Keeping your Home Warm This Winter

By: Melanie Speed

Nippy weather sends most people indoors at this time of year. Unfortunately, many still find that even inside the house, they're shivering under the cold air. The question is how do you stay warm this winter without sending your heating bills through the roof?

The first step is to apply weatherproofing to windows and doorframes. Check for any cracks where cold air can come in. If you can't tell where the drafts are coming from by simply feeling with your hand, try having another family member stand outside and shine a flashlight towards the door. Where you see light creep through is an area that needs to be sealed with weather-stripping. Weather-stripping kits are available at hardware stores and other all-purpose shops.

In addition to applying adhesive weather-stripping to exterior doorframes, it is also a good idea to block the airflow that escapes underneath the door. Sewing your own draft stopper is a fun, cheap, and effective way to reduce heat loss in the room. If DIY isn't your thing, you can buy colorful pre-made draft stoppers, or invest in a new door threshold or door sweep. These will seal in the warm air, and block out the cold. In summer months, they perform their function in reverse by keeping the inside of your home nice and cool.

Another affordable tool in your winter arsenal is window plastic. Window plastic looks just like the plastic wrap you use everyday in your kitchen, but is much stronger. Cut a square that is big enough to cover the entire window you're working on. Use the provided adhesive to stick it down, until all areas are sealed off. Then take a hair dryer, and blow on the plastic until all creases have been smoothed out, and the plastic has shrunk to the point that it is nearly invisible on the window.

Window plastic is inexpensive and easy to use. It also provides an excellent draft barrier. Because the plastic wrap seals off the window completely, it isn't a good idea to apply it to every room in the house. You need ventilation to not only keep your home from becoming stale, but also to prevent carbon monoxide build-up. Apply the wrap to windows in unused rooms where the windows are rarely opened, and to windows that are fixed in place.

Small details can have a big impact on your energy bills. Many home winterizing kits come with plug-in covers that reduce draft. Simply remove your regular outlet cover with a screwdriver. Apply the insulating pad, and return the outlet cover to its original place. Do this for all plugs that are located on exterior facing walls to eliminate the heat loss that can occur even in small places like electrical outlets.

When the temperatures drop, you're going to need regular access to hot water. So don't forget to prepare your pipes for the winter. Water pipes need to be insulated in order to avoid freezing over. Use newspaper or special pipe insulation as well as a hot water blanket for your hot water tank. Don't leave these tasks until after the cold spell starts. Once the pipes freeze, it will be very difficult to get the water running again. It is also a good idea to run both your hot and cold water taps frequently, to keep the water moving. If it gets really cold, you may want to leave your taps dripping slightly in order to keep up the water flow, and to prevent the pipes from freezing up.

Taking simple and affordable steps like these will go a long way in reducing your energy bills this winter.

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