For those looking to reduce your heating bill without a big investment, we've put together a list of 25 cheap ways to keep your home warm in winter. Some of these options reduce heat loss, others add heat to the home or keep the heat where you need it.
These 25 good ideas help you keep the warm air in and cold air out. Many of the tips also help improve energy efficiency and help reduce energy bills.
This post is part of our Winter Home Heating Series, which includes:
- Best Ways to Keep Your House Warm – New Construction and Remodeling
- Keeping Warm – Winter Prep Check List for You and Your Home
- Emergency Heat During a Power Outage and other Winter Storm Preps
25 Cheap Ways to Keep Your House Warm in Winter
Use the Right Ventilation
1. Replace bathroom exhaust vent switches with timer switches so vents can't be left on by accident. Vent only when needed. Winter air tends to be dry, so if you don't mind a little less privacy, open your bathroom door and let the steam escape into the house instead. These are energy saving and can save you money year round!
2. Make sure bathroom fans/vents have baffles/draft blockers on the outside so you don't have cold air blowing back into the house. They are called a back-draft-dampener or wall-shutter (the sizes must match, so these are just included for reference).
3. Switch ceiling fans (reverse them) spring and fall. If you have heated floors turn off the ceiling fans, if you have forced air heat (central heating) turn it on.
4. Close the doors and vents in unused rooms if you are trying to reduce heating costs or keep your living space warmer in an emergency. Note: Be careful not to let rooms get too cold if they have plumbing, so you don't end up with frozen pipes.
See “Prevent Frozen Pipes – Extreme Cold Options and Construction Tips” for more plumbing tips.
5. Outside airflow makes a difference, too. Consider a snow fence to control where snow drops and control drifting. See the post How to Put Up a Snow Fence. Even a small snow fence can break the strong winds somewhat.
Get Heat Where You Need It
6. If you have radiators (or baseboard heating pipes) line the inside of the exterior wall with tinfoil or other heat reflecting materials from your home improvement store. This will reflect some of the heat back into the home. The same can be done for ovens, wood stoves and other heat sources internally. Fireplaces and wood stoves need a tougher fireplace reflective shield.
Radiant flooring is also a great solution. This type of heating system puts the heat closer to you, not up by the ceiling.
7. Make sure you aren't blocking airflow from forced air vents, and that the vents are open where you need heat. Don't block your vents with furniture, piles of dirty clothes or other debris.
8. If you have a chimney and are not using it, make sure its flue and draft (if it has both) are closed. Open chimneys can suck the heat right out of your home. (This is one of the biggest issues with open fireplaces – too much heat loss from the room. )
Consider blocking the chimney with a fireplace insert insulation to reduce heat loss if it will be left unused indefinitely – just don't forget to take it out if you decide to use it again. You can use fireblock or brick or stone to create thermal mass near a fireplace or wood stove.
Insulate Inside and Out to Reduce Heat Loss
9. Insulate hot water/radiator pipes and ductwork running through non-living areas. You don't want lose heat in a crawl space or utility area, you want it to get your house warm. Measure everything before you buy insulation, the links are for reference only.
10. Insulate doors. There are custom door sweep insulation kits you can can place along the bottom of an exterior OR interior door to reduce drafts. There are also insulation (cold air blockers) that can be placed against the base of a door. Garage doors have insulation panels. Keep the cool air OUT.
11. In extreme cold, hang blankets along the wall, even where there aren't windows, the wall can radiate cold through it. This is especially true if the insulation isn't good enough. If this happens regularly you need to check your wall insulation.
Don't forget passive solar. Make sure any windows facing south are uncovered when the sun is out. Get that free heat from the sun.
12. Attic access or attic doors can be the source of large amounts of heat loss. Make sure your attic access is VERY well insulated. Consider an attic stairs insulation cover to reduce heat loss above pull down steps (there are covers to reduce reflect heat for very hot environments also).
13. Don't let the cold radiate up from your floor. An uninsulated floor can cause more than 10% heat loss in a home. This is especially important if your home is “built on a slab” (no basement). Insulate the floor with warm rugs and/or carpets.
14. Consider placing bales of hay along the exterior edge of your basement and lower portion of 1st floor of your home. You will need to make sure you protect against mice, they will move in. The hay functions as basic exterior insulation and adds thermal insulating mass.
Reduce Window Heat Loss
15. Uncover the south facing windows to let in solar heat on sunny days. See “Passive Solar Heating Basics” for more information on how to make the most out of your solar gain.
16. Add insulating window coverings. Honeycomb cellular insulating shades are a good option to consider. Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, and numerous websites and stores will allow custom orders. We have Bali insulating double-cellular shades.
We open and close the insulating blinds with the sun. We are have to replace the insulating blinds roughly every 10 years. If you don't like the insulating shades, consider Insulating Curtains to reduce your heat loss.
17. Add interior window insulation using something like a 3m insulation kit. These window insulating kits can be combined with the shades or curtains.
18. For a cheap short term solution, use duct tape and an old blanket to cover your windows. It's ugly, but functional.
19. If you have a really big window and want to reduce heat loss, you can duct tape a large clear shower curtain to the inside (just past the frame). (A shower curtain is thicker than the window insulating kit plastic.) It will allow sun in during the day and still provide an air gap to reduce heat loss. Adding a curtain or shades over it helps even more at night.
Adding Extra Warmth to Your Home
20. Don't drain a bathtub that is hot. Wait for it to cool before you drain it. If there's a storm coming where you may lose power, fill the tub with hot water. You get additional heat in the home and an emergency water source.
21. When you finish baking, leave the stove open slightly to let the home get all that wonderful heat. Winter is a great time to practice your homemade bread baking skills. If you froze fruits and berries in the summer, winter is a perfect time to finish your jam and jelly making.
22. Your pets are mobile heaters. Consider cuddling if it gets really cold. Our cats think movie time is the best thing ever, since they have nice warm humans to nap on.
23. Keep blankets and lap rugs handy and use them. When we sit, our circulation slows down. Keeping a throw blanket over your lap while you're knitting or watching TV can improve your comfort levels without turning up the thermostat. Wool blankets are best for an extra bed cover layer or couch throw
24. If you spend a fair amount of time at a desk, a heated foot warmer may be a good investment. My mother in law has the Cozy Products TT Toasty Toes Ergonomic Heated Foot Warmer under her desk. It gets a good workout when she's working on genealogy.
25. Invest in a small, clean burning portable propane heater to add heat only where and when you need it. The 18,000 BTU propane Big Buddy Heater is well reviewed online and by friends who have used it. Stock up on spare propane tanks and you have a perfect emergency heater.
Do you have an inexpensive tip for keeping warm that we missed? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
You may also find helpful:
- Emergency Cooking – 10 Ways to Have a Hot Meal When the Power Goes Out
- Emergency Power Options for Your Home
- Thawing Frozen Pipes – 3 Ways to Safely Defrost Plumbing
- Winter Car Kit and Winter Vehicle Maintenance Check List
- What You Need to Know about Masonry Heaters for Radiant Heat
Don't forget to check out our other Cold Weather Preparedness posts.