7 Quick Winter Prep Tips

by Scott Sery on November 9, 2012

Winter is rapidly approaching, and those who live in climates that get cold in the winter know that it is the time of year where their bills start to rise.  Heating a house is expensive.  Combine that with the fact that it is darker outside so the lights and TV are running more means that your electricity and heating bills both increase, sometimes substantially, this time of year.  Although it is inevitable that you will be spending more on your utilities, there are ways to save money this winter.

Programmable Thermostat

If you have not purchased and installed a programmable thermostat get one right now.  These simple pieces of technology can save thousands of dollars over the course of their lifetime.   Energystar.gov has a great calculator to show just how much you will save if you use a programmable thermostat.  The caveat: it needs to be used the way it was intended.  Don’t crank the heat up if you feel cold, or you won’t see any savings.

Weather Stripping

When is the last time you have looked carefully at the weather stripping around your doors and windows?  I know I have neglected mine, and just the other day noticed that I could see light coming through under the front door (my house is 64 years old, there are lots of cracks and gaps).  A few dollars invested in weather stripping will help seal out the cold air this winter, and most of it is pretty easy to install yourself.  Once the new stripping is installed, lock the windows and doors.  This will create the tightest seal possible.

Window Plastic

You can usually only tell someone has plastic over their windows when it is not installed properly.  If you take the time to get the double sided tape all lined up and use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic tight, you really cannot see it unless you are close.  The kits do not cost much and are fairly easy to install.  If you get some heavy drapes to close at night you will see even more energy savings.

Insulate Pipes

If you have exposed pipes in your basement, you are losing heat as the water travels through them.  Pipe insulation is cheap, and it is incredibly easy to install.  For $20 and a couple hours at most you could have all your hot water pipes wrapped in insulation.  Warmer water means you need to use less of it allowing your hot water heater to have a break.

Use a Space Heater

If you have a spare room in your house, you are heating empty space.  Instead of keeping the entire house to one even temperature, close off the rooms you do not need to heat.  Then, you can turn down your thermostat and use a space heater to only heat the rooms in the house that you are using.  Just be sure to pay attention to the safety warnings, and don’t leave the heater unattended (that means turn it off before you fall asleep).

Take Shorter Showers

A shorter shower will help you three ways.  You use less water (and less gas to heat the water), you use less electricity since you are not in the bathroom as long, and the fan will not be running expelling all your warm air into the outside.  A well working fan can expel a whole house full of warm air in just an hour.  So as soon as you can, turn it off.


There are some things that just need to be done regularly.  The changing of the seasons is a good reminder time to do them.  Every time the season changes, make sure you change the air filter on your furnace.  At the same time, check your water pipes to make sure there are no leaks, clean out the gutters and make sure there is nothing that will stop up water and cause damage to the house.  The whole inspection process will not take long, but could save thousands of dollars by preventing damage.

There is a reason George Gershwin penned the words, “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.”   Winter is cold, dark, and expensive.  Even though the bills go up in the winter, there is room for improvement on your quest for financial freedom.  Take a look around your house and see if one of today’s tips can be implemented to lessen the blow from the utility company this winter.

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Scott Sery

Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana. Within an hour in nearly any direction he can be found fishing, hunting, backpacking, caving, and rock or ice climbing. With an extensive knowledge of the finance and insurance world, Scott loves to write personal finance articles. When not talking money, he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the back country, or how to live sustainably. You can learn more about Scott on his website Sery Content Development
  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Good post. We love programmable thermostats!

  • None but one apply to our little place here in Southern California lol. – programmable thermostat 🙂

    • Scott Sery

      Taking shorter showers, insulating pipes, and making sure your air conditioner is well maintained will also help. The savings won’t be as great in warmer climates, but regular maintenance will always save more money than repairs. Sometimes saving money requires thinking outside the box, if you are already on top of all these things you are doing well!

  • I insulated our pipes and made sure every crack was sealed. It’s made a huge difference with the programmable thermostat, everyone should have one. It will save you $$ in the long run. Mr.CBB

  • greg

    Ugh, I am not looking forward to the big winter heat bills! Thank you for the tips!

  • These are great tips! I just started to get ready for my first winter as a homeowner, and still have a list of things to do (including some that you list here). Thanks for sharing.

  • Student Debt Survivor

    Great tips. We just bought our first condo, so we’re already trying to adjust to having to pay for heat. Before it got cold we said we would keep the apartment at 65 and just wear layers. Now that it’s actually cold I find myself turning up the programmable thermostat. I hate to be cold. Once we get the first bill, that will probably change 😉

  • Outstanding list Sean. I’ve still been meaning to program my thermostat. I have one, but have never figured it out. Right now I manually put it down when I go to bed and then manually put it up when I wake up. Programming it would be even more beneficial as I could bring it down really low from like 1am to 5am when everyone is dead asleep and then bring it up.

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