Seven ways to winterize your home

Many ceiling fans come with a switch that changes the blades’ direction. In a counterclockwise direction the blades will produce cool breezes. When going clockwise, however, they help circulate warm air.

It’s getting cold outside and for many people that translates into high electric bills from turning up the heat. But it’s possible to be comfortable and economical at the same time.

This CAP cross-post offers seven ways you can stay warm at home and still save money during the upcoming winter season.

1. Use a draft snake. A draft snake is a great way to cut down on your home energy use, and it’s easy to make. If you don’t want to buy a pre-made draft snake, a rolled-up bath towel will do the trick. Placing a draft snake or towel at the bottom of your doors and windows reduces drafts coming from these openings. The U.S. Department of Energy also says that reducing drafts at home can cut down on energy use by anywhere from 5 percent to 30 percent.

2. Reverse your ceiling fans. Many ceiling fans come with a switch that changes the blades’ direction. In a counterclockwise direction the blades will produce cool breezes. When going clockwise, however, they push “the warm air near the ceiling down along the walls and into the room.”

3. Tune up your heating system. When’s the last time your heating system got a check-up? If it hasn’t been anytime recently you should think about requesting one soon. A clean, properly running furnace can save up to 5 percent in heating costs.  You should also wrap your hot water heater.

4. Cover your windows with plastic. Most hardware or discount stores sell window insulation kits, which place a layer of plastic over windows that helps to guard against drafts. Window insulation, when combined with draft snakes, can save a lot on home energy costs.

5. Turn down the heat. Many people forget to turn the heat down when leaving home. But it doesn’t make sense to pay for heat that’s not being used. Additionally, you can save 1 percent to 3 percent in heating costs from lowering your main thermostat setting by just 1 degree.

6. Monitor your energy. More gadgets that let people track home energy use are entering the market. Research suggests that “giving consumers digital tools to control and monitor their electricity use can add up to big savings.”

7. Dress warm. Yes, you can save money this winter by simply putting on more clothes. A light sweater will add about 2 degrees of warmth and a heavy sweater about 4 degrees. The warmer you are, the less heat you’ll have to use at home.

12 Responses to Seven ways to winterize your home

  1. Leif says:

    Poor man’s heat geothermal heat pump. I have no way of knowing how effective this suggestion is but it seemed logical to me and thought I would pass it on. I have never seen this application before so feel free to question it.

    This year we upgraded our heat pump to the higher efficiency models. The location for the pump is under an overhanging sill on the south face of my house. I live in the NW and AC is not needed and if you rely on AC you will want to turn this thinking around.

    I had a bunch of glass laying around after up grading some windows and took the space on either side of the heat pump and made a sort of a lean-to green house with heavy gravel on the floor and of course the house foundation on the back. (Thermal mass.) Then boxed in around the heat pump so that to outlet goes out and the intake takes the pre-warmed air from the “Greenhouse.” Care must be given for easy unrestricted intake and outlet air flow. Now during the day and even thru the evening on a sunny day my heat pump has the advantage of taking “heat” out of 80 or 90+ degree air even on a cold day. Heat pumps quit working when it gets too cold so this gives a greater window of functioning as well. For AC I would try to set up a thermal mass in the shade with perhaps a mister on the intake side to extend night time cooling temperatures into the day. If anyone would like pictures of my installation I can be found.

  2. peter whitehead says:

    In europe we have a type of loft lagging called Space Blanket. It is thick lagging topped with Mylar reflective film. Had ours in ’06, cut our heating use by 10%.

    We run our heating at 65 deg F. Quite enough – we wear fleece shirts a lot anyway

  3. Anne says:

    Something has always stuck under my craw is the LIHEAP programs for low-income folks, providing subsidies for their heating bills. When can we reform this so that the feds subsidize INSULATION and not fossil-produced heat going out of leaky windows and doors? The way things stand, fed payments to low-income families turn out to be a direct subsidy to the major IOUs, (Independently Owned Utilities), who are the very folks blocking policies to reduce the load, because it means reduced sales of kWh, and to oil companies intent on selling oil, not heat. I know just enough to be dangerous and not enough to be effective here, but can’t we have a major tax credit or outright direct payment to low-incomers with leaky houses to just seal things up and keep them warm. This should be a something even a lobotomized person could figure out. Ya know?

  4. Edith Wiethorn says:

    Thanks for a brisk basic list! Re “draft snakes” Russian literature describes people pasting newspaper into window & door-frame cracks with flour & water paste …

    Here’s my tip – today in the zone 4 mtns with snow predicted I am wearing long underwear of Caprilene fiber. It is warmer than wool or silk & much more forgettable & comfortable – does not make you feel like you’re dressed for a winter trek when you are working online indoors.

  5. Gord says:

    See our paper on Household Thermodynamics

    We track the thermodynamic properties of our house each winter. Each summer we make some improvements. We use Heating Degree Days to track our efficiency. Our house is powered by electricity and heated by Natural Gas.

    See all our data at

    Get our daily tweets: @ravinaproject

  6. Omega Centauri says:

    2) I suspect we have major differences in the use of terminology. Over here, the bulk stuff that resists conduction is called insulation, the stuff that restricts thermal radiation is called a radiant barrier, mine was called attic foil, but I think that may be a brand name. Actually you don’t wan your radiant barrier to be impermeable, and the products sold here have tiny holes to let vapor through. I consider it to be much more effective against summertime heat, and pretty small potatoes in the winter. In my opinion radiant barriers are cost effective in sunny climates with high summer cooling needs, but probably marginal in other areas.

    3) The big problem with poor people and insulation is that we usually have what the economists call an agency problem. They are usually renting and don’t want to pay for improvements that accrue to the landlord. And rents are usually not affected by the energy efficiency of the building, so it is not in the landlords interest to do it either.

    I have added some thermal drapes this year. Walls, and especially windows are major sources of heat loss. The code around here is R19 for walls, and R30 for attics. And attics are accessible, mine now varies from about r40 to r50, so walls and windows are now much more important than further attic work. I think drapes add roughly R2 to the walls and windows they cover.

    It is easy to top off attic insulation. You can buy nonfaced fiberglass batts, and tear them into thinner layers, so you don’t need to add R20 or R30 to what you already have, better to add R5 everywhere, then R10 only over half of the area.

  7. Stephen Watson says:



  8. Jacob says:

    Those ways are very great for me and others who struggle to save money for other needs. I think those are the most economical ways to keep my house warm during the winters. Thank you Joe, this means a lot for me.

  9. MarkF says:

    I live in central canada.

    draft snake is ok, (looked at it) but better I think, are the pieces of hardware that you can get for doors, and windows.

    (in canada anyway)

    for instance,

    there are metal or plastic strips that screw into the door frame, and butt up against the door, with a flexible plastic edge, which seal very well. also, door stops with plastic seals, that screw to the jamb and but up against the bottom of the door.

    and use storm doors.

    You know they are installed well, when the inside door needs a good push, to exhaust the air between it, and the oustide door.

    There are insulation kits, like this for windows as well.

    If you have a chimney, and you don’t use it, fill it up with insulation. (make sure you can get it back out)

  10. MarkF says:

    I have a question.

    How can you increase the insulation of a vaulted ceiling?

  11. MarkF says:

    sorry to keep posting, it sure isn’t getting cold here in Winnipeg Manitoba.

    Temps far above normal, for quite some time now.

  12. David Smith says:

    MarkF @ 10 – I assume that by vaulted you meen sloped ceiling framing with the roofing material attached directly to the top side with no attic. If the roof cavity is already full of insulation then I thing the only thing to do would be to add a layer of Rigid insulation to the finish side of the existing ceiling and then attach a new finish layer of drywall below that. A good quality rigid insulation can have an R value of about 7 per inch of thickness. Assuming the new finish ceiling is drywall, you can attach the new layer through the rigid foam to the original roof framing. You should get advice from someone local to you. I am not familiar with your codes. Giving construction advice by email is like a doctor doing a diagnosis on the phone and generally frowned upon. I am across a national boundary besides.