The weather outside is turning frightful, but your heating bill doesn't have to become monstrous. Winterizing your home can yield significant savings, keeping you comfortable and warm without breaking the bank.
Keep out the chill while keeping more cash in your pocket with these ideas:
Repair and prevent air leaks. Locate the air leaks hiding in your home. A home-energy audit is one way to find leaks. If you're seeking a cheaper alternative, pick up a thermal leak detector. The uber frugal option? Light a candle on a cold day and run it alongside your door and window frames. If the flame flutters, you've found the leak.
Once you locate the drafty areas in your home, it's time to get to work. For doors, try double-sided draft stoppers, which keep cold air from sneaking in along the floor. These generally inexpensive items can also be made at home using everyday materials. Seal leaks around windows with caulk. Do-it-yourself caulk kits are available at hardware stores, as are window insulator kits, which can add extra armor against drafts. And if you haven't yet, remove any air-conditioners still perched in your windows -- a surefire way to bring wintry temperatures inside.
Rotate your ceiling fan. Make sure ceiling fans are rotating clockwise at low speeds during the winter. This pulls cool air up and pushes warm air down, allowing you to lower your thermostat, decrease your use of heat and still enjoy a warm, comfortable environment.
Reduce the temperature of your water heater. The default setting for most water heaters is typically 140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the Department of Energy recommends dialing back to 120 F. This temperature is comfortable for most people, and can yield substantial savings.
Check your fireplace. Free-standing wood and pellet stoves and some newer open-fireplace models are the most efficient in this category. However, even if you have an older, open fireplace, there are still ways to save.
Inserts are available that essentially convert your open fireplace into a wood, pellet or gas stove. Equipped with insulated doors, these inserts slide right into the opening of your fireplace. If you'd rather get a new fireplace altogether, be prepared to spend. But before opening your wallet, crunch some numbers and talk to your utilities provider to understand if the savings you'd see on your heating bill would justify the price. Free calculators are also available online to help inform your decision.
Bonus tip: When you aren't using your fireplace, keep the damper closed. You can even place fire-resistant insulation inside the damper; just make sure to remove it before you light a fire.
Change your furnace filters. During the heating season, replace or clean your disposable furnace filters once a month for optimal airflow. You can even invest in a permanent filter, which is said to capture more debris and only requires a good cleaning each month.
Regulate your thermostat. A programmable thermostat can be a boon for your bank account. "You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68 F while you're awake and setting it lower while you're asleep or away from home," according to energy.gov, a website run by the Department of Energy. "By turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save 5 to 15 percent a year on your heating bill -- a savings of as much as 1 percent for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long."
Many of these tweaks can be made in a weekend, but will pay off all winter long.
Jon Lal is the founder and CEO of coupons and cash back website BeFrugal.com, which saves shoppers an average of $27 per order thanks to coupons plus an average of 7 percent cash back at more than 4,000 stores.
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