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Stay warm, stay frugal: Six money-saving tips to winterize your home

How can you keep costs down and still keep warm this winter? We rounded up six easy money and energy-saving tips for keeping in the heat without burning up all your extra cash.

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    Denver Walker, of Somerset Fuels, makes a heating oil delivery to a home in Jenner Crossroads, Pa.
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I'll be the first to admit it: I'm a cold baby. At the first sight of snow, you'll find me curled up on my couch with 3-5 fuzzy blankets and a cup of piping hot tea, the thermostat turned up to a cozy 76 degrees. This behavior typically carries on unchecked until the monthly energy bill arrives and ruins all my fun, because much as I love being warm, I also hate paying exorbitant amounts of money to stay that way.  

Whether your rent or own your home, you probably have to pay for your heat, and when you live in a place where winter is a thing, it's not unusual to see your energy bill double during the first cold front. So how can you keep costs down and still keep warm this winter? We rounded up six easy money and energy-saving tips for keeping in the heat without burning up all your extra cash.

1. Put your thermostat on a strict schedule.

As noted above, I'm definitely guilty of pushing my thermostat's limits when the weather gets chilly. But if I want to save money this winter, I'm going to need to stop trying to heat my home to tropical levels. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the optimal temperature for efficient winter home heating is 68 degrees, and they recommend setting a timer that bumps this down to 50-55 degrees when you're at work or sleeping:

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"By turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill -- a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long."

If you, like me, think that seems a bit chilly, then you should probably...

2. Dress for the season.

I like a toasty warm home primarily because I live in a fantasy world where wearing nothing but tank tops and athletic shorts around the house in December is an acceptable life decision. But I've recently come to realize my impractical wardrobe choices are definitely not worth the extra money I have to pay to keep them up. I've lived in the Midwest for my whole life, so its not like I don't have a closet stuffed to the brim with sweaters, fleece leggings, wool socks and hand-knit sweaters. I totally do. Couple a few layers of winter clothing with a nice fuzzy blanket and there's really no need to turn up the heat any higher than a cool 68.

If you want to dress for a year-round summer I recommend moving to Puerto Rico, but if you're not up for uprooting your life in favor of 80-degree winters, accept your fate and start utilizing that vast collection of fuzzy Christmas socks.

3. Seal up drafty doors and windows.

I live in an old building, and old buildings are notoriously drafty. Between the huge bay windows in my living room and the door in my kitchen that leads out to the back porch, there are lot of places in my apartment that leak heat into the outside world, and the more this happens, the most I have to pay to heat my home.

If you feel cold air sneaking in through cracks in your windows or doors, consider caulking or weatherstripping to seal in the heat inside your home. This table from the U.S. Department of Energy showcases a few different ways to do this:

Weatherstripping Method Best Uses Cost Advantages Disadvantages
Tension seal:Self-stick plastic (vinyl) folded along length in a V-shape or a springy bronze strip (also copper, aluminum, and stainless steel) shaped to bridge a gap. The shape of the material creates a seal by pressing against the sides of a crack to block drafts. Inside the track of a double-hung or sliding window, top and sides of door. Moderate; varies with material used. Durable, invisible when in place, very effective. Vinyl is fairly easy to install. Look of bronze works well for older homes. Surfaces must be flat and smooth for vinyl. Can be difficult to install, as corners must be snug. Bronze must be nailed in place (every three inches or so) so as not to bend or wrinkle. Can increase resistance in opening/closing doors or windows. Self-adhesive vinyl available. Some manufacturers include extra strip for door striker plate.
Felt:Plain or reinforced with a flexible metal strip; sold in rolls. Must be stapled, glued, or tacked into place. Seals best if staples are parallel to length of the strip. Around a door or window (reinforced felt); fitted into a door jamb so the door presses against it. Low Easy to install, inexpensive. Low durability; least effective preventing airflow. Do not use where exposed to moisture or where there is friction or abrasion. All-wool felt is more durable and more expensive. Very visible.
Reinforced foam:Closed-cell foam attached to wood or metal strips. Door or window stops; bottom or top of window sash; bottom of door. Moderately low Effective sealer, scored well in wind tests, rigid. Can be difficult to install; must be sawed, nailed, and painted. Very visible. Manufacturing process produces greenhouse gas emissions.
Tape:Nonporous, closed-cell foam, open-cell foam, or EDPM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber. Top and bottom of window sash; door frames; attic hatches and inoperable windows. Good for blocking corners and irregular cracks. Low. Extremely easy to install, works well when compressed, inexpensive. Can be reinforced with staples. Durability varies with material used, but not especially high for all; use where little wear is expected; visible.
Rolled or reinforced vinyl:Pliable or rigid strip gasket (attached to wood or metal strips.) Door or window stops; top or bottom of window sash; bottom of a door (rigid strip only). Low to moderate. Easy installation, low to moderate cost. Self-adhesive on pliable vinyl may not adhere to metal; some types of rigid strip gaskets provide slot holes to adjust height, increasing durability. Comes in varying colors to help with visibility. Visible.
Door sweep:Aluminum or stainless steel with brush of plastic, vinyl, sponge, or felt. Bottom of interior side of in-swinging door; bottom of exterior side of exterior-swinging door. Moderate to high. Relatively easy to install; many types are adjustable for uneven threshold. Automatically retracting sweeps also available, which reduce drag on carpet and increase durability. Visible. Can drag on carpet. Automatic sweeps are more expensive and can require a small pause once door is unlatched before retracting.
Magnetic:Works similarly to refrigerator gaskets. Top and sides of doors, double-hung and sliding window channels. High Very effective air sealer.
Tubular rubber and vinyl:Vinyl or sponge rubber tubes with a flange along length to staple or tack into place. Door or window presses against them to form a seal. Around a door. Moderate to high. Effective air barrier. Self-stick versions challenging to install.
Reinforced silicone:Tubular gasket attached to a metal strip that resembles reinforced tubular vinyl On a doorjamb or a window stop. Moderate to high. Seals well. Installation can be tricky. Hacksaw required to cut metal; butting corners pose a challenge.
Door shoe:Aluminum face attachment with vinyl C-shaped insert to protect under the door. To seal space beneath door. Moderate to high. Sheds rain on the exterior, durable. Can be used with uneven opening. Some door shoes have replaceable vinyl inserts. Fairly expensive; installation moderately difficult. May require door bottom planing.
Bulb threshold:Vinyl and aluminum Door thresholds. Moderate to high. Combination threshold and weatherstrip; available in different heights. Wears from foot traffic; relatively expensive.
"Frost-brake" threshold:Aluminum or other metal on exterior, wood on interior, with door-bottom seam and vinyl threshold replacement. To seal beneath a door. Moderate to high. The use of different materials means less cold transfer. Effective. Moderately difficult to install, involves threshold replacement.
Fin seal:Pile weatherstrip with plastic Mylar fin centered in pile. For aluminum sliding windows and sliding glass doors. Moderate to high. Very durable. Can be difficult to install.
Interlocking metal channels:Enables sash to engage one another when closed Around door perimeters. High. Exceptional weather seal. Very difficult to install as alignment is critical. To be installed by a professional only.
(Table content via energy.gov)

4. Run your ceiling fans clockwise.

It might seem counterproductive to run your ceiling fans in the winter, but hear me out. As we all learned in grade school, heat rises, and in the winter that means the ceiling is the warmest part of every room. In fact depending on the height of your ceilings, there's typically about a 10 degree difference from floor to ceiling. This is all fine and good for Spiderman and anyone possessed by creepy attic demons, but if you for some reason lack the ability to hang out on the ceiling when you get cold, try running your ceiling fan clockwise on low.

Most ceiling fans have a switch that can make them run either counterclockwise, which provides a nice breeze in the summer, or clockwise, which pushes air down without creating much wind. A clockwise-turning ceiling fan will increase circulation in the room and keep your feet just as toasty as the top of your head.

5. Utilize that oven.

Cooking at home in the winter doesn't just save you money on takeout, it also helps heat your house. When you bake, heat escapes the confines of the oven and seeps into the rest of your house. So stock up on your favorite comfort food recipes and spend the winter baking your heart away, basking in the extra warmth, and gorging on delicious winter treats. You deserve it.

6. Know when to open (and close) your curtains.

Even after weatherstripping, the way you utilize your windows can make or break the temperature inside your home. As a general rule, keep curtains closed to conserve heat unless there is direct sunlight shining into a room. When the sun is at that perfect angle, opening up your curtains and allowing it to spill into your home will significantly heat a room up in no time at all, but if you keep them open after the sun goes away, that heat will dissipate quickly. To keep that solar heat in, close the curtains as soon as the sun goes away, and make sure your curtains (unlike the ones in the photo above) are thick enough to provide some insulation.

This article first appeared in Brad's Deals.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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