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How to Winterize a House: 8 DIY Tips

How to Winterize a House: 8 DIY Tips
Nancy Bilyeau
Nancy BilyeauUpdated January 4, 2023
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Is it too late to protect your home from freezing temperatures — and from soaring energy bills? Not at all. Anything you can do at any point this winter would be worth your time. The stakes are high. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has predicted the winter of 2022-2023 will be “colder than normal” for much of the United States. No one, with the possible exception of a meteorology student, enjoys seeing weather phrases like “polar vortex” or “bomb cyclone.” Your second motivator is heating cost. When you factor in the American consumer’s spike in energy bills — during the winter of 2022-2023, natural gas household costs are expected to rise by 28% and heating oil by 27% compared to a year ago — doing everything possible to winterize your house becomes a no-brainer.Read on to learn some easy, affordable tips for winterizing a home as well as more substantial steps you can take to protect your house — and how to pay for improvements large and small.

8 Quick & Inexpensive Fixes to Winterize Your Home

Here are eight tweaks that you can do right now to keep you warm through the winter and help drive down your energy costs. Caulking and weatherstripping are two “simple and effective techniques” for reducing the amount of air that leaks in and out of your home, says the U.S. Department of EnergySome of our tips do require caulking or weatherstripping. All are doable on your own. The recommended fixes can cost you anywhere from $20 to $5. Some tips are free.

1. Eliminate Door Drafts

A big energy saver: Place a draft stopper along the bottom of exterior-facing doors. These are long, thick tubes of fabric, sometimes filled with insulation, that block windy drafts from seeping in. Draft stoppers can be purchased for as little as $10. And you can make a different move for free by placing a rolled towel at the bottom of the door.

2. Clear Your Gutters

If you haven’t done it already, clear the leaves from the gutters running along your roof. You need to make sure that water can flow freely through your gutters — it will help prevent damaging icicles and ice dams from forming.  

3. Insulate Your Windows 

Window insulation film might not look beautiful, but it can keep up to 70% of heat from leaking out of the windows. Most kits cost less than $20 and are simple to install. Stick the clear sheets to the window frame with the enclosed double-sided tape. Next, pull the material tight. Some people like to use a blow dryer to heat-shrink and make it super tight.

4. Weather Strip Windows and Doors

Another fix for your windows — and doors — is installing weather stripping. Low-cost rubber strips are either self-adhesive or have a tacky backing. Cut the strip and attach it to the underside of windows, around window panes, or door jambs. (You may decide that one or more windows have problems too big for DIT weatherproofing. Before next winter, you could consider window replacement.)

5. Change the Filter on your Heating System

To winterize your home, you should regularly change the filters in your heating systems (and later your central air systems) to improve their efficiency. A $20 pack of filters is well worth extending their lives.

6. Close Off Your Fireplace

Fireplaces are cool air’s favorite route inside your home. When you aren’t using your fireplace, keep the damper closed to keep warm air from escaping. You may also want to caulk around the hearth to seal up any leaks. (And before next winter, have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned.) 

7. Seal Your Outlets

Look for electrical outlets or wall plates located on an exterior-facing wall. Seal them with foam insulation covers (also called insulation gaskets). These are thin pieces of foam shaped to fit wall switches and outlets with the holes cut out. Remove the outlet or wall plate, place the foam underneath and put the cover back on. Packs of seven covers usually cost less than $5 each.

8. Redirect Your Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans aren’t just a summer budget-saver. Change your ceiling fan’s direction so that it moves in a clockwise direction. That way,  it will push hot air that exists along the ceiling toward the floor. If they're going counterclockwise, they won't be as effective. 

Four Larger Moves to Make in Home Winterizing

Winterizing a home isn’t only about shaving money off your heating bill. Taking protective measures will not only prevent truly ruinous disasters caused by harsh weather but also increase the value of the house. Both are worthy goals.These four steps either require spending more than $50 or hiring a professional — or both.

1. Install a New Thermostat

Some home experts say that there are few home improvements that offer yearly energy savings like a new thermostat installation. Replacing your old thermostat with a programmable or Wi-Fi thermostat can make a difference with your energy bill.It’s possible to install a new thermostat yourself, but you must know how to handle wiring. The thermostat itself isn’t expensive. The average cost of an electrician installing a thermostat is between $100 and $400. Most homeowners spend around $250 to install a programmable thermostat with Wi-Fi, including labor.

2. Insulate the Attic

If you have an older home, you may have already noticed that the heat generated by your heating system seems to vanish. Hot air rises, and your furnace could be pumping out heat that heads for an under-insulated attic layer and seeps out the roof.Installing insulation is best left to the professionals but can be done carefully by a homeowner with experience. (Attic insulation costs an average of $2,500.) The Department of Energy has an excellent website for planning a thorough attic insulation project.

3. Repair the Roof

Missing, damaged, and loose shingles can expose a home to roof leaks and serious water damage if not fixed before winter. Water will seep underneath and make its way into your home. If any shingles are loose, strong winter winds can blow them away. If you have a few damaged shingles and they’re easy to reach, you may be able to take care of this yourself. But if it’s more than that, it’s a better — and safer — idea to hire a professional roofer. Roof financing is a serious matter. It can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,500 to have your roof repaired and winterized, depending on house size, amount of damage, and type of materials.

4. Protect Your Pipes

There are few things more stressful than burst pipes in the winter. You can put a checklist into action whenever the temperature plunges (don’t let the thermostat go too low, keep a little bit of water running all night, open cabinet doors under the sink), but professionals can help prevent pipes from freezing, and worse, bursting. They do this by installing heat cabling, sealing, and insulating the water heater and pipes. Costs vary. Just insulating the water pipes could cost as much as $1,000.

How to Finance Winterizing Your Home

Any home renovation project requires a budget. When you’re figuring out how to winterize a house, decide your priorities.The Department of Energy offers some financial aid programs, especially if the result will make your home more energy efficient. If you don’t qualify for aid, but you don’t have cash set aside to pay for home improvement projects, you could consider a personal loan.

Government Programs to Increase Energy Efficiency 

The U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) reduces energy costs for low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes. WAP is administered at the state and local levels. To determine eligibility and how to apply for the program, look at WAP's eligibility web page. To apply directly for weatherization assistance, contact your state weatherization agency.  

Personal Loan for Home Improvements

Since you can obtain a personal loan for any reason you wish, winterizing a home falls within the parameters. In fact, common purposes for personal loans are home repairs, unexpected bills, and debt consolidation.Personal loans typically range from $1,000 to $50,000. To better your chances of being approved, you should know your credit score, be ready to show proof of income, and be prepared to show collateral.

The Takeaway

It’s never too late to make quick and easy winterizing fixes, from eliminating door drafts to changing the filter on your heating system. More ambitious measures can ensure that heat doesn’t escape next winter and your pipes don’t freeze or burst. These steps will protect the value of your house too.A personal loan can finance the more substantial home improvements. As you’re exploring personal loan options, Lantern by SoFi can make the process more convenient. In our marketplace, you can easily compare current personal loan rates and terms from multiple lenders to find the best one for your needs.Compare your rates and see if you prequalify with Lantern.

Frequently Asked Questions

Once winter comes, is it too late to winterize my house?
How should I winterize a vacant house?
How do I keep my pipes from freezing in cold weather?
Photo credit: iStock/USGirl
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About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau writes about student loans, mortgages, car insurance, medical debt and many other finance topics for Lantern. A veteran of the magazine business, she has edited stories on personal finance for Good Housekeeping and DuJour magazines and has written articles for The Wall Street Journal, Readers' Digest, Parade, Town & Country and Lifetime/A&E, among others. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
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