New to a cold climate this winter, looking to save some money on the heating bill or just trying to stay warm? A few tricks can keep your home cozy, without making permanent changes to your abode (which is perfect for renters), and help your wallet.
1. Insulate your windows (giving your hairdryer another use)
Whether you pay your heating bill or not, having freezing cold air coming through a drafty window (or door) is never fun. One quick fix is to insulate your windows, using plastic wrap and rubber foam weather seal. According to NStar, “Weather-stripping drafty doors and windows can reduce your heating bill by 10 percent.” Be sure you do this early in the season, because some products require the outside weather to be above 40 degrees for best results. Both plastic wrap and rubber foam insulation are available at the hardware store, but before you go, measure your windows! If you have really drafty windows, or visible gaps, rubber foam weather seal can be used as an added buffer to keep the cold out.
Before your start, make sure your windows and the frame are clean, so the adhesive will stick better. Follow the instructions on the package. (You may want to leave a window or two unsealed for ventilation, burnt cooking or for the January day that is 60 degrees.)
A few helpful tips for the plastic wrap: Apply the double stick tape at the farthest points of the windows to cover the most space. When applying the plastic wrap to the double stick tape, start at the top middle of the window, and work your way out, then down. Once the plastic is stuck to the tape, get out a hairdryer and use the high heat setting to smooth out the plastic wrap. This is honestly the most use my hairdryer gets all year.
Once the window is sealed, carefully cut any excess plastic (an exacto knife works best), leaving at least an inch border outside of the tape. Sometimes, if the seal is too tight, the plastic will pull in over time, undoing your work. If this happens, grab some packing tape to recreate the seal. The goal is to create an airtight seal between you and the cold air outside – don’t worry about perfection. For more help, check out this YouTube video:
In the spring, after removing the plastic wrap and foam, use Goo Gone or WD-40 to remove any excess adhesive, along with a straight razor blade (the hardware kind, not the ones for shaving).
2. Turn down the thermostat (if you can control your heat)
Most utility companies suggest setting the thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, and to lower the temperature when you are sleeping or not home. I have a bigger apartment, so I keep mine at 66 degrees when I’m home, and 60 when I’m sleeping or not around. According to National Grid, “For every 1° F you set your thermostat back, you can save one to three percent on your annual heating costs.”
If you have a programmable thermostat, use it! In Massachusetts there is a program called Mass Save, which promotes energy efficiency. It offers free home energy assessments, which includes installation of programmable thermostats, CFLs, and low-flow showerheads – all for free. The assessment will help you and/or your landlord learn how to save more money. For more info: click here.
Don’t forget to wear layers – it is winter after all! Electric blankets are another efficient way of staying warm, without dramatically increasing your utility bill. If you have drafty doors and can’t install a doorsweep, try draft dodgers (sometimes also called snakes), which are typically made out of fabric, sewn into a tube and filled with sand or fabric materials. You can always make your own.
Finally, having the heat on can really dry out the air. If you have cast iron radiators, put a bowl or pot of water on it to add moisture to the air. In general, leaving out a bowl of water is a cheap alternative to a humidifier.