Simple Ways to Winterize Your Home

Do you dread the coming of winter and the high heating bills while you freeze in your home? There are some simple ways to winterize your home without spending a lot of money that will save you money throughout winter and keep you warm and comfy. 

What is the R-value

Insulation is typically rated by the R-value, which is a measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of a material. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation and the more effective it is.

There is more to R-value when you consider that there are four ways that heat can move in and out of your home. R-value measures the conduction, but there is also convection, radiation and air infiltration.

You can see all of these ways your home loses heat and or lets the cold air in when you consider windows, doors, insulation in the attic or crawl space and other gaps. But every little bit helps when it comes to keeping the winter cold out of your home and the heat inside.

Different climates require different R-values and as you might expect, the colder areas require a higher R-value. You can check the R-value of your area using the link at the end of this article.

Windows and Door Insulation

During the winter, do you sit in front of your windows and feel that bitter cold air blowing in. Is your house so drafty during those cold winter days and nights that you could probably measure a wind chill factor inside your home?

On cold winter days, does the ice build up on the inside of the windows making your home feel like you’re in a freezer? If you have single pane windows this insulating plastic can really make a huge difference. Even if you have double pane windows, putting insulating plastic over them can keep the house warmer and more comfortable.

I have tried several different brands and have found that the 3M brand is the best insulating plastic for the windows. The 3M brand is the thickest plastic and their double sided tape holds the best, which is important so the plastic doesn’t fall off after a month.

Look for the 3M indoor window insulation kit. Their packages come in different size windows and also for sliding glass doors. The best way is to tape the insulating plastic on the wall around the window, leaving at least an inch of space between the window and the plastic. This insulation will increase the R-value by 90% over a single pane window.

One house that I lived in had a large front window that let in a lot of cold air. When I put the insulating plastic over the window, I could actually see the plastic puff outward into the room, showing just how much cold air was being stopped by this plastic.

Tip: Your windows probably have blinds or drapes that you will want to open during the winter, make sure you tape the plastic on so you can still get to the opener of the drapes or blinds. You can put a small hole in the plastic for the window blinds opener without ruining the insulating effect.

Ice on window
Ice on the inside of a window (source)


Putting caulk around the outside and the inside of the windows can help keep the cold air out. On the outside around the window frame you can probably see areas where there used to be caulking but has since broken away. Put new caulking all around the window.

One the inside, many times there is a large gap under the window sill that lets in a lot of cold air. Caulk the entire gap.

A good removable caulking for indoor and outdoor is DAP Seal N Peel removable caulk or you can use rope caulk, which goes on easily.

Weather Stripping around Doors

Foam weather stripping around the door jam or even on the door works great at keeping out drafts and the warm air in. You can also find tubular silicon stripping specifically made for doors.

The self-sticking foam weather stripping works great for the sides and the top of the door, but for the bottom of the door, a sweep is needed. Many times the weather stripping sweep at the bottom of a door is torn or entirely missing. Replacing this with a new one is simple and will keep a lot of cold air out.

Attic Insulation

Have you ever noticed that the snow on some of your neighbors roofs melt sooner than others? That could be because of the color of the shingles or it could be because the heat from that particular house escapes more through the roof, from poor attic insulation. How the snow melts and how icicles form can tell you how well an attic is insulated.

By looking at the patterns of how a light snow is melting during the morning hours, you can see where there is adequate or less than adequate attic insulation. If there are many icicles forming at the edge of a roof after a heavier snowfall, this can mean the snow is melting from underneath due to poor attic insulation.

Making sure your attic has proper insulation can really help keep the heating bills down.

Your attic insulation should be at least 10 to 14” thick making it an R-38 rating and in most places you need more. Make sure to check your area’s chart to find the recommended R-value.

There are two types of attic insulation, the blow in type and the roll type. If you should decide to do this yourself, you should use the following items since you don’t want the insulation all over you.

  • Long pants and long sleeve shirt.
  • A dust mask.
  • Eye protection.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, it would be worth it to have someone check your attic insulation and possibly do it for you.

Outdoor thermometer

Other Ways to Winterize Your Home

Put your hand in front of the electrical outlets that are on outside walls, do you feel cold air coming through them on a cold day. If so, you can buy electrical outlet seal packs or insulated cover plate for the electrical outlets and any switches that are on the outside walls. They have foam seals on them and they do a good job of stopping air leakage.

Buy a water heater insulated blanket for the hot water tank. Any hardware store will sell them.

Change the filter in the furnace whenever it needs it, maybe twice or more per winter. This will keep the air cleaner and the furnace working better and cheaper.

Put a cover on the swamp cooler whether it is on the roof or at a window.

If you have a swamp cooler on the roof, the vent into the house can cause a huge loss of heat and you need to cover that. You can use some of the left-over plastic window insulation. Or get a thick piece of Styrofoam and cut and fit it to the exact dimensions of the swamp cooler vent. How you cover this will depend on the size and type of vent your home uses.

If you have a swamp cooler in a window, you can put foam weather stripping around it. You can use self-adhesive insulating foam weather stripping and for gaps that are larger, there are also thick pieces of non-sticky type foam for sale that you can push into larger gaps where you cannot use the adhesive type of foam.

If there are large gaps around the outside hose faucets, you can use spray foam to fill those gaps.

If you do not need to go into your attic during the winter, you can also use left-over insulating window plastic to cover the attic door on your ceiling. Since warm air rises, a lot of warm air can escape through the attic door.

Winterizing Conclusion

You might be surprised at all of the different areas of your home that cold air seeps through and lets out the warm air. These are simple and inexpensive ways to winterize your home for a warm and comfortable winter.  

Copyright © 2014 Sam Montana


Melting snow patterns on roofs

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