Ways to Keep Your House Warmer This Winter


With winter fast approaching, many people — myself included — are thinking about ways to not only keep the house warm, but also save a few bucks while doing so. The projected tab for heating your home this winter (in places that need heating) is over $2,200. That’s not chump change.

Beyond just saving money, it’s simply not always easy to keep a home warm if it’s older and doesn’t have very good insulation. In our 1952 house, keeping the basement warm (where our entertainment center is located) is a tall task. Utilizing the tips below will not only save money, but will make sure you’re warm and comfortable all winter long.

1. Install a programmable thermostat. This will keep your bill low, and your efficiency high. Instead of having to manually fiddle with your thermostat every time you leave the house or every time you come back home, This Old House recommends programming your thermostat for the following temps/times during the week if your house is empty during the day (they also recommend setting the thermostat to 55 degrees when you go on vacation for a few days or more):

  • 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. = 68 degrees
  • 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = 60 degrees
  • 5:30 to 11 p.m. = 68 degrees
  • 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. = 60 degrees

Their nighttime recommendation seems a little chilly, so adjust accordingly as to what’s comfortable for you. Keep in mind, though, that research has recently shown that cooler temps — say in the mid-60s vs upper-60s/low-70s — promote better sleep, and may even increase your metabolism.

2. Let sunlight in during the day. Once the sun is up, you want to capture as much of that free heat as possible. Even on cold days, the sun is still warm. So before you leave the house for the day, open up those curtains and let the light shine in. If there are certain parts of the house that don’t get sunlight, no need to open those curtains. Just do so where it streams in for a good part of the day.

3. Keep curtains closed at night. Once the sun goes down, keep all that heat from leaving through the windows by closing the drapes. If you’re in a particularly cold home or geographic area, consider getting insulated curtains for winter use. They’ll prevent some of the warmth in your home from escaping. You can even put up temporary curtains (or even sheets, rugs, etc.) over doors to the outside, even if just at night while you’re sleeping.

4. Mind your wood-burning fireplaces. While they’re romantic on a chilly evening, lighting a fire is terribly inefficient for the rest of your home. It’s warm and toasty right by the roaring flames, but for all that heat being exhausted up through the fireplace, cold air is being pulled into the house elsewhere (this is due to a physics principle called the stack effect – more on that below).

You don’t want to put the damper on idyllic evenings spent in front of crackling logs altogether, so when you do have a fire, just be sure to buy/use a glass front for your fireplace, which keeps some of that heated air in your home from escaping up the chimney once the flames have gone out.

Beyond that, remember to keep the flue closed when the fireplace isn’t in use. Failing to do so means basically having an open window in your room, letting warm air out and cold air in.


5. Take a look at your ceiling fans. If you have ceiling fans in your home, they may be sitting needlessly dormant during the winter months. Many fans have a “winter” setting, which reverses the fan so that it moves clockwise vs. counterclockwise. Since heat rises, the clockwise-spinning fan will push the heat back down into your rooms versus being trapped up at the ceilings. This is especially recommended if you have high or sloped ceilings. Some experts don’t trust the efficacy of doing this, as the fan may just cool the air too much, but try it out on a low speed, and see if it warms the room. In my experience from harsh Iowa winters, it definitely works.

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