Winterizing Your Home On A Budget

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People living on a budget might not take extra steps to winterize their homes, figuring they can’t afford it. But many winterization options are free or very inexpensive, and save a lot of money on heating bills. Don’t let a tight budget prevent you from winterizing every year.

Free things you can do

  • Insulate leaky doors with a towel. Roll up a towel and place across the bottom of doors to stop drafts. You can buy a foam draft blocker from your hardware store, but there’s no need to pay anything if you have an old towel you can use.
  • Reverse your ceiling fans. Ceiling fans are meant to run counterclockwise in the summer, forcing air down into the room to cool you off. But in the winter, you should reverse the fan to clockwise and run it on low. This circulates warm air up and out to the corners of the room.
  • Check your air ducts. The ducts going from your furnace will have dampers to control the amount of air going to any given part of your home. These dampers should be adjusted to different positions for winter and summer. Leaving them in the same position year-round means you’re only going to be energy efficient half the year.

Low-cost things you can do

  • Replace your air filters. Typically you should plan to replace your air filters once per month. This is especially important when you’re running the furnace during the winter. A dirty air filter will make your furnace work harder, costing you money.
  • Seal drafty windows. You can buy window insulationkits very inexpensively online or from a local hardware store. The insulation is a clear plastic film that is stretched over the indoor side of the window frame. With a blast of hot air from a hair dryer, they shrink tight and are perfectly clear, so they don’t block your windows while stopping drafts. If you don’t care about the view, you can use heavy drapes or and old blanket to block heat loss. Whatever method you use, it’s worth the time and the small expense to seal window drafts.
  • Insulate your hot water tank. For not much money, you can get an insulating blanket designed to wrap around your hot water tank. Follow the instructions carefully, and according to gov, you could cut your heating costs by 7-16%.

Larger investments for the future

  • Get a programmable thermostat. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a programmable thermostat, but you might end up having to pay a professional to install it. While this is a heftier investment up front, in the long term a programmable thermostat will pay for itself with energy savings. Learn more at “Are Thermostat and Solar Cells Worth the Price?”
  • Get a tankless water heater. If you’re due for a new water heater, consider going tankless. Modern tankless water heaters can deliver non-stop hot water while using less energy. Since they don’t have to keep a large supply of water hot, you’ll spend less on your monthly bills. This is still a big investment, and will take time to pay for itself, but these water heaters have another advantage—reports indicate they last longer than traditional water heaters, so you’ll get more years of service for your initial investment.
  • Install storm windows & doors. Ultimately, your main source of heat loss will be drafty windows and doors. Installing permanent storm windows will increase the value of your property and keep you more energy efficient year-round.

It doesn’t take much time or money to get your home ready for winter weather. And if you’re ready to invest a little more, you’ll reap ongoing benefits. In the past there have been tax credits for things like new storm windows, so while you’re saving up for that home improvement, keep an eye out for new incentives to make your home more energy efficient.

Melinda Opperman is Executive Vice President of is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.