From ghostly drafts seeping through the floors, doors, windows and power outlets to racking up an enormous power bill trying to combat the cold, winter can be brutal for a homeowner. It doesn’t have to be this way, though.
With the tried-and-true winterizing tips, you can cut down on the draft (and potentially your heating bill) and hopefully save yourself some green as you wait for the warmer months to arrive.
Whether you’re part of the 38 percent of Americans likely to purchase a home in 2021* or a current homeowner looking to cut down on the cost of heating a home, here are eight DIY home winterizing ideas for you to consider before the snow flies.
1. Tune Up Your Heating System
Did you know that heating system tune-ups are recommended annually? Before the icy grip of winter takes hold in your neck of the woods, take the time to have your heating system serviced. Call in your favorite HVAC tech, ask friends for a recommendation or visit home improvement recommendation sites to find a reputable service company. Schedule them to clean and lubricate your system and make sure the ductwork is adequate. Doing this in advance could save you money in energy costs in both the short and long term.
2. Eliminate Door Drafts
Drafts could create a cold house and high energy bills. The U.S. Department of Energy says that drafts around exterior doors increase energy use from 5 to 30 percent. But there are two ways to stop the breeze.
The first is by placing a draft stopper along the bottom of exterior facing doors. These are long, thick tubes of fabric, sometimes filled with insulation, that block windy drafts from seeping in. Draft stoppers can be purchased for as little as $10, or you can just roll up a fluffy towel lengthwise for the same effect.
An alternative is to add or replace the door sweep on exterior doors. Sweeps are simple to install — just screw the plate onto the inside of your exterior facing doors. Typically, they cost under $10 each.
3. Seal All Outlets
Outlets can be inlets. Try this little trick: Light a candle, then blow the flame out so that it continues to smoke. Hold the candle in front of an electrical outlet or wall plate located on an exterior facing wall. Chances are you’ll see the smoke of the candle blowing in the light breeze – meaning there’s a draft.
The simple solution is to seal them with foam insulation covers (also called insulation gaskets). These are thin pieces of foam shaped to fit your wall switches and outlets with the holes cut out. Simply remove the outlet or wall plate, place the foam underneath and put the cover back on. You can find packs of seven covers for less than $2 each.
4. Insulate Windows
Windows are another major source of drafts. There are window insulation kits that make installation much easier and cut drafts while allowing you to see clearly outside.
Kits cost less than $20 and are simple to install. They come in all standard window sizes, so cutting is minimal. Just stick the clear sheets to the window frame with the enclosed double-sided tape. Next, pull the material tight. Then use a blow dryer to heat-shrink the material tight.
5. Weather Strip Windows and Doors
Another affordable fix for drafty windows and doors is to install weather stripping. Weather stripping is a rubber strip that is either self-adhesive or has a tacky backing. Cut it to length and attach it to the underside of windows, around windowpanes, or door jambs. A 10-foot roll usually costs less than $5.
You may also want to check the caulking around windows by doing the candle trick you used for the outlets. If the smoke blows in the breeze, you may benefit from replacing the caulking around the window.
6. Insulate the Attic
Depending on the age of your home, you may notice that the heat your heating system is putting out seems to vanish. Aside from drafty windows and doors, your home’s insulation could be to blame for your escaping heat problem since insulation tends to settle and lose its thickness and effectiveness as it ages. Hot air rises — which means your furnace is pumping out heat that’s rising through an under-insulated layer and seeping out the roof.
While re-insulating your attic is a bit more expensive than the other tips in this list, it could show the biggest reduction in cold air permeating your home. Installing insulation is best left to the professionals but can be done carefully by the homeowner.
You can either use large roll-out insulation sheets known as batten insulation or use the blow-in type of insulation, which you can often rent a machine for, along with purchasing the foam insulation material. For either, visit your local home improvement store. They can get you started and help you calculate how much insulation you need, and let you know how much it will cost. The U.S. Department of Energy has a useful website that shows you key areas in your home that should be insulated.
7. Remove or Tarp Window Air Conditioners
If you have a window air conditioner, remove it and close the window. If it’s built-in, wrap it in a tarp to cut off any cold air that may seep through cracks.
8. Insulate the Hot Water Heater
Covering the water heater with an insulating cover can cut heat loss by 25 to 45 percent and help you save up to 16 percent annually on your water heating bill. For bigger savings, check with your utility provider to see if they offer water heater insulation blankets, install them at a discounted price, or offer rebates when you install them on your own.
Now that you know what you can do to make your home more efficient, consider the other ways you could save big, like with a refinanced mortgage loan at a potentially lower rate.
*Wyndham Capital Mortgage commissioned Atomik Research to run an online survey of 2,342 adults in the United States for their Mortgage 101 survey. The margin of error fell within +/- 2 percentage points with a confidence interval of 95 percent. The fieldwork took place between March 23rd and March 29th, 2021. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency.