When cold weather arrives, the cash-strapped and the frugal-minded often think of the skyrocketing energy bills that can come with heating a home. Fortunately, there are many things you can do yourself, easily and inexpensively, to put a dent in that bill (plus a few others that you'll need to hire a professional for, but that will pay off over time). In this article, we'll share some ideas for winterizing your home, whether you rent or own.

3 Money-Saving Tips for Everyone
Even if you're a renter and don't have the liberty to make significant changes to your home, there are a few things you can do to decrease your winter energy bills.

  1. Change your furnace filter. Over time, your furnace filter becomes clogged with dust and dirt. When this happens, your furnace becomes less efficient, demanding it to run longer to heat your house and increasing your energy bill. A basic furnace filter only costs a couple bucks and takes a few minutes to replace.
  2. Caulk windows shut with removable caulk.If you've already caulked sufficiently around the edges of your windows and you can still feel air seeping in, try using removable caulk to seal your windows shut. When you want to open your windows again, you can easily peel it off. (Learn about a financial instrument that makes temperature a tradable commodity, see Introduction To Weather Derivatives.)
  3. Replace incandescent and halogen light bulbs with compact fluorescents. According to the U.S. Government's Energy Star website, 20% of a household's energy bill comes from lighting, and a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) certified by Energy Star uses about 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb. For example, a 60-watt incandescent bulb is comparable to a 13-15 watt CFL. It's recommended to use these bulbs in light fixtures that are used for at least fifteen minutes at a time. In winter, days are shorter and people tend to use their light fixtures more, so switching to CFL bulbs can help compensate for the increased energy usage and prevent a spike in your bill. (The average family spends $1,600/year on utility bills - find out how to put some of that back in your wallet, read Ten Ways To Save Energy And Money.)

6 Additional Money-Saving Tips For Homeowners
Because those who own a single-family residence have more control over altering their dwellings, they have additional options for decreasing winter energy bills.

  1. Get a home energy audit. An energy audit will give you an idea of how you can improve your home's energy efficiency and decrease your energy bills. While you can have a professional perform this service for you, the expense may not outweigh the savings. Luckily, some utility companies offer this service for free. If yours doesn't, you can do an audit yourself using the Energy Star website's Home Energy Yardstick, which compares your household's energy use to similar households nationwide and recommends things you can do to improve your energy usage. You just need your last 12 months' energy bills (if you don't have them, you may be able to look them up online or order a record from your energy provider) and some basic information about your home. (Find out how to reduce your costs with these inexpensive tips, see 6 Ways To Save On Your Utility Bill.)
  2. Add insulation to your attic. If the insulation in your attic doesn't cover the floor joists, you probably need more to help prevent heat from escaping through your roof. You can add more of the same type of insulation you already have, or a different kind. Check the R-value, which measures the insulation's performance, when deciding which product to buy. Also, if you're handy, choose a product you can install yourself to avoid incurring installation costs. Just make sure to get some basic guidance from the home improvement store or a reliable book since some types of insulation need to be covered with drywall or another fireproof material.
  3. Add weatherstripping. When added to windows and doors, weatherstripping can help keep out drafts so your house stays warmer and you don't need to run your heater as much. Your local home improvement store probably sells a complete weatherstripping kit that contains everything you need to complete the job yourself.
  4. Replace your old furnace with a new, energy-efficient one. If your furnace is over 10 years old and is not operating efficiently anymore, your monthly heating bills may be higher than necessary. Consider replacing it with a new, Energy Star certified model. The up-front cost can pay off over time through the decrease in your annual heating bills. Also, some utility companies offer rebates to help people purchase energy-efficient home upgrades. Before making a purchase, see if your utility company will help defray the cost, and if so, make sure to buy a qualifying model. (Upgrading household appliances to more energy-efficient models can slash your utilities bill, read Home Energy Savings Add Up.)
  5. Get a digital, programmable thermostat. This device can automatically reduce heat usage in your home during times when you don't need it as much, such as when you are sleeping. You can set it to be at one temperature when you get out of bed in the morning, another an hour later when you leave and while you're away all day, another when you come home and another when you go to bed and while you sleep all night. Of course, you can accomplish the same thing yourself by turning your furnace on and off, but if you're the forgetful type, a digital, programmable model can save you money (for example, you won't leave the furnace accidentally running all day while you're at work).
  6. Have ducts checked for leaks. If your home uses a forced air heating system, the air in your home is distributed through large tubes called ducts. If the ducts are poorly connected or insufficiently insulated, the air you're paying to heat with your furnace can leak out - that's money wasted. Having your ducts sealed can improve your home's energy efficiency. In some cases you can do this job yourself, but in others (for example, if you have asbestos insulation, or if the ducts are located in areas you cannot easily access, like in walls or ceilings) you'll be better off hiring a professional. (Don't put the sale of your home at risk by committing one of these dirty deeds, learn more in 12 Worst First-Time Homeseller Mistakes.)

Conclusion
Make sure to weigh the time and cost of making improvements against the potential savings, when making energy-related home improvements. Then, start with the areas that will give you the biggest savings and work your way down the list. (For more you might want to check out Save Money On Summer Bills.)

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    4 Areas to Consider Roofing Material Types

    Roofing your home is very important, that’s why you should choose a roof specifically designed to handle your area’s climate.
  2. Home & Auto

    When Getting a Rent-to-Own Car Makes Sense

    If your credit is bad, rent-to-own may be a better way to purchase a car than taking out a subprime loan – or it may not be. Get out your calculator.
  3. Insurance

    How to Shop for Home Insurance

    Tips for getting the best protection for your place and possessions.
  4. Options & Futures

    An Introduction To Value at Risk (VAR)

    Volatility is not the only way to measure risk. Learn about the "new science of risk management".
  5. Investing

    Looking To Begin Trading In The Stock Market?

    If you are a new trader, we explain the differences between penny stocks and options so you can make the best decision for your personal trade plan.
  6. Options & Futures

    How to Trade Options on Government Bonds

    A look at trading options on debt instruments, like U.S. Treasury bonds and other government securities.
  7. Personal Finance

    Sending Money: MoneyGram vs. Western Union

    Comparing the differences between the services – and the fees.
  8. Investing Basics

    How Does a Collar Work?

    Collar refers to a protective options strategy that investors use after a stock has experienced substantial gains.
  9. Budgeting

    The 5 Most Expensive States for Child Care

    To get a better sense of how child care costs can fluctuate, here's a look at the costs of child care across the country.
  10. Options & Futures

    Long on Oil? Hedge Falling Oil Prices with Options

    With no end to the oil slump in sight, here are some risk management strategies using options to protect your oil positions.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Derivative

    A security with a price that is dependent upon or derived from ...
  2. Security

    A financial instrument that represents an ownership position ...
  3. Series 6

    A securities license entitling the holder to register as a limited ...
  4. Internal Rate Of Return - IRR

    A metric used in capital budgeting measuring the profitability ...
  5. Board Of Directors - B Of D

    A group of individuals that are elected as, or elected to act ...
  6. Strike Width

    The difference between the strike price of an option and the ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a forward contract differ from a call option?

    Forward contracts and call options are different financial instruments that allow two parties to purchase or sell assets ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How does the trust maker transfer funds into a revocable trust?

    Once a revocable trust is created, a trust maker transfers funds or property into the trust by including them in a list with ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the range of deductibles offered with various health insurance plans?

    A wide range of possible deductibles are available with health insurance plans, starting as low as a few hundred dollars ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do I know how much of my income should be discretionary?

    While there is no hard rule for how much of a person's income should be discretionary, Inc. magazine points out that it would ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the main risks associated with trading derivatives?

    The primary risks associated with trading derivatives are market, counterparty, liquidity and interconnection risks. Derivatives ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!