How to Winterize Your Home

Keep the heat in your home this winter with these easy and stylish ways to insulate drafty spots

Credit: Flickr/Miss Claeson

Keep Fluffy warm as she watches the snow by winterizing your windows and other cold spots

If winter in your house means wearing your puffy coat and huddling next to the TV for warmth, then you need to winterize your home!

This year I decided I needed to find a way to stay warm in my apartment without having to wear my puffy coat indoors. My place doesn’t have any obvious defects, but come winter, my hydro bill easily triples what I pay in the spring and summer. And, as I’ve now learned, that money has literally been flying out the tiny gaps around the windows.

In general, if your apartment is chilly, chances are it’s poorly insulated. This means you’re losing heat through air gaps. Even with my double-pane windows, I found air leaks everywhere – windows, doors and even electrical outlets.

Luckily, there are a lot of quick and relatively easy fixes for these problems. Most are inexpensive and almost all will reap immediate benefits you’ll literally feel.

Lower Your Heating Bill and Winterize Your Home with Style

1. Insulate the Windows

Even with double-pane windows, my apartment was coldest right next to those windows. Windows made with the highest grade glass will feel like inside-room temperature to the touch, whereas mine were freezing cold. The solution here was to add another layer.

Window insulating film is a quick and temporary solution. By adding this plastic cover over my windows and patio door, I’ve been able to wait an extra month before turning on the heat. The plastic shrink film can be bought in separate components or in kits. Once taped in place, use a blow dryer to shrink the plastic so it’s tight and nearly invisible. Then in the spring, all you need to do is gently remove the tape and plastic. This was a $35 investment and took an hour per window to clean and cover.

2. Add an Insulating Layer

Curtains can be a stylish addition to any room, but they also serve as an excellent insulating layer, especially if they’re heavyweight. In fact, if insulation’s your main goal, you can buy thermal-grade fabric, or thermal panels to add to the back of your existing curtains. I have a streetlight right outside my bedroom window so these heavyweight curtains also serve a blackout function when drawn.

This doesn’t have to be an expensive investment, unless you want them custom-made. Many home stores now carry heavyweight curtains –  ready-made, easy to install and very fashionable. In fact, after an Elle Décor article featured Sarah Jessica Parker’s Bridgehampton home and mentioned that all the curtains were from IKEA, not surprisingly they’ve been near-constantly out of stock ever since.

3. Find the Cracks, Drafts and Gaps

If there’s a way for cold air to get in, it will, so inspect areas that are most susceptible to air leaks. Identify the cold areas of your apartment and look for potential problems causing the temperature difference.

Before I put the plastic shrink film over my windows, I sealed up the joints using a closed-cell foam tape. This filled any gaps and created a tight seal around the window opening. If you have larger gaps located in harder to reach places, try expanding foam insulation, which will fill and seal every single crevice.

For doors, a door sweep is a must. In my building, fresh air is vented into the hallways during the day, which means in cooler months, the hallways are absolutely freezing. Adding this narrow piece of vinyl to the bottom of my door made a huge difference. On really cold days, I add a draft snake – a long tube of fabric filled with dried rice or beans. This would be great for windows as well.

And don’t forget about electrical outlets, especially those located on outside walls. Adding pre-cut foam outlet gaskets is a fantastic way to insulate electrical receptacles.

4. Control the Heat

If waking up to a warm and cozy room isn’t enough of an incentive to switch to a sleek, modern programmable thermostat, then think of the savings. By setting your thermostat’s hours so the heat goes on when you’re home but drops when you’re out or asleep, you’ll take advantage of the heat when you actually need it and not pay for it when you don’t.

5. Humid Air = Warm Air

It’s not going to feel like Hawaii exactly, but a humidifier will add moisture to the air and will make it feel about 5 degrees warmer, so you can keep the thermostat down. Plus, dry winter heat is no one’s friend, so the humidifier has the added health benefits of being kind to parched skin, chapped lips and dry sinuses.

I have a humidifier that’s also an “air washer”, which cleans the air by pulling it in and “washing” it before circulating it back out. Air is humidified simultaneously via cold evaporation process, which is a much gentler and effective process. It’s a great way to keep the air fresh and clean when windows are closed.

Catherine Tse is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver who brings her love of style to a variety of print and online publications. She discovered early on that writing and an ambitious penchant for lovely things was a good combination.