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Q & A: Winterize Your Home

By Diane MacEachern |
Don't waste money heating your home this winter. Follow these simple steps to keep the cold out and your heating bill down.
Originally Published: 02/05/10

What are the most energy-efficient ways to winterize your home during these cold months? I'm looking for things that have a real impact, either in my wallet or for the earth.

"Winterize" is just another word for saving energy, and any time you save energy, you save money!

Start with the easy stuff first. Sealing drafts along windows and doors saves 5 to 30 percent of the energy you use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Roll a bath or beach towel into a tube and place it against the bottom of the door for a fast and inexpensive fix. For a few dollars, pick up a tube of caulking at your local hardware store to seal window leaks. Even better, get an inexpensive window insulation kit so you can "shrink wrap" your windows with clear plastic that keeps cold drafts out and heated air in. And don't forget to close curtains and pull down shades on cold windows.

For a more permanent solution, install storm doors and windows for a 45 percent fuel efficiency gain. You can even cover as much as 30 percent of the cost (up to $1,500) using federal tax credits.

Installing storm doors and windows can increase your home’s energy efficiency by 45 percent.

Here's another meaningful money-saving solution: turn down your thermostat, especially when you leave the house for the day or go to bed. For every degree you lower the temperature, you'll save between 1 and 3 percent on your heating bill. Can't remember to make the change? Get a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the dial for you. This easy $50 investment could save you as much as $180 a year.

You can also save a lot of money by maximizing the insulation in your home. Priorities include the attic, air ducts, cathedral ceilings, the floors above unheated garages, exterior walls, basements and crawl spaces. Your local utility may be able to help you do an energy audit to identify where the biggest leaks are and how much insulation you need. The insulation's effectiveness is measured by its "R value," which is defined as its resistance to heat flow. The higher the R value, the more effective the insulation will be at keeping your home warm.

While you're thinking about insulating, don't forget your water pipes. Since they're metal, they lose heat all winter long. Once again, the federal government makes tax credits available for up to $1,500 to help you cover the cost. For a simple and cheap option, buy pre-slit pipe foam at your local hardware store and attach it with duct tape.

Wondering what to do with all the money you'll save once you winterize? Invest in some warm blankets and cozy sweaters—putting on a thick sweater is like turning up the thermostat four degrees. Get more energy-saving suggestions here.

Know a good way to warm your home in the cold winter months?

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