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Winterize a Home Inexpensively: Tips to Keep You Warm

Updated on October 18, 2012
My little red brick house that generally maintains the same temperature inside as is outside.
My little red brick house that generally maintains the same temperature inside as is outside. | Source

While writing this article, I am freezing. Yet another reason why this house was so inexpensive has come to mind - it has no insulation. In fact, I'm pretty sure that sleeping in my car would be more comfortable at times. This is bad news - especially since it's only October and the cold has barely started to arrive.

If you are facing a similar struggle - attempting to minimize costs while keeping yourself at a temperature permitting survival, then I am sure that my research on how to maintain warm will be of some use for you.

Although it is likely that you have a working furnace (something that is doubtful in my home), many of these ideas can save you significant amounts of money in your monthly heating bills - not to mention the positive impact that consuming less electricity has on the environment.

I have divided these heating ideas into three categories:

  1. Big projects
  2. Padding the home
  3. Living through the cold

While Big projects will cost a significant amount of money, they are going to have the biggest impact on providing a level of warm. Meanwhile, padding the home ideas will give you some beneficial ways to increase warmth before the cold strikes. Finally, the living through the cold reveals the least-expensive, immediately beneficial ideas for those who forgot to plan ahead and have bank accounts that are as frozen as their homes.

Big Projects: Preparing for the Cold

These big ideas also have big price tags. However, the benefits can be equally large. Remember that saving $5,000 now by not replacing something may end up costing you thousands more in monthly power bills. Take a look and see if these ideas can benefit you.

Even if your furnace is not as old as mine, it may be worth getting a new - the energy reduction and tax rebate could pay for it within a couple of years.
Even if your furnace is not as old as mine, it may be worth getting a new - the energy reduction and tax rebate could pay for it within a couple of years. | Source
New windows can make a world of difference - especially if the original windows were single pane or missing all together (as was the case with our house).
New windows can make a world of difference - especially if the original windows were single pane or missing all together (as was the case with our house). | Source
While an old fireplace like this one is nice, it does not produce a whole lot of heat. Our plan is to put in a wood burning stove insert to help us save money this winter.
While an old fireplace like this one is nice, it does not produce a whole lot of heat. Our plan is to put in a wood burning stove insert to help us save money this winter. | Source

Replace Your Furnace

If your furnace looks anything like mine, then try to avoid using it as much as possible. With low efficiency levels, the odds of your monthly bill during the winter costing as much as a new furnace are quite likely.

My house is heated by an old coal-furnace turned gas. Not only am I confident that it's cost would be incredibly high to run (especially since heat seeps out of our house), but I am afraid that turning it on may end up in a huge explosion.

While it is highly unlikely that your heater is as terrible as mine, you could certainly benefit from discovering how efficient it is. Perhaps your electric bill will drop significantly by spending several thousand to replace your heating system. And remember, many states will provide tax incentives for this improvement - making it even more valuable.

Get New Windows

This was one change that I ended up doing right away. Because the windows that originally filled my home were from 60 years ago, although they were beautiful antiques, they held in about as much heat as a tent. Therefore replacing them was a smart and valuable move.

When looking into replacing your windows, while you can do it yourself, if you spend some time researching and contacting multiple window installers, you may be able to find someone to install windows for not much more than it would cost you to purchase them on your own! Many window installers have deals to buy windows at discounted prices - if they pass these deals on to you, they are well worth it.

WARNING: Get estimates from as many window installers as you can - and tell them that you are getting estimates from other people as well. While I was very happy with the price that it ultimately ended up costing, we had one guy try to charge us 4x the price we ended up paying! Find an honest company and stick with them.

Windows are another area where you can get a tax rebate. This can help set off the high cost even more.

Install a Wood Burning Stove

While a fireplace is a great feature to have in a house, it does not do much for warming up a home. Consider purchasing a wood burning stove insert to place where your fireplace is now. These inserts may cost from $1000-$3000, but they can eliminate your heating bill. They are especially valuable if you have easy access to free wood.

Another plus about a stove insert is that you can install it on your own if you spend some time doing the research. Spending $1000 for a wood stove that completes destroys your need to use electricity for heat can save you several hundred dollars a month!

Add insulation to your attic. Additionally, if you rip out any walls to remodel, go ahead and place insulation in those walls. These two things can make a huge difference.
Add insulation to your attic. Additionally, if you rip out any walls to remodel, go ahead and place insulation in those walls. These two things can make a huge difference. | Source
If your door does not shut fully (or even if it does), make sure that you have a foam or rubber seal around the edges of your frame to help keep heat in.
If your door does not shut fully (or even if it does), make sure that you have a foam or rubber seal around the edges of your frame to help keep heat in. | Source
A gap can sometimes be present underneath a door. This would allow for heat to escape and insects to invade. Purchase a pad to nail to the bottom of your door to help eliminate these undesirables.
A gap can sometimes be present underneath a door. This would allow for heat to escape and insects to invade. Purchase a pad to nail to the bottom of your door to help eliminate these undesirables. | Source

Padding the Home: Keeping the Heat In

While these projects will not break the bank, they can prevent you from heating the entire neighborhood. Many older homes have small cracks and crevasses where heat can readily escape. Spending some time minimizing the amount of air flowing between your home and the outdoors will greatly reduce your energy bill.

If the outdoors isn't going to warm you up, why should you heat it?

Insulate Anything You Can

While redoing my bathroom, I discovered something terrible, my walls have zero insulation in them! This is bad news for sure. However, having the bathroom walls already ripped out, we are taking advantage of the situation and placing insulation in here. The few dollars that we spend will at least keep us toasty while in the facility.

One of the easiest places to add more insulation is the attic. Our attic is full of very old cottony material that is a poor insulator. Another plan of ours is to place additional layers of insulation in our attic. Because heat rises, improving the insulation in your roof can have stop the heat at the ceiling. There is no need to warm the squirrels and mice that find their way into your attic.

Seal Your Doors

If you can see light or feel cold above, below, or beside your door, then insulating the edges of your door is an absolute necessity. The good news is that it is also incredibly inexpensive! With just a couple of dollars you can purchase foam tape, seals to nail to the bottom of your door, and reduce the amount of money sneaking out your door cracks!

Check all of the doors leading to the outside of your home - including doors into a garage or basement. This alone can save a decent amount of money.

Wrap Your Windows

Although a very temporary fix, it is also an inexpensive and money saving solution. By visiting the local hardware store it is possible to find a shrink wrap that can go over the inside of your windows. This wrap, though rather unattractive to the eye, can actually help cut costs because of the amount of heat that can be lost through drafty windows.

The local home improvement store will have kits that you can purchase providing a great shrink wrap with double-sided tape to help insulate around your windows. Definitely an inexpensive way to save on heating bills. Because this method is temporary, it can be a great way to save time and money without making any drastic changes to a home - excellent for renters.

Living Through The Cold

Now you have a real problem - it's freezing inside and out, and you have no money to afford paying for a new furnace or your heating bill. What will you do?

These ideas are for the thrifty, desperate, and creative. Hopefully these ideas will help you make it through the winter without breaking the bank.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Use an area heater to keep the rooms you are in warm without wasting energy on unused parts of the house.Using the stove frequently will keep your home and your belly warm.Hot drinks are a great way to warm up your hands and your soul.
Use an area heater to keep the rooms you are in warm without wasting energy on unused parts of the house.
Use an area heater to keep the rooms you are in warm without wasting energy on unused parts of the house. | Source
Using the stove frequently will keep your home and your belly warm.
Using the stove frequently will keep your home and your belly warm. | Source
Hot drinks are a great way to warm up your hands and your soul.
Hot drinks are a great way to warm up your hands and your soul. | Source

Use Area Heaters

Rather than spending thousands of dollars on a new furnace, consider purchasing one or two area heaters. These can cost anywhere from $15-$50 and provide enough warmth to heat a room 200-500 feet. I have been using these a lot.

Before you go to bed, turn one on in your room, and when you wake up, a couple minutes before you get out of bed turn it on again. These area heaters work great for keeping you warm. Simply close the doors to rooms that you are not using and caring the heater around with you.

Cook All of Your Meals

You have to eat. Rather than eating out or buy cereal all the time, consider eating meals at home that require cooking. Whether complex dishes or spaghetti and soups, cooking food will quickly heat up the kitchen and the surrounding areas. Additionally, the added benefit of eating something warm decreases the discomfort of the cold just a little.

Enjoy Hot Drinks

Make tea, hot chocolate, and cider your new best friends. Heat up water and make your favorite drink. The warmth from the drink feels great as your drink it and on your hands as you hold the mug. Yes, hot water is a fantastic thing!

Dress Warmly

Say bye bye to the days of sitting around in your boxers. It's time to bundle up!

Here's what I want you to do - go watch a Christmas movie. Do you notice the way everyone dresses as they walk around outside? From now one, that's how you dress inside.

Put on long underwear and a hoodie, it's time to start living like an Eskimo.

Make a Lot of Friends

Now is the perfect time to buy a Little Caesars Pizza for $5 and take it over to a friends place. He will be appreciative and maybe invite you over again! The more time you are able to spend in his incredibly warm and well insulated home, the less time you will have to spend in your icebox of a home.

If you have many different friends, you will be able to rotate from one house to another, preventing the need to impose too much on a single individual. Yes, making friends and helping friends out when in need can definitely benefit you later on in life.

Spring Will Come!

While dealing with the cold is not an entirely fun experience, it always warms the heart to remember that summer will come again. Just a couple of months bearing through the cold and the sun will appear again. Spend this time to do some serious thinking - maybe a move south is a good idea.

I am sure that there are many other great tips for insulating a house to help survive the winter. If you have used or heard of any ideas, you are certainly welcome to share them in the comments section below!

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    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      Wood burning is definitely a great alternative. We have been looking at putting in a stove as well. Thanks for stopping by!

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 4 years ago from Northern California

      We replaced the windows in our previous home and the temperature and noise difference was immediate.

      In our current home heating was done by an old propane furnace and I dreaded the monthly bill in the winter. We have since installed 2 wood burning stoves and we love them, I would rather see a fire than hear the furnace fan running anyway.

      Voted up, useful and sharing.

    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      Hahaha. You are very right about that basement! And it is good to hear from someone who has used plastic wrap before that it works - we are trying it for the first time this winter.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Hi Robert. First I want to say that furnace of your is a scary thing. I probably would never go downstairs! You do have some great tips and ideas. Our home could use more insulation. I definitely am going to use plastic over the basement windows this year. We used to do that years ago and I got out of the habit. Thanks for the help!

    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for that addition Armchair Builder! That's a very good thing to think about. It would be no fun to rot out your house because you were attempting to keep it warm.

    • Armchair Builder profile image

      Michael Luckado 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Nice Hub! Some great ideas. One other comment...if you add insulation to your attic and you choose fiberglass batts, be sure to get the stuff without the vapor barrier. You don't want to trap moisture...this can lead to mold and damage.

    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      @ tirelesstraveler: I will have to check out your article! I am certainly excited that you noticed the few jokes a scattered through the article.

      @Rajan: Yes, friends are fantastic for so many reasons. ;)

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Certainly interesting and useful ways to warm up oneself and keep the purse warm as well. I like the idea of not spending too much to warm a home.

      This is one great benefit of making friends I was not aware of! lol!

      Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips. Voted up/useful/interesting.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Love your good sense and sense of humor. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this hub. I vaguely remember hearing about shrink wrapping your windows on the radio. nice idea. Not really needed in my neck of the woods though. Since you are definitely in a different climate than I am I think linking this to my hub on energy efficiency is the thing to do.

    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      @Linda: Thank you so much for the added ideas. Rugs and carpets are a great idea, as is thick curtains. Certainly two excellent methods to improve the warmth of a home.

      @Pavlo: I am glad that you enjoyed the last section. You are clearly a very optimistic individual!

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      The best chapter is the last one- "spring will come". If all said above is practical and need your efforts and money this one will be inevitably :)

    • lindalou1963 profile image

      Linda 4 years ago from Texas

      Some very good suggestions! May I add two ideas...? 1. Carpet or rugs on bare floors .... 2. Thick curtains on drafty windows. Thanks for some great ideas.