Updated on: April 21, 2020

How to Prep Your Home for Winter on the Cheap

Don’t let the winter frosts crack a hole in your budget.

The summer weather may be lasting longer this year, but the cold shall come again. And when it does, you want to be ready for it. If you have a family, you don’t want them to be freezing through the season, and even if you live on your own, you still shouldn’t want to freeze. It’s very bad for your health.

Of course, you can always run up huge heating bills and take out a high-interest loan to pay for damage from winter storms. That’s one way to get through to spring—although your savings might not make it. Being broke isn’t as bad as freezing to death, the former can certainly lead to the latter, so it’s really better avoided.

That’s why the time to start winterizing your home right now. Read on to learn how to prepare your home for winter weather and save cash!

Get an audit (the good kind)

The first step in spending less on heating your home is figuring out how much you’re actually spending on heating your home and energy in your home in general. And the best way to do that is with an audit.

“I just bought a home that is quite old, and I’m worried about the energy costs I will accrue,” financial expert Maggie Germano told us, sharing her personal experience with preparing her home for winter. “This is especially true in the master bedroom, which was built into what used to be the attic. There are clearly some insulation issues, and I don’t want to go broke paying my utilities. One solution I’ve found is to get a home energy audit. There is a local company that teams up with my state’s environment department in order to cut energy use and spending. They assess your home and recommend any changes or updates you should incorporate.

“To make it better, they tell you about any tax benefits you can get from the state by implementing these changes. So not only will you save money on energy costs, but you’ll also likely get a tax break for doing so. I’m really looking forward to my energy audit, and can’t wait to make my home as sustainable as possible.”

Award-winning author Shel Horowitz advised how not to spend too much on your audit: “Get an energy audit from your local electric company. Power companies are under instructions to encourage conservation, so they typically do energy audits for free or for a $10 or $20 fee.”

Of course, if you want to be sure you’re getting your energy audit for free, you can always perform your own version. “One way to prepare your home for winter is to review your electricity bills and address how much you’re actually paying for electricity,” suggested Kelly Bedrich, co-founder of ElectricityPlans.com. “If your home uses an electric heating system, electric hot water heater, or if you pull a Clark Griswold and like to go crazy with the holiday lights, you may benefit from shopping for a lower electricity rate.”

Bedrich even offered some specific ways you can lower your rate in a previous article about keeping your house cool for less during the summer.

But, of course, there are changes in behavior and home you can make to really rack up the savings while staying warm.

Insulate, insulate, insulate

A properly insulated house can be as warm as a little furry fox wrapped in a blanket licking hot cocoa from a small dog bowl by a roaring fire surrounded by a family telling it how much they love it.

To that end, Ali Wenzke of The Art of Happy Moving told us two essential insulation goals. The first targets one of the more obvious ways that the cold air cold air can leak into your house: the windows.

“For under $10, you can make a huge impact on cutting down your winter heating bills by using a window insulation kit. If done properly, you won’t even notice the plastic wrap on your windows. If you’re not crazy about the look, then compromise and only insulate windows that you see less often or that are usually covered by window treatments.”

The other location is a little bit spookier: “Even if there’s a layer of insulation in your unconditioned attic floor, the problem is that the heat will rise to fill the cold area created by any leaks or holes. Namely, the heat you’re trying to conserve in your home will sneak its way up through the attic door. To save yourself some money in the long term, invest in an attic insulation tent or a box that fits over the opening of your pull-down stairs.”

John Bodrozic, co-founder of Homezada gave us even more advice for keeping the heat from leaking out of the attic:

“Check the attic for spots or areas where the insulation is a bit thin. This could be over an access door, or in areas around pipes, and equipment that go through the attic floor and into the house. Adding a few layers of insulation there really helps warm air from escaping the house.

“Check your ductwork in the attic. Most ductwork in the attic is hung, and therefore develops a sag over time. This sagging can create a situation where a smaller piece of the ductwork has disconnected from a bigger part. This creates a lot of waste as hot conditioner air is blowing into the attic and not into the house/room where the disconnected duct is.

“In addition, you should consider insulating the ductwork and making sure as much of each duct is wrapped in insulation. This is another area where heat escapes and thus the house not being as warm as it should.”

But that’s not all!

Finding an outlet

It turns out there might be heat leaking out of your house in nearly every room. Here’s what Horowitz told us to look out for:

“Put your hand over an electrical outlet on an outside wall on a cold night and you’ll feel the rush of frigid air! Insulate your electrical outlets, switches, and phone jacks on outside walls.

If your energy auditor didn’t give them to you, most hardware stores sell inexpensive foam outlet and phone jack insulation pads; just unscrew the faceplate, slip the foam pad on, and put the faceplate back.”

Now let’s climb up onto the roof!

The roof, the roof, the roof being on fire isn’t an advisable way to keep your house warm

Let’s head all the way to the roof of the house now, or as nobody calls it, the hat of your home.

“Your roof is integral, keeping your house warm, dry, insulated and protected from the outdoors,” Sage Singleton, home maintenance expert at Safewise, advised. “Just like a car needs a regular oil change, your roof needs a regular inspection to make sure it is in good condition. Don’t wait for the harsh winter months to see if the roof is leaking or has ice backup. Ice backup forms in winter and is caused by poor ventilation or inadequate insulation in the attic.”

And Singleton also had some advice for the roof’s sideburns, the gutters: “Gutters control water flow, away from your roof, walls, and foundation. When they get clogged with leaves and debris throughout the year, they no longer function properly. If your gutters are clogged, they can cause water to overflow and flood your basement. Clean out your rain gutters, ideally each spring and fall. Cleaning your gutters in the autumn ensures they are clear of debris and will function properly in the cold, wet months to come.”

And what are gutters, really, but…

The time is pipe

…pipes that have been cut in half. And when it comes to getting your house ready for winter, it’s important to get the pipes ready.

“During winter, outside water can freeze and burst exterior pipes,” warned Singleton. “Rather than letting this happen, take precautions to prevent frozen pipes by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining any water left in outdoor spigots. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, drain it as well.”

“If the temperature will drop below freezing overnight, leave exterior faucets trickling to avoid the pressure buildup that causes burst pipes. You can also avoid frozen and burst pipes inside your house by insulating your home and pipes. Use foam, heating cables, or pipe sleeves, and seal any cracks in your home’s exterior.”

When you winterize around the house, you winterize AROUND the house

And now, before we go, we’ve got some more general tips you can use to keep your house warm on the cheap.

Carson Yarbrough, personal finance and savings specialist for credit cards at Offers.com, gave us three different winter prep tips.

The first was about your water heater: “Get free savings with this simple trick. Hot water heaters are typically set at around 140 degrees. Lower the temperature on yours to 120 for savings on thermal energy costs. You’ll also lessen the chance of accidental burns, and the water will still be hot enough for showers, laundry and doing the dishes!”

Next she offered us a way to insulate one of the few places in the house we hadn’t told you to insulate yet: “You can install a door sweep to stop chilly winds from entering your home under an outside door. A door sweep is a flexible piece of rubber or plastic that’s held to the door’s lower edge by a strip of aluminum. You can find cheap door sweeps at home improvement stores anywhere from $6-$40.”

And your furnace filters? Yeah, Yarbrough told us you’re going to want to replace those: “Dirty furnace filters reduce furnace efficiency and raise heating utility bills. They also shorten the life of a furnace! Check and replace the furnace filter monthly in winter to see savings on your monthly bill. If you’re unable to see through the filter, it’s time to replace it. You can find a 4 pack at Walmart for just $15 – $3.75 a filter – well worth it for those added winter savings!”

Jeffrey Weldler, Marketing Director and Interior Decorating Expert at Vänt Wall Panels, gave us a couple tips of things to keep an eye on around the house: “Keep closet doors closed and close off rooms you don’t use. Close vents in unused rooms so you don’t pay to heat space you’re not using. Look for cracks in your exterior or foundation. You can seal them with caulking to keep the draft out. Also check the roof for missing shingles or tiles to make sure moisture doesn’t get in your attic and cause mold.”

Finally, Kelly McClenahan, decluttering expert for Price Self Storage, told us a way to winterize your home while making it even homier: “This time of transition is a good time to spruce up your home and organize your things for the coming cold seasons. Arrange blankets on couches, chairs, and beds throughout the house so they will be within reach when the chill starts creeping in.

“Make your bedroom ready for the cold by switching out your light summery bed linens for cozier fabrics and richer colors. Flannel sheets are great for cold nights. Layer blankets or even a faux fur throw to add richness and warmth. Slippers are the best way to keep your feet warm in the winter. A basket of slippers by your front door for visitors to don after taking off their muddy or snowy boots would be a nice touch.”

Take all of this advice, and your home will be as warm as our appreciation for you! And without breaking the bank!

Article contributors
Kelly Bedrich

Kelly Bedrich is Co-Founder and President of ElectricityPlans.com, an innovative electricity shopping experience focused on quality electricity providers, straightforward plans, and data-driven tools to help customers find their perfect electricity plan.  He is also President of Cypress Capital Ventures LLC, a website portfolio company focused on addressing consumer needs in renewable energy. He is an IT entrepreneur, energy conservation advocate, and loves to help others reduce their energy usage through awareness and education.

John Bodrozic

John Bodrozic is a co-founder of HomeZada, an online and mobile home management solution. HomeZada strives to educate and provide resources for homeowners in all areas of home management, including home inventory, home maintenance, home finances and home improvement projects.

Maggie Germano

Maggie Germano, is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and financial coach for women. Her mission is to give women the support and tools that they need to take control of their money, break the taboo of discussing debt and income, and achieve their goals and dreams. She does this through one-on-one financial coaching, monthly Money Circle gatherings, her weekly Money Monday newsletter, and speaking engagements. To learn more, or to schedule a free discovery call, visit maggiegermano.com.

Kelly McClenahan is a storage industry professional, marketing manager for Price Self Storage (@PriceStorage) and editor for the Live Uncluttered Blog. She enjoys finding and sharing creative solutions to home decluttering and organization challenges.

Jeffrey Weldler

Jeffrey Weldler is the Marketing Director and Home Design Expert at Vänt Wall Panels. Vänt Wall Panels are the most innovative and user-friendly wall décor system ever created. Vänt is inspiring living at its finest. They’re perfect for every room in the house, from the kitchen and bedroom to the living room and office. Learn more about Vänt by visiting Vänt Wall Panels.

Ali Wenzke

Ali Wenzke, Moving Expert, moved 10 times in 11 years. Now she’s helping the millions of people who move each year by providing practical tips on how to make moving a happy experience at The Art of Happy Moving. After calling seven U.S. states home, Ali is now happily settled in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and three children. She doesn’t plan on moving anytime soon.

Carson Yarbrough

Carson Yarbrough is a Consumer Insights Specialist for Offers.com (@Offers), and loves finding a good deal. She covers all things shopping, spending, and deal-hunting. Carson is passionate about discovering the best finds and sharing insights with consumers. In her free time, she loves finding free shows, music festivals and spending time around the beautiful city of Austin.

Andrew Tavin
Content Manager

Andrew Tavin is a writer, comedian, and a full-time content manager for OppLoans. He graduated with a BFA in TV Writing from Tisch School of the Arts in New York City, worked as a writer for BrainPOP, and created a branded comedy video series for the National Retail Federation called “Interview Day.” He performs around the country and his writing has also appeared on Collegehumor, Funny or Die, and Sparklife.

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