10 Cheap & Easy Winterizing Tips

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Every winter, you stack up credit card balances on gifts, meals and transportation. But the real money pit is your utility bill. With temperatures at their lowest and many people entertaining guests, the expense of heating becomes a big issue. Here are 10 great ways to keep your house warm without breaking the bank.

1. Choose space heaters: Furnaces really serve little purpose unless you're hosting several parties during the winter or you commonly have several different rooms occupied at the same time. Not only are space heaters energy savers, but they are also convenient, easier to control and portable. They'll definitely save you money on your utilities bill.

2. Invest in an electric blanket (or two): Running heaters at night is not very practical, since you'll be bundled up anyway, and only a room or two will be occupied. Electric blankets, particularly in the long run, are much cheaper than the higher electricity bill with heating systems. The blanket is also much nicer to cozy up to at night.

3. Make draft snakes: Draft snakes are fabric tubes placed on a window sill or under a door to prevent cold air from creeping in. They are extremely easy to make from home and can be real money savers. All you have to do is sew a tube of fabric to fit the width of your window or door, and fill it with dried rice. While draft snakes don't insulate the sides of windows or doors, they insulate the most commonly drafty part: the bottoms.

4. Check your windows for leaks: Go around your home and check all your windows. First, make sure all the windows are shut and latched. Use a lit incense stick to check for drafts. Slowly moving the stick around the borders of the windows, wait to see which spots interrupt the smooth flow of the incent smoke. If you find a leak, cover the area in clear plastic. Hardware stores sell inexpensive insulation film kits. They stick to the indoor frame using double-stick tape and are then heated with a hair dryer to shrink the film and remove any wrinkles. You can go even cheaper by using a clear, plastic shower curtain. Even stuffing the area with a towel or old T-shirt can help.

a. Splurge Option: Easy-Stop Weather-Stripping System ($74 per window) contains a silicone flap for the bottom rail of the lower sash of your window from the outside. Scrape out any cracked or dried caulk and apply the fresh bead of silicone.

5. Weather-strip with felt: To insulate the borders of your doors and windows, there are plenty of available materials, but felt is the cheapest and easiest to install. The felt goes around a door or window sash and in the door's jamb so that it compresses against the door. Felt is also easier to cut to your desired length. After using a utility knife to trim the felt to the right length, staple or nail it in place. While the felt is not as durable as other weather-stripping materials, it will be a good fix for a year or two at a time, depending on the intensity and moisture of your winters.

6. Replace your blinds, not your windows: Replacing whole windows to fix insulation problem can cost a lot of money. Instead, buy some energy-efficient blinds, which use different shapes and materials to best capture heat and contain it in your home. Also, check with the manufacturer or retailer: You may be eligible to receive anywhere up to $1,500 in tax credits on qualifying energy-efficient blind purchases. Then you'll save and maybe even earn. Even your existing blinds can help. Open all your blinds on south-facing windows during the day. This will let the sun in and allow heat into your home. Close the same blinds before the sun goes down to add a bit of insulation and keep the heat in at night.

7. Close unused rooms: Particularly during the holiday season, you're not using more than one room at a time, with the exception of large parties. So why leave unused rooms open? When you're all in the living room watching television or playing a game, close the doors to the bedrooms and any other unused areas. If you're worried about keeping the draft out, put a rug or towel at the base of a door. This way you save money on heating - keeping your room warmer and not spending to heat an unused room - and keep out unwanted draft.

8. Use rugs on bare floors: There's more to feeling warm than actual heat. Studies show that when occupying a room with red walls, people feel warmer than when they occupy rooms with light-colored walls or bare floors. An area rug does the same thing. You can find good deals on rugs at thrift stores, and they make your room seem less "cold." Also, rugs heat up the floor. By placing a rug on a bare floor, whether wooden or cement, you help to insulate the area, better trapping heat and keeping your feet warmer. By trapping heat, rugs can also lessen your heating bill. For optimum heat capture, place a rug at the foot of your couch or the edge of another large piece of furniture. This keeps heat from escaping through all sides.

9. Bundle up: One of the great things about using blankets is versatility. Without leaving the couch, you can alter your temperature by covering part of your body or the entire thing. Warm clothes also make you feel cozier, allowing you to regulate your own temperature, rather than depending on a heater. Not only will you feel in the wintry spirit, but you'll also save money on utilities.

10. Change the furnace filter: Like pools, furnaces have filters that catch particles in the air to keep the entire system cleaner. And like pool filters, furnace filters need to be changed regularly to ensure proper operation of the unit and to lessen the strain on your machine. Particle buildup in your furnace filter can decrease the filter's overall efficiency, making it work harder to pull air through the intake. Many people don't realize their furnaces have this filter, so chances are, you need to change yours. Manufacturers recommend replacing the filter anywhere from once every three months to once every year. They are relatively inexpensive and quite easy to change, so if you're planning on using your furnace this winter, make a trip to the store.

At the end of the day, you'll feel better knowing your money and your home is secure. So take a look at your home and make these easy adjustments to save money on your heating bill this winter, without freezing your toes off.

Last Updated: January 18, 2012
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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