5 easy and economical home winterization tips

MADISON — Yesterday, Americans turned back their clocks and the howling winds of winter are close behind. With falling temperatures and shorter days, it’s the perfect time to batten down the hatches and make your home more energy-efficient. Here are five tips for easy, economical home winterization.

  1. Keep the warmth in. Check around your home for leaks and cracks, and fix them with weather stripping, caulk or other sealants; at door bottoms, use a draft snake or rolled-up towel. “A good way to find leaks is by feeling around the windows with wet hands,” says Tyson Cook, staff scientist, Clean Wisconsin. This simple step can save homeowners up to10 percent on utility bills. If you have a fireplace, close the chimney damper when it’s not in use and consider closing heating vents in attics, basements and other less-frequented areas.
  2. Be temperature smart. A programmable thermostat gives you more control over the comfort of your home and your pocketbook, says Cook. Set your thermostat as low as comfortable; 68 degrees or less when awake at home, and lower when asleep or away. For every 1 degree you set back your thermostat for an eight-hour period, you can save as much as 1 percent on your heating bill. Check your furnace air filter as well; a clogged filter means the furnace can’t run as efficiently as possible. Finally, don’t heat an empty house. When leaving for an extended period of time, such as the holidays, set the temperature at a minimum level to keep pipes from freezing.
  3. Weather the storm. Install storm windows and doors if you have them; a good storm door can decrease heat lost through the entryway by 45 percent. If you don’t have storm windows, closing curtains can help with drafts and plastic window sheeting is an easy DIY energy-saver that can save homeowners up to $18 per window on energy costs.
  4. Insulate. Your water heater is one of the biggest energy hogs in the house. Wrap it with an insulating blanket from your local hardware store (and maybe turn it down to a lower setting) and insulate hot water pipes to help save energy and money.
  5. Get informed. Explore energy-saving resources at www.focusonenergy.com, the state’s energy efficiency program. If your home is older, consider an energy audit; this might reveal the need for more ambitious updates to your home. “These upgrades are smart investments that yield personal financial — and comfort — gains,” says Cook.

Want to see if your winterizing techniques yielded savings? Take a look at your utility bill. “If you compare your bill year to year, you can see how these improvements improve your home’s energy efficiency and reduce costs,” says Cook. “Even small changes can reap results.”