First Person: Cold-Weather Savings

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Having lived in the Chicago area for almost 10 years now, I've gotten a pretty good feel for how harsh the winters can be. Not only can that winter chill be physically biting, it can be financially biting as well. With the heating bills, maintenance costs, and physical labor that can come along with Windy City winters, it can really take a toll on a person. But over the years, I've learned a thing or two about combating this season while saving myself a few bucks in the process. Here are some of the investments that I've made in an effort to recognize cold-weather savings in the Chicagoland area.

A Good Snow Shovel

It might seem silly, but having a good snow shovel can make for huge savings in the Chicagoland area. First off, it's certainly cheaper than paying for a snow removal service. Second off, it's hundreds of dollars cheaper than a snow blower. Third, shoveling snow makes for a great workout for me, which saves me on having to pay for a gym membership. And having an ergonomically correct shovel that is easy to grip and fits my bending and lifting needs well keeps me from possible costly injuries in the process of clearing snow.

Electric Blanket

We bought an electric blanket several years ago and found that it really came in handy for those chilly winter nights. This was especially true in our larger home before we downsized.

Heating bills there often ran into the hundreds of dollars. However, with the use of our $90 king-sized electric blanket, we were able to keep our heat levels lower at night (often by a good five degrees or more off our typical level), which in turn, more than covered the initial investment of our electric blanket and made for additional savings as well.

Space Heaters

In combination with our electric blanket, we have also at times used small space heaters. We have two of these heaters (that cost about $10 a piece) that pump out some pretty good heat. I don't like to use them for long periods of time thought because they use 1500 watts of electricity per hour, which at six or seven hours a day, each day of the month, could add up to more than 300 kilowatt hours or more. However, they make for a great short-term way to pump up the temperature of a room, and in short bursts, they don't overextend our energy consumption.

Sealers

I have been amazed at times at just how big a difference a little caulk, sealer or window cover can make a difference in the effectiveness of keeping the cold out of our home. I've used a $3 or $4 tube of caulk or expandable foam sealers to fill cracks around windows and doors in our home and to make these spaces more air tight against drafts and cold air seepage.

In turn, I've also used blinds and plastic sheeting window covers to eliminate drafts. In a previous vintage apartment in which we lived, plastic sheeting window covers made for additional protection against the winter chill for our old single-paned windows. Even just closable blinds work in our current condo (even though we have pretty good windows) to act as an additional insulator against those frigid winter lows.

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