When the cold winds howl, you'll want your house to be as warm and as snug as possible. From stopping drafts to making sure your heater runs efficiently, there are plenty of ways to ensure that you and your family stay cozy. Luckily, your options fall into a wide expense range, from major investments that will make a long-lasting impact, to small, inexpensive changes you can make that can still yield big results. Use a mix of these six tips, some big, some small, to make your home as warm as can be — and to enjoy energy-savings all winter long!
Your WindowsBig Step: Install thermal glass windows. Especially if you have an older home, you might be losing a lot of your heat through your windows. Thermal replacement windows can be two to four times more efficient at insulating your home than regular single-pane windows, which could translate to as much as a 30% reduction in your heating bills. The price of a thermal window could cost $450 to $550; a less expensive option is installing storm windows — they are significantly less expensive than thermal windows (around $50 per window), and although they are not as effective at insulating windows, they will help in preventing air from moving in and out of your house. Window insulation panels and thermal drapes are still more ways to save energy without replacing your windows.
Small Step: Cover windows with thermal film. For around $15 to $20, you can buy a kit to cover your draftiest windows with plastic film. It will help keep out drafts and create a "dead space" that acts as a thermal buffer to better insulate your windows. There's also an energy-saving insulation film that adheres directly to the glass, and can be kept on year-round as it can also keep cool air in the house in the summer. The only drawback with these solutions, particularly the sheets of plastic that are removed at the end of winter, is that when they're removed, you'll need to dispose of the plastic — check Earth911 to see if the type of plastic is recyclable in your area.
Your InsulationBig Step: Add insulation. According to experts, you need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic in order to feel the effects of insulation. Other areas you should insulate include crawlspaces, ducts, exterior walls, and basements. The cost of an insulation job — and how effective it will be — depends on many factors, including the construction of your house and the region you live in, but the Department of Energy has a method of calculating the eventual payoff.
Small Step: Air seal your home. Whether or not you can afford to add insulation, you should use caulking, weather-stripping, and other materials to air-seal your home from drafts. The easiest way to look for drafts is to hold a candle or a piece of burning incense near suspected leaks to see if the flame or smoke move. In particular, check around door and window frames, vents, fans, electrical outlets, floorboards, mail chutes, and cable and phone lines.
Your Heat SourceBig Step: Invest in infrared radiant heating panels. This is a green way to heat a room, especially one that's hard to heat, such as a bathroom, basement, or garage — the panels are made in part from post-consumer materials, and provide LEED credits because of their energy-efficiency. The panels cost from $2 to $4 per square foot of heated space, with an additional cost of up to $1 per square foot of heated space for installation, which is less than the typical cost of in-floor radiant heating. One manufacturer, Heating Green, estimates that the cost of operation will be 20% to 50% less than that of most conventional heating systems. There are also freestanding units for small spaces, like under a desk or in a bathroom.
Small Step: Grab a blanket! If you're feeling chilled, just snuggle up with a blanket and a cup of tea. If you don't have a favorite throw, try making one with old sweaters that have shrunk, gotten holes, or otherwise become unwearable.
What is your favorite way to winterize your home? Share your tips, big or little, in the comments below.