creates a wind chill effect that makes you feel cooler.

In winter, fan blades should move clockwise. Run your fans slowly to lift cool air to the ceiling, which will gently push warmer air (which naturally rises) down where you can enjoy it.

If your fan has a remote switch or control, watch the direction of the fan blades and adjust the setting if necessary. Otherwise, use a ladder to manually adjust the small toggle switch on the fan’s body.

After that, you should be able to lower your thermostat’s daytime setting while enjoying the heat you are paying for.

2. Install a programmable thermostat

If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, now’s the time to get one. It can save you money. Lowering your thermostat’s setting by 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours a day — while you sleep or while you’re away at work — can save up to 10 percent a year on your heating costs, according to Energy.gov.

Sure, you can lower the setting manually and leave it alone. But will you? Costs rise when household members fiddle with the thermostat, putting more demands on the furnace and using more fuel. You can manually override the settings on a programmable thermostat, but you’re less likely to when your home’s temperature is on autopilot.

3. Purchase a carbon monoxide detector and check your smoke alarms

Installing a carbon monoxide detector is one of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s tips for preventing deadly carbon monoxide poisoning, which can result from improper burning of heating fuels. It says:

More than 150 people in the Unites States die every year from accidental non-fire related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, including generators. Other products include faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces.

Also, check your home’s smoke detectors. Smoke alarms won’t save your life if the batteries are dead.

4. Replace weatherstripping

Weatherstripping is crucial to keep warm air from leaking around windows and doors, but it deteriorates over time. HouseLogic reviews the many types, describes the pros and cons of each and when to replace it.

Don’t install weatherstripping before preparing the surface for a tight fit. Says HouseLogic:

Before installing any new weatherstripping, start with a smooth, clean and dry surface. Remove all old adhesive using an adhesive cleaner and perhaps a light sanding. Fill and sand old nail holes. If old screw holes can’t be reused, fill and sand those as well.

5. Insulate electrical switches and outlets

Keep your warm air inside by installing foam seals made specifically to fit between electrical outlets and switches on exterior-facing walls and their plastic covers. Turn off the power to the switches and outlets before you do this job.

6. Get the furnace serviced

Servicing your furnace now beats the heck out of waiting until it breaks down during a storm, forcing you to wait days for repairs or pay a premium for night or weekend service. An annual inspection keeps a furnace efficient, extends its life and saves money on fuel. It also can reveal dangerous carbon monoxide leaks.

Never hire a furnace specialist (or any other worker) who shows up uninvited at your home. Scammers prey on homeowners that way. Instead, get referrals from your heating fuel provider or public utility company.

7. Replace furnace filters

Replace your furnace’s filter at least every 90 days while it’s in use. Check the filter monthly to see if it needs replacing sooner. It’s time for a change when the filter is dark or dirty.

“If you have pets, you’ll probably need to change every month,” says HouseLogic. Take the furnace maintenance manual to the store or write down the part name and number so that you buy the right one.

HouseLogic recommends high-efficiency pleated air filters with an electrostatic charge that attracts particles so small, even those carrying bacteria are trapped.

8. Don’t forget the windows

Stay cozy while cutting heating bills with these low-cost approaches to window insulation:

  • Install heavy curtains or drapes and keep them closed as much as possible. Make them or buy them from a thrift store or online. Insulated thermal 40-by-84-inch curtain panels can be found online for under $15.
  • Apply shrink-wrap insulating film to windows. The film comes in inexpensive kits. Tape the film in place and use a hair dryer to warm it so it sticks. Peel it off easily in spring. Leave at least one window per room uninsulated as a fire escape. Kits cost $6 or less.

9. Give your chimney some love

Get your chimney professionally cleaned every year or two, depending on how much you use your fireplace, to prevent buildup from catching fire and allow more efficient burning.

To conserve your home’s heat, keep the fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going.

10. Stop door drafts

Buy or make a draft stopper (or “draft dodger” or “door snake”) to cover the gap between door and floor.

Such snakes cost $10 or more online, or you can make one from cheap or recycled fleece or flannel. Fill it with cat litter (under $3 a bag).

Do you have more great tips for fighting the cold this winter? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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