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8 ways to effectively winterize your home on a budget
8 ways to effectively winterize your home on a budget
In winter, everything is not always glittering snow and icicles from the picture book. The situation can be far more serious than spending extra time digging out your car and scraping the ice off the windows.
What starts as gently swirling snowflakes can quickly turn into snowballs, so to speak. Snowdrifts can damage your roof and gutters, freezing temperatures can burst pipes, and meltwater can flood your basement and garage. Winter storms will cost Americans $25 billion in damage and casualties in 2021, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
There are effective ways to keep your home warm without digging too deep into your cocoa and marshmallow funds. American Home Shield has compiled a list of eight common ways to winterize your home for little or no cost, from simple weather strips to smart temperature controls.
Take a little time to follow these tips to winterize your home on a budget so you can stay cozy while the snow falls outside.
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You don’t leave your car idling all day just so it’s ready to go in the evening. But when you leave the house during the day with the heating turned up, you are effectively doing the same thing. Programmable thermostats allow you to schedule when to turn on the heat in your home and set the ideal temperature throughout the day.
Fancier versions might let you change the temperature from your phone, but a simple $20 programmable thermostat will do. Tell it when you’re home and when you’re away, and it’ll cool your home down a bit to save energy and money when you’re away and warm things up in time for your return.
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Turn your fan so that it spins clockwise
One of the first things every student learns in science class is that hot air rises and cold air sinks. As it turns out, this handy scientific knowledge can also help regulate your home’s temperature.
Many ceiling fans have a small switch that allows you to change the direction of rotation of the blades. By flipping this switch, you can turn your fan from counterclockwise – bringing cold air to the ceiling and dispersing it – to clockwise and bringing warm air from the ceiling to the floor.
That single change could allow you to lower your thermostat setting by three to five degrees. While the improvement you see is more dependent on how big your house is, how effective your heating is, and how much of that heat stays inside, the change can help — and it’s free.
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Seal your doors
Small vents that let heat out of a home mean significant heat loss and wasted money. Doors in particular are notorious for letting heat escape.
To winterize your doors, first tighten the hinges and look for cracks in the door frame that could allow warm air to escape. Use caulk to seal what you find.
You can also add something to the bottom of the door to stop drafts. Inexpensive options include a door sweep that attaches to one side and has a flexible piece that hangs under the bottom of the door; a double draft excluder that slides under the bottom of the door and has cushions on either side; or a door sock, a roll of fabric placed along the bottom of the door. For a great value, you can make a door sock by rolling up a towel.
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The next time you open the refrigerator, note where the door on the refrigerator closes. There is a strip of flexible plastic to keep the cold inside and maximize efficiency.
You can use the same concept to keep the cold out of your home. Weather stripping, which comes in a variety of shapes, can be cut and folded to fill spaces around windows and doors, even on a garage door. There are also special seals for sockets.
A creative way to check for drafts is to carry a lit incense stick and see if the trail of smoke is disturbed near the window or door.
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plastic over windows
If you’re serious about keeping out the cold, consider sealing entire windows with plastic. One report suggests that heat escaping from your windows can account for up to 30% of your home’s heating bill.
Rather than trying to block drafts here and there, window caulking does it all in one big go. In colder parts of the world, where temperatures can stay below freezing for months, people know they won’t be opening their windows for quite a while.
If this describes your climate, consider products that contain insulated plastic to cover your windows. The clear plastic lets in light while protecting from drafts.
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Water heater insulation and settings
Few experiences are as pleasant as a nice, hot shower on a cool morning. Your water heater will keep you warm and comfortable – consider returning the favor with an insulated jacket.
Insulating your water heater can save you 7-16% on water heating costs, according to the Department of Energy. Because these isolators are relatively cheap, they can potentially pay for themselves in as little as a year.
Also consider turning the temperature down. Many units have a default setting of 140 degrees, but many homes are fine with a setting of 120.
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Change your air filters
Aside from keeping cold air out and warm air in, you can save even more on heating bills by making your existing equipment more efficient.
Furnaces and air handling units have air filters that clean the air before it is heated and distributed throughout the home. The dirtier these filters are, the harder the air handler has to work to draw in air and heat it up.
Consult your manual for specific instructions. Some sources suggest that air filters should be changed every three months and sometimes even every month.
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Clean your gutters
If you have gutters in your home, consider adding the unenviable chore of cleaning your gutters to your fall to-do list. It won’t lower your heating bills, but it’s an inexpensive way to save yourself a serious headache and some major expenses – and is an essential part of winterizing.
Leaves trapped in your gutters can pool water and clog the downspouts, which are designed to direct water away from the home. Gutters clogged with leaves overflow and allow water to flow along your foundation.
When that water starts to freeze, this minor annoyance can become a serious problem. The extra weight of this ice can damage gutters, potentially resulting in a costly repair or replacement. And the ice can build up under the shingles and cause leaks in your ceilings.
This story originally appeared on American Home Shield and was produced and distributed in association with Stacker Studio.
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