8 Frugal Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
Winter is a tough time of year. There’s a lot of spending money on presents, it’s cold, your heating bill goes up, it’s windy and cold, it just feels like winter is trying to make a home inside your house and break your budget. If you’ve ever been on the fence about winterizing your home, I have good news. It’s worth the effort and there are frugal ways to make your home more energy efficient.
Think about it: if you’re paying to heat your home to 70 degrees and it’s 20 degrees outside, without using tools to keep your house insulated and protected from the temperature outside, your heater will likely never take a break. Between all of the windows and doors in your home, you could be losing a lot of money to keep your house warm if you’re not protecting the places where the cold can come in.
I grew up in old houses. We had original windows with the wooden frames and the individual glass panels in them. They were so pretty… but they leaked air like it was nobody’s business!
That was when I learned the power of weatherizing. That old, drafty house became cozy and warm the second that my dad started to weatherize. From then on, I’ve winterized my homes. Even homes with new windows and doors can benefit from weatherizing.
But first, a couple of easy things that you could use to start saving with very little work:
Get a programmable thermostat
It changes the heat when we aren’t here so we aren’t paying to heat an empty house. You can get the thermostats that are super fancy and expensive that you can change from your phone, but if we’re talking purely on a budget here, then this is the one I’d get!
Change the temperature!
In the winter, the “best” temperature to keep your thermostat at is 68ºF. This is one of those commonly accepted things as the best recommendation. It won’t freeze the pipes, it’s just warm enough, but it will keep you comfortable.
It’s easy to think that changing your temperature by huge swings will help (like if you drop it down to 50º while you’re away or at work), but heating the house back up to the desired temperature is almost worse for your energy bill.
I talked to our HVAC guys and they say that their recommendation is not to change the temperature by more than 5ºF. So if you’re out during the day or want the temperature lower during the night, don’t go dropping it to 50º, instead try 66º and see if that change makes a difference in your overall bill.
Wrap your hot water heater in a blanket
Yes, it’s a thing and yes… it makes a difference. It sounds silly, but it really does work.
Our good old hot water heater is in the basement close to the exterior wall. Meaning it is fighting extra hard to keep that water hot!
Check for pipes that could be too to exterior walls
The pipes that take that hot water to your showers and sinks usually run along exterior walls. Meaning that the water that was piping hot is now lukewarm at best. Meaning that you do not have to crank the heat on your spigot just to feel like it’s working.
Pipe insulators just kind of shimmy right on to the pipes that you can see. Just doing your best can still make a huge difference! They’re not expensive and last a long time.
This is my favorite because – unless you don’t have a lot of blankets lying around in closets waiting to be used – this is totally free! Just grab yourself some extra blankets when you’re at home.
Bundle up under them at night, keep them on the couch, encourage the kids to use them! It’s so easy to keep the thermostat a tad on the chilly-side when you can still feel cozy.
In the winter especially, it’s easy to add more layers if you need to to stay warm. Try as best as you can to keep your body warm before touching that thermostat!
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Ways to Winterize Your Home on a Budget
Close your exterior door and run your hand around the seal (where the door meets the door frame). If you feel the cold air gushing in, that’s where you need to insulate.
Thankfully, the door insulation is really cheap. You can get foam insulation tape for $3.98 here or you can just go Lowes, Home Depot, or your local store and get it. But in the winter, especially if it’s about to get really cold, they might be sold out.
Make sure you get the correct size, too! The insulation tape comes in different sizes to fit any crack you might have.
If you’re not sure, I always go 1 size up from what I think I need. That helps to make the best seal possible. Plus, then I don’t have to go back out and get a different size! (Yeah, I’m lazy in the winter.)
2. Get door snakes for exterior doors and your basement and attic doors.
If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s just a piece of foam that covers the inside and outside of your exterior doors. I’ve used the ones that were filled with rice and just go on the inside before, but the game changer was the foam one that stays on the bottom of the door.
The one that I use works really well if you have a big gap in the door because it’s got elastic to stay on the bottom of the door. For an old house, this is fantastic. And at $12 for 2 of them, that’s a worthwhile investment.
3. Check windows for gaps.
This is a super easy fix that is free! Sometimes, windows weren’t locked or didn’t close properly after the last time we used them.
Just going around and making sure that all of your windows are closed at the top and bottom and locked can make a difference. Locking your windows is a safety thing, for one, but it also helps make sure that your windows is as sealed at it should be.
4. Install storm windows.
For newer windows, you might just need to push up the screen and pull down the storm window. But for older houses, there’s a lot more leg work involved.
But it’s worth it! It’s a layer of insulation that you don’t need to pay for that will definitely help cut down on the arctic tundra trying to make its way into your home!
This can be done for both old and new houses and the result is still great. You use putty caulk to seal the entire window. Everywhere around the window where there’s a space, even if it’s not a big one. Should get a line of putty caulk on it.
You can get putty caulk here for $5.98 and it should be enough for your house. Make sure that you press it firmly into place, but don’t much it in there! Otherwise, it’s a disaster to get out. (Not that I would know from experience…. 😉 )
6. Wrap windows in plastic.
Everything that you’ve done for your windows is leading up to this. Outs of all of the ways to winterize your home on a budget, this step is the arguably the best thing you can do for winterizing your home.
This makes sure that if there is a draft or a bitterly cold day, your house will be protected from the cold air. Wrapping your windows in plastic is the best thing you can do to protect a draft from the windows.
To be honest, setting them up is a little bit of a pain. Thankfully, though, this pack comes with 10 pre-cut shrink wrap films so there’s no need to cut the plastic before putting it on to the window. Yay for progress! (It didn’t use to be like that, lemme tell ya!)
Plastic wrapping your windows is an incredible bang-for-your-buck; this pack of 10 costs $14.99 here and that might be the only pack you’ll need for your whole house.
If you only ever use your patio doors in the spring and summer, you can get the same kind of plastic wrap that you use for the windows for your glass door, too.
We use this in our youngest sons’ room. They have a balcony door that is old and just so drafty. We installed one of these $7 plastic wraps and it has made such a big difference.
It’s a little difficult to install (especially when you’re as vertically challenged as I am!), but with a tall person, a ladder, and some patience, the results are well worth it!
The areas around dryer vents, faucets, and other things that connect to the inside of your home from an exterior hole in the wall should all be filled in with spray foam insulation. Any place where there is a hole in your wall, no matter how small, should be filled.
Filling these holes and gaps will both keep your home insulated, but also keep out nasty bugs and other creatures trying to get back into the house. (Bleh!)
I love this spray foam. It’s so easy to use and it really gets the job done. You can get it here for $8.42, but you might want to get it from your local hardware store and talk to the pros about the job you want to get done. They might recommend a stronger or different variety.
The SUPER cheap way to do everything:
1. Use big towels like door snakes.
2. Insulate your windows by hanging heavy sheets from them and securing with tape.
3. Hang old sweatshirts from the door to act as insulation (*true story: I do this even WITH the insulated tape strips when it’s windy and cold! It works really well!)
There are many ways to winterize your home on a budget. Even these small changes and steps can make a huge difference in the temperature in your house, which then means a lower heating bill!
Do you winterize your home?
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