By now, it’s no secret that home heating costs in the U.S. are expected to skyrocket this winter.
While there’s nothing we as individuals can do to reverse what’s going on in the global economy, there are measures we can take to see that our homes are reasonably warm and cozy while also keeping a lid on how much it is going to cost to cover heating costs.
It’s not too late for a few DIY projects to make sure expensive warmed air will not get sucked out into the cold outdoors!
Install a programmable thermostat. I’ve suggested this to you before, but now I am pleading with you to get a simple programmable thermostat. Budget models start at around $25 and are easy to install yourself following the enclosed instructions. If you are unsure, go to a home center like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Arrive knowing exactly what type of heating system you have that is operated with a thermostat. Ask questions. Then follow the instructions you receive there and the ones included with the product to program it for the entire week — up to four settings a day — to meet your comfort needs.
Smart thermostats cost somewhat more but allow you to adjust your home’s heat from anywhere using any of your connected smart devices. You can be lying in bed and adjust the temperature without getting out. Or you can turn the heat down when you go out of town but turn it up with your phone when you are on your way home so it is warm when you arrive.
Replace worn weatherstripping. Open an outside door and look at that strip of foam rubber that runs across the top and down both sides of the door. Now check a window. You should see the same thing all the way around that window. It should be intact, attached tightly, leaving no space for air to leak out of the house when the window is closed.
Weatherstripping, available at any home center or online, comes in varying widths with a sticky-back adhesive, which makes it a cinch to install. Do it today before any more expensively warmed air (which is getting more expensive every day) gets sucked out through tiny openings around your exterior windows and doors.
Check exterior door threshold. Get down on your hands and knees so you can take a look under your front door and any other outside doors, as well. See any daylight? That’s where precious warmed air is being sucked out into the cold. You may be able to adjust the threshold to close this gap. Look for four or five screws that, when loosened, will allow you to adjust the threshold height. You may need to also replace the door’s “sweep.”
Keep in mind that if the threshold cannot be adjusted sufficiently to completely close and seal that air gap, you may need to replace it.
Electrical outlets. Identify every electrical outlet box and switch plate on the exterior walls of your home. Take off the covers to see if the air gaps behind are all filled with insulation. They’re not? Whoops! There goes more warmed air!
A quick and inexpensive fix: Add a rubber sealer behind each outlet and switch cover on all of your home’s exterior walls. These ready-made rubber gaskets are cheap, easy to install and available at many home improvement stores.
Plug holes, gaps and cracks. While you were looking for outlets on exterior walls, did you see any holes? Also, check under all of the sinks. See where the pipes go through the wall? If those areas are not sealed fully, they, too, are sucking warmed air out of the house, and that’s costing you money. You can seal these holes, gaps and cracks with expanding foam that comes in an aerosol can at a home center or online.
Plastic film on windows. Experts tell us that the surface of our windows account for 25% of the home’s heat loss. Simply covering the windows and patio doors with clear plastic film for this purpose can cut the loss significantly.
Heat-shrink transparent film is reasonably priced. It comes in sheets that you apply yourself using a regular hair dryer to “shrink” the film right to the window. Applied properly, it is extremely effective!
Close the flue. If you have a typical wood-burning fireplace, that chimney space is a big, nasty energy thief whenever the fireplace is not in use. Get into the habit of closing the flue solidly between uses.
Sealing your home as tightly as possible has never been easier. It is the secret to cut heating costs while keeping reasonably warm.
Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of www.EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living.” Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.