winterize yo house!

While the weather has been bipolar for the last few weeks in Louisiana, and I've been able to keep the air conditioner off except for a couple warm evenings. It's currently cold, so I'll take what I can get, and that means you'll be learning about winterizing your home today! And do everything now before it gets warm again, so that when it's cold again you'll be good to go!

Heaters are a huge drain on utilities and will quickly run up your electricity bill, especially if you run it without taking extra efficiency measures. And you shouldn't, because why would you want to spend extra money to let hot air leak out of your house?

Having an energy-efficient house means you're already basically winterized, but there are a few little extra things you can do to ensure a comfy season. 

Some standard efficiency measures you can take any time of the year include hanging up thermal curtains, using ceiling fans, sealing leaks in doorways, replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs, and using a programmable thermostat. These measures help to keep the heat out in the summer and the cold out in the winter, and keeping the air inside the home at a stable temperature year-round, without requiring overuse of your air conditioner and heater.

Apartment Therapy recently featured six ways to save money while fixing up your home for the holidays. Most of the tips are repeats of general energy-efficiency upgrades, but there's one great tip that I need to start doing more. 

Ceiling fans are a lifesaver during Southern summers, but they're also built for comfort during colder months! Just about every ceiling fan has a switch on the base that controls the spin direction of the blades. With the reversed direction of the fan drafts, the cooler air is pushed up and the warmer air is pushed back down, making your room more comfortable without needing to put on the heater. It's a strange concept to me that ceiling fans can be used in the winter as well, but it's nice to get year-round use out of them!

Green Philly Blog talks about a simple way to check for air leaks in doors and windows, allowing you to figure out just where you need some extra weather-stripping. Their test involves an extension cord, a blow dryer and a candle. You'll also need two people - one to go outside with the blow dryer, and one to stay inside with the candle. The person with the blow dryer points it at the same spot on the window where the other person is holding the candle. If the flame starts dancing, you've got an air leak, and you can mark the spot for sealing later. Just don't catch anything on fire!

Houzz also has some tips on how to make your home ready for the holidays, and most are focused more on design and entertaining, but there's one good and useful tip for energy efficiency. They suggest closing vents in rooms that are rarely used, so the heat can be redirected to rooms that are used more often. If you wouldn't want to completely shut off circulated air to rooms, you can still close the vents to where there's a small gap to allow a little heat through. With this change, the heat will be distributed to where it will be most used and will help to keep the electricity bill down.

Space heaters also help to confine heat to spaces where you need it, without heating up the whole house. But always be careful with space heaters! You don't want to run them too long or they will start to rack up your electricity bill on their own. They also pose a fire hazard, so make sure you don't place them too close to anything combustible, especially upholstered furniture. There are no Energy Star-rated space heaters, so it's up to you to use them as efficiently as possible.

And there's always the old-school method of keeping blankets around for when you get a little chilly. Doesn't require any electricity or pose a fire hazard. Blankets really aren't a standalone solution (unless it's only slightly chilly in your house, or it's not cold enough outside to justify turning on the heater), but they can help you use the heater in a more efficient way. Instead of blasting the heat at 74 degrees, turn it down to 68-70 and use a few extra blankets on the couch and in bed. (Hot chocolate also helps to keep you warm with those blankets, and you get 10,000 extra cozy points!)

The main things to remember when winterizing your home are to keep everything sealed so there are no air leaks and wasted electricity, and to try alternative methods in order to keep your heater from needing to run all day and night. Staying warm and keeping your house warm doesn't have to cost a ton of money!

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