For those looking to reduce your heating bill without a big investment, we've put together a list of 20 cheap ways to keep your house warm in winter. Some of these options reduce heat loss, others add heat to the home or keep the heat where you need it.
This post is part of our Winter Home Heating Series, which includes:
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.
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.
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, turn them 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.
5. Outside ventilation 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, line the inside of the exterior wall with tinfoil. This will reflect some of the heat back into the home.
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.
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 that heat dumped in a crawl space or utility area, you want it to get your house warm.
10. Pipe insulation isn't just for exposed pipes. You can place it along the bottom of an exterior OR interior door to reduce drafts.
11. Attic access or attic doors can be the source of large amounts of heat loss. Make sure your attic access is VERY well insulated.
12. 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. The bearskin or sheepskin rugs were historical solutions for floor insulation.
13. In extreme cold, hang blankets along the wall, even where there aren't windows, the wall can radiate cold through it, if the insulation isn't good enough. If this happens regularly you need to check your wall insulation.
14. Consider placing bales of hay along the 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.
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 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 cellular shades. We open and close them with the sun, they lasted about 10 years with daily use in the winter before we had to replace a few. 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 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.
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 Big Buddy Heater is well reviewed online and by friends who have used it.
Do you have an inexpensive tip for keeping warm that I 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
- Winter Vehicle Maintenance Checklist and Preparing a Winter Vehicle Emergency Kit and
- other posts in the Common Sense Preparedness series
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