As winter approaches, temperatures drop faster than trees shed their leaves.
There are few feelings more frustrating than the realization that your home just isn’t that energy efficient when you need energy most. The dead of winter brings below-freezing temperatures (that may drop below zero), which can be most telling of how much heat is leaking out of your home.
If this sounds like you, then it’s time to take action before the dead of winter hits.
Furthermore, if you’re on a tight budget, keeping your house warm during winter can cost a lot of money. However, there are plenty of cost-effective ways to reduce heat loss in your home without breaking your budget.
Let’s look at the different places in your home that might lose heat and how you can address those problems with any budget.
Before we get started: this list assumes that your furnace is in good, working order. If your problem is that heat is not coming out of your vents, have an HVAC specialist inspect your system.
If you get plenty of heat from your furnace but you’re still shivering, read on.
Problem #1: Your insulation is thin.
This might be one of the most common reasons why you have trouble keeping your house warm in the winter.
Some estimates state that up to 90% of homes in America don’t have enough insulation in the walls. Heat will escape anywhere it can, so if your walls don’t stop the heat from leaving, it’s gone.
If you have the budget for it, install new insulation in your walls. It’s the most effective way to keep your house warm. Few home improvement projects have such a great effect on your energy bills.
Now, if you are a little strapped for cash, hang blankets on your walls. No, it’s not the most elegant solution to the problem. But the blankets will offer a barrier for the heat. This also might not work in large living spaces, like a living room, simply because there are too many bare walls. However, in a bedroom, this could be worth it.
Problem #2: The chimney is open.
If you have a fireplace in your home, then you are familiar with how much heat is lost through the chimney.
This heat loss makes sense: the chimney is designed to let air escape easily so that smoke doesn’t fill your house every time you build a fire. But that can be a double-edged sword: How do you keep your house warm during winter with a chimney?
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If you’re on a tight budget but want to keep the chimney, start with the simplest solution: close the flue. Many families forget to close the flue when they stop using the fireplace, which can make a huge difference.
Is the flue closed but you’re still chilly, consider a chimney balloon. For around $30 or so, you can have a removable chimney balloon block any errant drafts quickly and conveniently.
Of course, if you’re not using the fireplace, the most effective option would be to have it removed entirely or at least capped off.
Problem #3: Your windows are drafty.
Other than poor insulation, leaky windows are the top cause of cold homes in the winter, especially in older homes.
As technology has advanced, windows have become very energy-efficient. Heat loss is not nearly as common of a problem with newer windows as in the past.
The best option is to replace your old windows. If your budget won’t allow for it, there are still some effective solutions for you.
If you can see gaps in the window frame, apply a foam strip to the window to keep those drafts at bay. But if nothing seems to work, you can get an insulation kit from almost any hardware store for less than $5-10. When properly applied, these clear plastic sheets will prevent drafts in your home and are hardly noticeable.
Finally, curtains and blinds are perfect insulators. Close them up at night to keep the heat in.
Problem #4: Your doors are letting the air in.
Another common problem is a drafty door.
Again, older doors are often the culprit, but doors of any age can be prone to gaps in the frames.
The good news is that this can be one of the more affordable problems to deal with. If the door is still in good shape, you just have to fill in the gaps.
You can do this any number of ways. Foam strips work very well on both the inside and outside of the door. Similarly, you can get a simple draft blocker that lays at the bottom of the door when it is closed.
Door insulation kits and draft blockers are often no more than a few dollars at the hardware store and still make a big difference.
Problem #5: The heat is rising out of your attic.
Finally, if your attic is not properly sealed and insulated, your house is going to be chilly.
Heat rises, so if your attic isn’t stopping its escape, it’s going to pour out.
When you think about handling attic leaks, you might imagine having to shell out a lot of money. But it may not be as bad as you think.
Assessing an attic is a much more involved topic than can be covered here. However, for starters, if you find that the insulation in the attic is just too thin - a very common problem - you could buy a few rolls of insulation and roll them out. If it’s a larger space, some filler insulation would do the trick. Neither is particularly expensive.
If there are some leaks in the attic that simply need to be filled in, some spray foam will work wonders. Just make sure that you seal leaks and do not add any further problems to your attic’s ventilation.
You don’t have to break the bank to be warm.
Even in an older house, a little elbow grease and the right tools can seal up your home for a warm, comfortable winter. Take the time to inspect your home for these leaks now to keep your home warm all winter long.