Money & The Economy

Is It Just Me Or Is It Cold in Here?

Photo Credit: Rahbar

The news isn’t good, but better we know so we can get ready for what’s coming rather than to be caught unaware. Due to worldwide events, the U.S. government says it expects households to see their heating bills jump as much as 54% compared with last winter.

What if I told you there are some sneaky ways you can reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat your home that won’t require you to wear a down-filled, hooded parka 24 hours a day? Would I have your attention? Great, because that’s exactly what I have for you.

These easy tips could cut your fuel consumption by 20% or more, and none requires more than 30 minutes of work. You will need to purchase a few inexpensive supplies, but all should be readily available.


Open an outside door and look at that piece of plastic molding or strip of foam rubber that runs across the top and down both sides of doors and all the way around windows, which is designed to seal the air gap once closed. Is it torn, shredded, missing or otherwise not doing its job? Replace as necessary wherever it is allowing small drafts. Weatherstripping at any home center comes with sticky-back adhesive, which makes it a cinch to install. Stop by a local home improvement center such as Ace Hardware, Home Depot or Lowes. Ask questions. Watch YouTube videos. This really is a simple job you can do yourself, provided you know what you are doing!


Look under your exterior doors. See any daylight? That’s a problem! That’s where precious warmed air is being sucked out into the cold. You need to adjust the threshold to close this gap. Look for four or five screws that, when loosened, will allow you to adjust the threshold height. You may need to replace it in order to get rid of all daylight, or your handy home improvement store experts may have a way that you can adjust that height by introducing shims or some other “gap-filler.”


Identify every electrical outlet box in the exterior walls of your home. Take off the outlet covers to see if the air gaps behind are all filled with insulation. No? Whoops. There goes more warmed air right through those unsealed boxes, into the walls and right out the attic. You can fill these gaps with acrylic latex caulk, but I wouldn’t bother with that mess. Instead, you can buy ready-made rubber gaskets online or at the home center. I’ve seen them in a two-pack for about $1.50 at my home center. They’re easy to install and will help make your home airtight.


While you were looking for outlets on exterior walls, did you see any holes? Look under the kitchen sink, for example. See where the pipes go through the wall? If those areas are not sealed fully, they, too, are sucking warmed air out, and that’s costing you money. You can seal these gaps with expanding foam that comes in an aerosol can at a home center.


If your home is large and you’re occupying only parts of it at a time, invest in a good space heater so you can turn down the thermostat to an otherwise much-too-chilly level. Take a look at a good infrared heater that uses very little electricity, using the wonder of infrared rays that heat surfaces, not the surrounding air. Even a typical space heater that uses 1,500 watts of electricity will cost about 28 cents per hour, based on a rate of 14.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which was the U.S. average in September 2021.


Experts tell us that the surface of your windows accounts for at least 25% of the home’s heat use because of all the heat being lost through them. Simply covering the windows and patio doors with clear plastic film for this purpose can cut the loss significantly. Transparent film is inexpensive. It comes in sheets that you apply yourself using an ordinary hair dryer. If you follow the directions carefully, the film will be invisible.


If you have a typical wood-burning fireplace, that chimney space is a big, nasty energy thief whenever the fireplace is not in use. Get into the habit of closing that flue solidly between uses. If you rarely use the fireplace, consider an inflatable chimney balloon. You can get one for about $50 and it can be reused. You just inflate it inside the chimney and it fills up the space. Deflate to use the fireplace. And if you ever forget and start a fire with it in place, it will automatically deflate.


I’ve suggested this to you before, but now I am pleading with you to get one of these amazing pieces of technology. Just program it to meet your comfort needs and then forget it. It will look after your heating costs in ways you wish you were so efficient. Programmable thermostats range from as low as $35 all the way to models that allow you to control your home’s heat anywhere from your smartphone.

Sealing your home as tightly as possible is the secret to cutting the cost to keep it warm. Do it now and you’ll get a big bonus come summer. It will cost less to keep it cool, too.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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