7 Winter Home Improvements That Will Lower Your Heating Bills

Energy-efficient doors and windows are just the beginning. Adding floor and window decor will also cut your heating costs.
Saving on Heating Bills

Chances are, your body isn't the only thing feeling the effects of colder temperatures these days. Consider your poor wallet when the heating bill rises!

But with a few home improvements, you can get your winter bills under control. Here's a list of projects to get you started.

Caulking Windows

Close Air Leaks

Are small gaps around your windows, doors, or fireplace allowing cool air to seep in? How about gaps in the floors, walls, or ceiling? By using caulk, weatherstripping, or spray foam to seal air leaks in your home, you could get 5% to 30% in potential energy savings each year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

SEE ALSO: 5 DIY Projects You Should Leave to the Pros

Concerned about the cost? Don't be. Select brands of weatherstripping sell for under $10 per unit, and a caulk gun and tube of caulk shouldn't cost you more than $25. Plus, you can snag a can of spray foam for between $5 and $15.

Man Hanging Curtains

Buy Window Treatments

If money's tight, you probably can't afford to swap out your older windows for more durable and energy-efficient ones. (If you want to look into upgrading your windows, there's more on that shortly). But you can install heavy drapery to prevent outside air drafts from permeating your home. In fact, when you keep draperies drawn during cold weather, it can reduce heat loss from a warm room by up to 10%, the Department of Energy notes. And that equates to cost savings on your heating bill.

Window drapes don't have to cost a fortune, especially if you buy them from a big-box retailer with tons of options and price points.

Rug Installation

DIY Floor Coverings

Do you prefer to walk around your home barefoot? In the winter months, invest in thick area rugs to make those frequent strolls more comfortable. And you won't have to crank up the heat to get your hardwood, laminate, or tile floors to warm up.

Invest in thick area rugs, and you won't have to crank up the heat to get your floors to warm up.

You can score oversized area rugs for under $100. But consider visiting discount retailers like Ross, Marshalls, and HomeGoods to find rugs that complement your decor. Walmart is another option. Or you can head to the nearest furniture store, as it'll probably have many rugs in stock or ones you can order online — though expect to pay hundreds more.

Duct Insulation

Seal Heating Ducts

About 25% to 40% of conditioned air is lost through leaking ducts, according to Consumer Reports. So, sealing your ducts sooner rather than later is highly recommended. You can use tape to DIY, or hire a professional to do the job using Aeroseal technology to maximize savings, up to $850 annually.

The latter will cost you anywhere between $1,500 and $2,500, or you can roll with the tape for well under $100.


Purchase a Programmable Thermostat

Invest in a programmable thermostat to control when and how hard your heating unit works, and to regulate the temperature in your home even when you're away. It's also a cost-efficient way to curb heating costs, and installation is a breeze.

SEE ALSO: 8 Things to Know About Amazon's New Echo Devices

Programmable thermostats start around $15 and go up from there, depending on the brand and features of the unit.

Quick note: The Department of Energy recommends "turning your thermostat back 10% to 15% for 8 hours" to lower your heating and cooling bills by up to 10% annually.


Add Insulation

Improperly insulated attics and floor openings could also cause astronomical heating bills. But adding insulation and closing these gaps in the floor could "prevent the so-called stack effect, in which heated air escapes through the attic and is replaced with cool air from lower levels," according to Consumer Reports.

The Department of Energy also touts the benefits of adding insulation. Increasing insulation, it notes, is "one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy waste."

You can expect to pay $400 to $1,700 to insulate an attic, or between $1.50 to $3.50 for each square foot, according to Fixr.com.

Energy-efficient windows

Install Energy-Efficient Doors and Windows

Insulated, energy-efficient doors and windows stop the cool air from easing in and dropping your home's temperature. (Insulated garage doors are also ideal if you spend a lot of time in the garage or open the door frequently to retrieve items).

Installing exterior low-e storm windows can save you up to 33% a year on heating and cooling bills.

Consider investing in wood or aluminum models to keep the cold air outside and lower your heating bill. In fact, installing exterior low-e storm windows can save you up to 33% annually on heating and cooling bills, per the Department of Energy.

The cost of installing energy-efficient doors and windows can be steep, though. "With labor, you're looking at about $270 to $800+ per window," the National Association of Realtors notes. What about a new front door? A basic steel door will cost $1,500, while the cost of a fiberglass door will go from $2,000 to $2,500, according to one sales consultant at a window and door company. However, he also notes that the average door installation costs $5,000.

Bonus Tip: Have Your HVAC Unit Serviced

If your system is running too hard and struggling to heat up your home, it may be on the brink of breaking down. Even worse, it could cost you hundreds — if not thousands — to get things up and running.

Alternatively, you can buy a maintenance agreement with a reputable HVAC company to have your unit serviced annually. The cost shouldn't exceed $200, and a technician will come out once a year to inspect your unit, ensuring it's functioning properly and providing the essential maintenance.

Some contracts also cover house calls if you suspect an issue with your heating unit between the service period, and extend a flat-rate discount should you decide to take care of the repairs that are needed.

Readers, what are your best tips for lowering heating bills in the winter? Please share them in the comments below.

Contributing Writer

After spending several years as a governmental accountant, Allison transitioned into the world of freelance writing. Her work has appeared on on a number of reputable sites, including The Wall Street Journal, Investopedia, Daily Finance, MSN Money, and Credit.com.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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I agree about the door cost thing. Its a little high. I had a roll up garage door installed on my shed a couple of years ago for $500. You can get an insulated double garage door for $1500 and get it installed for about $300 around here.
I don't know in what part of the country the sales consultant lived. But, I recently paid $250 to have my solid wood back door installed by a certified Home Depot installer.
Sealing heating ducts that are outside the living space (attic, crawl space, etc.) gives the mot return. Sealing ducts in living spaces, (unfinished bsmnt), doesn't save you a whole lot as any leakage is into living spaces. Does help with efficiently distributing air to where you want it to circulating.

Depending on what you have for windows, where you live, window coverings may cause your windows to frost or freeze up, as you're trapping warmer/humid air between a cold window and the exterior. Can be an issue if you have wood framed windows as they may mold and rot. Shrinking air barrier films may be better idea with window coverings, it prevents transfer of air between the cold/warm space. If caulking, look for a seasonal caulk (White Lightning - Seasonseal), it is more easily removed when you want to open the window/door again.

For outlets/light switches, there are foam gaskets that can be placed directly behind the cover plates to reduce any air infiltration/ex-filtration.
My 2ยข. Caulking windows and hanging curtains are absolutely worth the money, even if you live in an apartment. Caulking a window will cost you only pennies and will pay off almost immediately. You can hang solar/light blocking curtains for as low as $15 a window. Curtains will actually pay off for you more quickly in the summertime in reduced air conditioning bills quicker than they will in the winter.

Rugs won't save you real money unless you install wall to wall carpeting.

The thing that most people miss is caulking along BASEBOARDS if you have hardwood floors. Most contractors do not put drywall all the way to the floor. There is at least a 1/4 inch gap. This allows air to pass if the over lying baseboard isn't tight. Also check around plugs and switches on outside walls. Many wall plugs leak more air than windows.

Installing windows and doors and adding insulation is a waste of money unless you plan to live there for 10 years because it will take 10 years to recoup your $.