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10 Ways to Save Money on Winter Expenses

{ Posted on Dec 23 2010 by Marcus Alston }

Winter is finally here this year (it officially arrived December 21, 2010).  Here are 10 easy low cost ways to save money on winter expenses which should help stretch your budget:

  1. Add Storm Windows.  Storm windows can reduce heat loss by up to 50%.  Storm windows cost a pretty penny, but they will pay for themselves in a few years.  Plus, they will increase the value of your home since consumers are impressed with energy efficient windows.  Also, these windows help keep your home cool during the winter.
  2. Seal your windows with plastic or put up heavy drapes as a cheap alternative to storm windows. If you can not afford storm windows (or still have a draft with them), consider plastic (kits are available at Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart and Target) or heavy drapes to stop or slow the flow of cold air.    Also, consider leaving your blinds or curtains open that face the sun if you have addressed your draft problems in order to gain natural heat from the sun.
  3. Drop your thermostat in your house down to the mid-60 degrees or lower in the winter, but don’t go too low or your pipes might freeze.  For every 1 degree you drop your thermostat, it drops your bill by 3-5%.  Dress in layers inside and use those sweaters and sweat pants and add extra blankets to your bed.  Where socks to bed for added warmth and comfort (I find wearing socks can also fight off colds and minor illnesses associated with winter). Find the lowest temperature you can stand by turning down the thermostat 1 degree every day until you reach temperature that is too cold, and then turn it up one degree.  How about a snuggy or extra blanket?
  4. Ditch the gas powered snow blower in favor of a shovel.  According to the EPA, a snow blower operated for one hour generators as much carbon monoxide (CO) as driving a typical car 70 miles (about a pound of CO).  If you really must use a snow blower, save it for really heavy snow.  On average, shoveling snow takes about 1.5 to 2 times the time it takes to shovel snow.  But in that time, you could burn off over 500 calories.  Most gas snow blowers at Home Depot range from about $350 to $1,400 according to the Home Depot website.
  5. Seal Basement Air Leaks. I need to do this over the holidays this year. Seal them up with acrylic latex caulk or silicone around the sill plate if you can get to it.  You can also use expanding spray anywhere the gaps are larger than 1/4 if an inch.  For hollow block installations, put in fiberglass insulation and seal with the expanding spray.  There are also high tech gadgets that use infrared technology that you can get from Home Depot or Lowes that will detect air drafts or poor insulation.
  6. Recheck or add attic insulation. My insulation of the walls of my attic has fallen down and I have not put it back up yet.  I am losing valuable money this way through the cost of heat.  If you don’t have insulation or it does not have a “R” rating indicating the level of insulation between R-22 and R-49 (6 to 13 inches of loose fill or 7 to 19 inches of fiberglass batting), consider addressing this insulation issue right away this winter.
  7. Insulate your pipes. This may be a challenge to address as a do-it-your-selfer and I have not tried it yet myself, but think about all the hot water in your basement hot water heater or boiler mate traveling up to the second floor going through your metal pipes.  Consider insulation for your metal pipes from Home Depot or Lowes and this should take some of the strain off your furnace.
  8. Clean your dryer vent this winter and every 6 months. Restricted airflow causes the dryer to work harder which causes the dryer to work hard, use more electricity, and costs you more money.  It is also a safety hazard.  Try a strong vacuum with a narrow nozzle attachment to get out the lint from the vent on both the inside and the discharge vent leading on the outside.  Also, consider gadgets from stores like Home Depot, Lowes, the local hardware store, Wal-Mart or Target that are specifically made for cleaning out the lint from your dryer.
  9. Shut the Fireplace Vent. When not in use, fireplaces are a nice source for drafts and allow hot air to escape your house and cool air in.  Make sure you close the vent when you are not using it, but remember to open it before you start a fire.
  10. Audit your house. After you have taken steps 1-9, consider an energy audit.  It takes about 2 to 3 hours and costs about $250 to $400 or more.  Some companies will do it for free because they want to get your business while others may charge you a few thousands of dollars, but this price often includes addressing the issues they find.  The improvements you make may be eligible for a rebate or tax deductible so check your city or town, utility company and or your accountant.  How does it work?  Energy audit companies often use a huge blower on your front door that creates a negative air flow in your house to find air leaks.
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