During the winter, our homes should be a cozy haven against frigid outdoor temperatures. Bumping up your thermostat is one way to make your house warmer, of course, but that can lead to skyrocketing energy costs as your furnace works to keep up with the cold. To keep your heating bill down without sacrificing comfort, look to alternative ways to warm up your home in the winter. While there are more permanent measures you can take to weatherproof your home, including installing new windows and checking your attic’s insulation, sometimes you just need a quick and inexpensive fix. These winter hacks will help keep the cool air out and the warm air in your home where it belongs.
1. Install a programmable thermostat.
A programmable thermostat ($35, Target) gives you more control over your home’s temperature throughout the day, so you don’t have to keep it at 68°F around the clock. Set it at a comfortable temperature while you’re awake, then program the thermostat to automatically lower at nighttime or during the workday when no one is home. Schedule the temperature to return to normal before you wake up or return home so you’re not stepping into a cold house. For even more control, choose a smart thermostat ($249, The Home Depot) that lets you adjust the temperature from your phone even if you’re not home. It’s an easy DIY upgrade that can save you tons on heating costs.
2. Make sure heating vents aren’t blocked.
Help your heating system work as efficiently as possible by ensuring warm-air vents, radiators, or other heaters around your home aren’t blocked. Check that air registers are completely open and move any rugs, furniture, or curtains that might be obstructing the airflow. You should also clean these areas regularly and replace your furnace filter as recommended to prevent dust buildup.
3. Add a door draft stopper.
Cold air can easily find a way into your home via doorways, but a draft guard($15, Bed Bath & Beyond) can help. Often covered in fabric and weighted with sand, these handy objects are placed in front of doors to block cold air from seeping in. You can even make your own. Simply cut a length of fabric to fit your doorway, sew it into a long tube, then fill with your choice of stuffing before sewing shut. A draft stopper won’t eliminate the cool breeze that wafts in when you open the door, but it will help while the door is closed.
4. Insulate windows with plastic film or bubble wrap.
Plastic film and bubble wrap are surprisingly easy and cheap window insulators. Window film insulation kits ($13, Target) include clear shrink film that creates a barrier around drafty windows. After cutting the plastic sheet to the size of your window, apply adhesive tape around the window frame and use a hairdryer to seal the film to the tape. (Don’t worry: The plastic peels off cleanly at the end of the season.) To use bubble wrap, select a medium to large size ($14, Target). Small bubble wrap is too thin and won’t do much to block cold air. Measure your windows and cut the bubble wrap to size. Then, use a spray bottle to spread a thin layer of water on the window. Immediately after spraying, press the bubble wrap to the window with the bubbles facing the glass. The water will make the bubble wrap stick and last all winter, keeping you warm.
5. Open curtains on a sunny day.
This house-warming hack is totally free! Before you leave for the day, check the weather. If the sun will be out, open the blinds and curtains around the house to let nature heat your home for free. At night, make sure to close all curtains to prevent cold air from seeping inside.
6. Caulk windows.
Before you invest in all new windows, inspect your current ones for opportunities to fix a drafty window pane yourself. It is likely that the window exterior could use some caulking. First, remove any deteriorating caulk from the window frame. Next, use a caulk gun to slowly run a bead of caulk down the seam of the window. Smooth the caulk with your finger to finish. If you want to go the extra mile, seal the interior of your windows, too.
7. Bake some treats.
Need a get-warm-quick idea? Crank up the oven to help warm your house while you bake your favorite treat. When you’re finished baking, open the oven door just a crack while it’s cooling down. Important: Make sure the oven is turned off when you have the door cracked. The heat will warm your kitchen quickly and inexpensively. Close the door when all the heat has escaped. We do not recommend doing this with small children or pets in the house.