Avoid High Heating Bills This Winter- Tips To Winterize Your Home

What's scarier than Halloween? Your electric bill during the winter months. Yikes! The temperature has been fluctuating between the 50's and the 70's here in Baltimore and it's only October. I'm a tropical person so anything below 60 is cold to me. This drop in temperature has been the impetus for me to get started on winterizing my apartment. Whether you own a home or you're renting the following tips will assist you in winterizing your home and will lower your heating costs this winter.

Check For Cracks

Homes, whether new or old, often have cracks and openings around doors and windows. These gaps are a major source of heat loss and can account for up to one-third of your home’s overall heating cost. That’s why it's an absolute must that you apply caulk and weather stripping around your doors and windows. Heating and cooling costs account for nearly half of home utility expenses, and poor sealing is a huge contributing factor when it comes to those costs. When you consider that even a tiny gap around a typical entryway door is the equivalent of drilling a 5 inch hole through an outside wall, closing that gap is well worth the effort. 

When you’re checking for leaks, some are pretty easy to detect, like the crack of light beneath the front door on a sunny day, or the rush of cool air coming from a window on a blustery day. But there are far less obvious leaks that may take some creativity to discover. One tip to finding those pesky hidden leaks of air is to close all the doors and windows in your home. Then light a stick of incense and pass it along the edges of your doors and windows. Wherever the smoke is sucked out or blown into the room, there’s a leak.  Now let's get to the nitty gritty of fixing your insulation issues.
Bubble Wrap Insulation 

Who knew that bubble wrap can add up to warmth and savings. Quit popping your bubble wrap or worse yet please don't throw it away. Using bubble wrap is an amazingly simple and cost effective way to insulate your house/ apartment. In the pictures you can see that I bought clear tape and 1ft by 6ft rolls of bubble wrap from my local Dollar Tree. I first rolled out two 6ft rolls side by side and taped down the middle. I actually bought 10 rolls. (Hehe don't judge me) I use bubble wrap for insulating and for mailing out shipments of merchandise that I sell so I stock up on it when I go to the store. Simply get your bubble wrap cut it to fit your window and attach it by spraying water to your window and pressing the bubble wrap on the wet window. Be sure to put the bubble wrap on when the window is still wet and press it into place, Bubble side towards glass. This method is great because not only will it save you money but it's easy to remove so if you rent you don't have to worry that it will leave undesirable marks on the window. To remove simply grab a corner and pull it off. Voila.

Personally I prefer to attach my bubble wrap by using painters tape along the sides of the window to ensure that any air coming in from the window is trapped between the window and the bubble wrap and not circulating in my apartment wreaking havoc on my heating bill.  If you're looking into a more heavy duty insulation might I suggest that you make a  bubble wrap/ aluminum foil sandwich. Foil-bubble wrap-bubble wrap -foil will give the most heat retention but you will lose the light. If light gain isn't an issue in a room during the winter then FBBF sandwich will be a great way to keep the heat in. If you'd like to keep the light but would want to maximize your insulation efforts might I suggest that you double up on the bubble wrap. Instead of using one layer of bubble wrap use two.

Caulk It Up

Caulking to seal gaps around doors and windows is an easy, energy-saving DIY project anyone can take on to lower their utility bill. There are several basic types of caulking available including latex, silicone, polyurethane, and hybrid formulas. Personally I tend to use Silicone caulk because it offers good flexibility, durability and adhesion, providing an excellent seal against the outside elements.
Silicone caulk is perfect for use around doors and windows in areas exposed to moisture or direct sunlight. Silicone products cannot be painted as they are engineered to not have anything stick to the surface. This winter I'll be using DAP Seal 'N Peel Removable Weatherstrip Caulk. I love this caulk because it's effective and most importantly it peels off without destroying the surface.

Most caulking products come in a 10 ounce cartridge and are applied with a caulking gun . Before applying a new layer of caulk, you’ll need to remove any older caulking with a utility knife or a scraper. Before you apply any new caulk carefully clean away any dirt and debris from the area and allow the surface to dry. When you’re ready to start caulking, load the caulk gun by pulling back the plunger and placing the tube of caulk into the chamber, bottom end first. Squeeze the trigger until it makes contact with the tube. Cut the tip to your desired bead size at an angle and apply pressure by squeezing the gun until the caulk is seen at the end of the nozzle.

Hold the gun at an angle, squeeze the trigger and push the gun away from your body to ensure that you are using enough caulk to fill your gap. When finished make sure to cap the top of the nozzle as most caulks can be stored and re-used at a future time. There are a variety of methods that can be used to smooth the caulk, ranging from running your finger along the bead to using a professional caulk tool. I usually would just use my fingers. Caulking doors and windows is a really quick and simple process, leaving your home warmer, more comfortable and more energy-efficient when you finish.

Weather strip those doors & windows

Weather stripping doors and windows is another cost-effective way to reduce energy waste. Weather stripping products come in many different forms, and can be made up of a combination of materials such as wood, rubber, vinyl, metal and foam. To determine the type of weather stripping that will be the most effective in the area you are trying to seal, you’ll want to consider factors like the amount of friction it will have to withstand, exposure to weather and any cosmetic concerns you may have with it being seen.

Even the most inexperienced DIY- er can apply weather stripping. Adhesive-backed foam tape is sold in rolls in varying widths and thicknesses with a sticky back. Just cut it to the desired length and apply it to the top and bottom of window sashes or inside door frames. Felt is another great choice for weather stripping around a door or window sash, or in the door jamb. Felt is easily nailed or stapled in place, and it compresses to allow smooth movement of doors and windows. For the base of doors and windows, the top or bottom of a window sash, or between a door and its jamb, tubular rubber is an effective air barrier. Made up of a narrow sponge rubber or vinyl tubing sometimes attached to a wood or metal mounting strip, tubular rubber comes peel and stick or can be fastened with screws through slot holes. All together, you can save up to $200 a year in heating and cooling costs – or about 10 percent on your energy bill -- by sealing and insulating your home.

Get a window insulation kit 

Head on over to Home Depot or any other home improvement store and buy a window insulation kit. Most kits contains the shrink film/plastic and double stick tape. It's pretty simple to use and can really improve the amount of cold air getting into your home. However, two things you'll really want to pay attention to when using these kits is that you want to ensure that the adhesive/tape is fully secure around the edges of your window frame. Any snag or pull or exposed parts will create an opening for air to make it's way into your home. Before you apply the contents of the kit to your window I'd recommend that you clean the area to ensure that no dirt or any other particles are sitting on the window frame. Extra dirt etc will mean that the tape would not adhere properly. Another thing is when using your hair dryer on the shrink film be careful not to over heat the plastic. When plastic overheats it shrinks and too much shrinkage in this case will be counter productive.  Below is a quick video showing you the process of using a window insulation kit.  


Other areas you may want to weatherize includes:

Doors and windows are the primary place you’ll want to check for air leaks, but there are other areas that are worth checking, too:

Around attic stairs: If you have pull-down stairs that lead up to your attic, the back cover that holds the stairs in place once folded tends to have a gap between itself and the ceiling. Weather stripping around the edges of the back cover will keep the untreated attic air from entering the temperature-controlled areas of your home.

Fireplaces: If your home has an active fireplace, consider using a glass door surround. With one-piece construction, it’s designed as a surface mount that sits outside the fireplace against a flat surface. Using a fireplace glass door reduces heating or cooling loss by as much as 90 percent.

Pipes: Using fiberglass or polyethylene pipe insulation covers protects your pipes against freezing. There are a variety of sizes, so there is insulation for just about every size pipe, including elbows and tee connectors. Also, pipes are often positioned inside walls, floors and ceilings via holes. Caulking around these holes closes any gaps where untreated air can enter your home.

Faucets: Using slip-on outdoor spigot/faucet covers protect your exposed pipes and valves against freezing and drafts from entering through faucet cutouts.

Electrical outlets and switches: Using a foam insulation kit for electrical outlets and wall plates will reduce drafts that can enter your home for walls that are exposed to exterior elements on one side.

Stop Those Vampire Appliances

Vampire appliances are appliances that continue to use power because they are on standby mode when not in use. This allows them to turn on quickly when needed. The average household has 20 to 40 appliances on standby at any given time. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), most households use 75 percent of electricity on electronics that are not in use. Yikes. Here's a few ways can stop those power suckers:

Use a power strip for your cluster electronics. Cluster electronics include your computer and it's peripherals. When you are done using them for the day, hit the switch on the surge protector. This will cut all power to the units.

Unplug your video consoles when you're not using them.

Your television and set-top boxes use just as much electricity when they are off as they do when they are on. Before you and your family head out of town, pull the plug on them. Whenever I leave town I always unplug just about everything in my apartment. The only thing that remains plugged in is my refrigerator. When I leave the country and will away for more than 2 weeks I try to use everything in the refrigerator, give it a thorough cleaning and unplug it as well.   

Humidify To Lower Thermostat 

Yes, you read correctly; humidifiers can equal lower heating costs. The heat our bodies feel is a combination of temperature and humidity. In other words, the more humid the air, the warmer you feel. If you add humidity to dry, heated air in the winter, you can set your thermostat lower and still be comfortable. Stores like Bed Bath and Beyond, Target and Walmart are good places to start, and often hold seasonal sales or offer store coupons so you can shave down the cost of your new unit.
When selecting a humidifier, take into account the purchase price, operating costs and maintenance costs of the unit. Some models consume more energy than others, so choosing a model that is right for your home and budget is important. There are several different types of humidifiers. Some of the most popular types of humidifiers are warm mist humidifiers , steam vaporizers, cool mist humidifiers, impeller humidifiers, and evaporative humidifiers. Many people prefer cool mist humidifiers because, unlike vaporizers and warm mist humidifiers, they don't have a heating element inside. Whether you choose a warm mist or cool mist humidifier is a matter of personal taste. Either way both types raise the humidity level and will make your home more comfortable. The cool mist humidifier is the most effective in adding moisture to the air: it works faster, doesn't make the room hot and lasts longer. Also, with a cool mist humidifier there is no risk of being scalded with hot water or steam. I prefer warm mist humidifiers.

Home Energy Audits

Getting a home energy audit is perhaps the best way to start making your home greener and more energy efficient. Contact your local utility; many offer free in-home audits. Some big-box home centers also offer free energy audits, but remember: They're in the business of selling you products, so you should probably take their suggestions with a grain of salt. Before you decide on any home improvement, find out what the payback period is for that particular item or upgrade. I'd recommend that your first move should be to call your local utility company to see if you may be able to get a free audit.

Ok so I've given you all of the tips and tricks I've come across in my research. Hopefully this post will help you to stay warm and keep extra money in your pockets.Do you use any of these tips? Do you have other suggestions of ways to reduce heating costs?

Live long and prosper
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