Keeping Your Home Warm on a Budget
Home Ownership

9 Ways to Keep Your Home Warm on a Budget

Once you’ve endured a Midwestern winter or two, you may be inclined to shrug off most winter advisories — but there’s an Arctic chill that’s sweeping the nation unlike any folks in Indianapolis have seen for years. 

Temperatures have already begun to plummet, and they’re expected to hover around freezing or below for several weeks. Since winter is far from over, it’s smart to think about little things you can do to keep your home cozy and warm — without cranking up the thermostat and running sky-high utility bills.

Here are nine tips that can help you stay comfortably toasty all winter long:

1. Unblock Your Radiators

Your radiators are your primary source of heat, and you’d be surprised at how many people accidentally decrease their effectiveness by blocking them with the odd piece of furniture or two.

If your couch, chairs or beds are hiding the radiators in a room, you’re also keeping heat from moving around as it should. Move the furniture for the winter. (You can always move it back once the spring weather returns.)

2. Open Your Dampers

If ductwork is involved in your heating system, you probably have dampers. Learning how they operate can help you keep a warmer house in the winter and a cooler one in summer.

Most of these have a “summer” and a “winter” setting that you can use for guidance — but you can also simply set the handles of your dampers parallel to the ductwork’s line to get the maximum flow of warm air going to the far corners of your home.

3. Get a Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats are a relatively low-tech (and low-cost) method of controlling your heating costs while maintaining the comfort of your home in the winter. They’re particularly useful if your home sits empty a lot during the day when everyone is at school or work.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can save up to 30% on your energy costs by using this simple device the right way. Set it to drop the temperature of your home when nobody is home and during bedtime hours, and let it raise the temp again just before you get home or wake up.

4. Get Out the Plastic and Tinfoil

Plastic and tinfoil have long been used to give a home a little extra temporary insulation during the coldest part of the winter.

Plastic sheeting (or bubble wrap, which is even better because of the air pockets) can be used to cover windows that you aren’t currently using for light or a view. Tinfoil can be descreetly placed against the walls under your sinks and behind upright radiators. Both will help keep the cold air outside and the warm air inside — where they belong — instead of letting them seep through your walls.

5. Get a Routine Going for Your Drapes

Drapes are like a secret weapon against the cold — but only if you know how to use them. Figure out when the sun hits your windows and open those drapes during the daylight hours to make use of the solar heat. 

Just make sure you close the drapes again before the sun goes down because that can reduce your overnight heat loss by 17% — which is a considerable savings and critical to your comfort in the morning.

6. Invest in Insulated Curtains

You may want to invest in insulated curtains for the winter months and either switch them out with your regular drapes or hang them behind them, closest to the window.

The insulating value of a given curtain is expressed in “R” values, with normal curtains only having a value of one. Using a thermal lining behind your drapes with an R-6 value could save you up to 7% on your heating bills — which means the curtains will quickly pay for themselves.

7. Eliminate Small Drafts

That leak under the door to the mudroom, the draft coming from the attached (but unheated) garage and the cold air seeping around the edges of the pipes in the basement are all small drafts — but they can add up to a big heat loss for your home.

Grab a tube of temporary caulk and check the edges of your windows for drafts that need to be sealed away. Get a roll of weatherstripping and put it on the bottoms of your doors. Get some “draft blockers” (whether you use rolled-up towels or something specifically designed for this purpose is up to you) and put them in front of any drafty doors.

8. Add Rugs to Your Floors

Hardwood floors and ceramic tiles are gorgeous in any home — but they can be really cold on your feet in the winter. They can also let heat escape right into the foundation of your home through small cracks and pores on their surface.

Area rugs may not be your thing in the summer months, but they can warm up a home very nicely when it’s cold outside. Pick up a few with some nice, thick piles and incorporate them into your winter decor.

9. Make Use of All the Heat You Can Find

Finally, there are always a few tried-and-true things you can do to combat the chill of winter. That includes tossing a few logs on the fire, lighting some extra candles for warmth, throwing a roast in the oven to add ambient heat to the kitchen, and piling on the throw blankets.

Even though the chill of winter is exceptionally fierce right now, it won’t be long before the snow is gone, the thermostat starts to rise and we’ll all be ready to venture forth anew! That may be a good time to hire a handyman to permanently eliminate some of the problems you have with drafts and heat loss in your home.