15 October, 2009

Winterize and Save Money (And the Environment!)

You’ve probably noticed that summer has ended, which means earlier sunsets, more colorful leaves and colder temperatures (and, if you live near me, grumpier neighbors).

And while it may be getting chilly, the really cold weather hasn’t started quite yet, which means it’s the right time to prepare your home and family for the frigid months ahead.

The Debtress’s Must-Do Pre-Winter Checklist

Before worrying about the little things (like whether your convertible mitten-gloves match your scarf), it’s important to take care of the big ones. Now is the time to check your home’s insulation, caulk cracks in outside walls, seal your windows and weather-strip your doors.

A visit to a hardware store or online search should help you determine what your house may need. And, while this will require you to invest some money upfront, you’ll almost certainly save more than that cost in heating bills.

Now for the less-familiar suggestions:

  • Switch to flannel: Flannel sheets make bedtime in winter a much less traumatic experience, because they don’t feel cold when you first lie down. They’re durable, too.
  • Have a nightcap: In the olden days, people wore hats to bed to keep warm. If you’re afraid of looking silly while you sleep, you could wear a hooded top or just long sleeves and pants.
  • Brew some tea: Tea comes in a variety of tasty flavors, from the ho-hum to the extraordinary. And, since both caffeine-loaded and caffeine-free types are available, a pot of tea is a great way to heat up at any time of day. (Hint: trick your kids into loving tea by hosting “tea parties” and serving “crumpets.” I usually use animal crackers.)
  • Eat warm: Don’t just drink your heat – eat it, too. Winter is a great time for oatmeal, soup, stew, crock pot recipes – anything with the word “simmer” in the recipe, really. After baking with the oven, prop it open while it cools, to let its heat disperse into the house.
  • Put on a sweater. Yes, you hated this advice when you got it as a kid. But dressing in layers is one easy way to save on heating costs.
  • Keep blankets handy. Draping a fleece throw on sofa-backs and easy chairs adds a touch of coziness and keeps loungers toasty.
  • Get some slippers. You can keep your feet pleasantly warm without tracking winter slush and mud inside – just get a warm pair of slippers to keep by the door.
  • Work the fireplace. If your home has a fireplace, use it to cut down on gas or electricity costs. But make sure you close the flue afterward and have heat-trapping components in the chimney (some sources suggest a “lamanced damper”).
  • Get moving. If you have kids, turn on tunes and start a dance party. If you don’t, shake it to your favorite hits. It may feel silly at first, but when that warm blood starts pumping, you won’t regret it.

Any other tips for beating the chilly weather that won’t make me file bankruptcy? Let me know!

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