Tell me about your frugal, toasty ways, Metafilter
August 23, 2013 3:14 AM   Subscribe

Can you share all the information, products, tips, etc., about weatherstripping and all other ways of keeping my house from leaking heat--and letting in cold air--when it's cold?

We live in a house in New England that was built in the late 80s. Most of the windows leak some air. Most of the doors leak a little air. Probably the walls leak air.

What are all of the things we can do, and especially, specific products to purchase (from Amazon if possible) that we can use to seal up our house, not waste heat, and stay warm?

Specifics of all types are very helpful.

Little details: we know about the plastic sheet things that hang over the windows and will use them in a pinch, but would prefer not to. We do have an appointment for an energy audit, and we did that last year as well and got a rebate for having some insulation blown in. We'll probably have the same thing done this year. I think when they do the review, the person doing the review makes decisions about what they'll fund you for, so we'll do whatever that person says. I'm just trying to do everything we can on our own.)
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Do like the do in old, drafty England and hang thick curtains you can pull closed over all the windows. When I lived in London - in a typical Victorian flat with single pane double hung windows and no insulation - this was the thing that would keep the pipes from freezing inside.

SOME draft is good as allows the higher humidity indoors to escape. Too much humidity indoors can make a cold room feel even colder.
posted by three blind mice at 3:30 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have an attached garage with an internal door to the house. The garage is not insulated, while the house is. The door is an internal-style door so not great at keeping heat in either. This year we hung a thick woollen blanket (doubled over) from a curtain rail on the garage side inside the door, and it has made a huge difference. I'm thinking of doing the same with the door to the laundry.

Weather sealing strips around doors and windows help too. You can also caulk around the window panes if there are cracks.

Can you get up in the ceiling/roof space and lay down insulation? That will make quite a difference. Thick curtains, yes. But also heat escapes out the top of the curtains, so pelmets will make a huge difference. And if the curtains don't seal against the walls at the sides, you can use some velcro on the walls and curtains to make them seal better. Or use blinds (thick ones rated for keeping heat in) hung inside the window frames, as they have less airflow around the edges. A combination of blinds and heavy drapes is even better.
posted by lollusc at 4:05 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if there are rooms you don't use, keep the doors to them shut. Keep the bathroom door shut, especially if it has a vent or fan, as warm air will escape out that even when it isn't on. Having a whole (even unheated) room between your warmed room and the outside world acts like great insulation by itself.
posted by lollusc at 4:06 AM on August 23, 2013

The ME and MA contingent of my family all have Grandma-made cat-themed doohickeys that you tuck into the bottom of your doors to keep out the draft. They're just door-length buckwheat tubes (with silly cat heads and paws attached, but of course you can leave those off) made out of cotton. They're stuffed loose enough to really fill in the gaps, heavy enough to also be used as a door stop, but light enough to be easily shoved out of the way. I didn't think they made a difference until the one night at Grandma's house that I didn't tuck mine under the door to the guestroom and froze my toes off.

Okay, Amazon is reporting that the commercial versions of these things are called "draft guards".
posted by Mizu at 4:45 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Caulk! You can get it in plastic-applicator type tubes rather than the long cylinders that require a gun. I did it under the windowsills, around the windows, etc, and it really does seem to have helped. My front door is terrible for letting in cold air; I caulked where I could and where the gap between the trim and the wall was too big for caulk, I stuffed in grocery bags and then ran a long piece of tape. Something else that didn't occur to me immediately - lock your windows, it'll keep the upper one from inching down slowly.
posted by lemniskate at 4:46 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The plastic film is kind of a pain, but it really doesn't look as bad as I thought it would if you apply it correctly, and it makes a huge difference, especially if you have single glazing in your windows.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:53 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

An electric mattress pad (or as I used an electric blanket under the bottom sheet, which I am sure is not a recommended best practice however I did it for years) will make a huge difference if you dislike cold sheets and a cold bed. I was able to keep the ambient temp lower (and I needed to, because the heat bills were insane if I didn't) while I slept because the bed was toasty warm no matter how many times I changed position.

The draft dodgers are also a great help - not the 9.95 ones that are two tubes on either side of a flimsy piece of fabric that skips under the door but the ones that are fabric filled with buckwheat or rice and sit on one side of the door.
posted by KAS at 4:58 AM on August 23, 2013

I made myself a draught excluder out of a knee-length sock filled with all the odd socks and holey socks I had.

It is surprisingly effective.

Also, thick curtains on every window. And on the doors as well. Which also muffle outside noise a bit better (less of a problem for you, I imagine, but I'm in a mid-terrace that's right on the street).
posted by Katemonkey at 5:03 AM on August 23, 2013

A hot water heater insulation blanket might help to really cut down it's energy use during the cold months. I don't know the details well enough to crunch the numbers for you, but it's worth checking out, as they usually pay themselves off within one season.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:04 AM on August 23, 2013

Best answer: If you have a fireplace, put a couple of large candles in there and light them to warm the flue, or at least the firebox, up a bit. This will help keep draftiness down, even if you keep the flue and fireplace doors closed.
posted by jquinby at 5:04 AM on August 23, 2013

We have a pellet stove--and the savings are tremendous.

I can't say enough about how much of a difference in warmth for cost. We bought 4 tons of pellets for about 900.00 and that should last through January--depending on how cold we'll probably buy 4 more. But compare 1800.00 to 3300. (Really more) Oil is 3.24 right now.

We used to use about 1100 gallons for a cold winter. It's work yes, but we can afford to keep the house much warmer than the brisk 68 with oil.
posted by AuntieRuth at 5:17 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have found that cellular blinds are good insulators for windows. You can get them at Target pretty inexpensively.

If you have non-standard sized windows, you can cheat them about an inch down in size, leaving only 1/2 an inch on either side. If you have to.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:25 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Suggest you reconsider plastic sheets over the windows. Doing this cut our heating bill almost in half when we lived in a drafty old house in New Britain, CT. Not difficult to put up and take down and if you use your blow-dryer to take out the wrinkles it doesn't really obstruct the view. We did leave one window uncovered to allow for an occasional airing out on relatively warmer days during the winter.
posted by CincyBlues at 5:46 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

+1: caulk (check around where the window frame meets the wall...)
heavy curtains (Ikea has a cheap rod system you can use to hang two or even three layers of curtains)
plastic sheeting for the truly awful spots, done carefully with a blow dryer
posted by kmennie at 5:53 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Draft dodger under the door for sure. And yeah, reconsider the plastic. I wasn't a fan until my boyfriend put it up with a hairdryer and did it flawlessly. It made a huge difference.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:12 AM on August 23, 2013

I realized we had big gaps in the insulation along our eaves when I was on a ladder cleaning gutters in the summer and felt a cool breeze on my face (it was from the cool air from our swamp cooler gushing out of said holes). Many cities or power companies will do an energy audit for your house for a pretty reasonable fee; they'll come out with an infrared camera and a big fan to attach to your front door and can tell you where your biggest heat leaks are. It's worth doing, especially if you have $X dollars you want to spend and are trying to figure out the most effective way to save energy.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:18 AM on August 23, 2013

Best answer: If you have a two-story house and a stairway configuration that can accommodate it, put a heavy drape at the bottom of the stairs to keep all the heat on the first floor from going up the stairwell.

And yeah, nthing the hair dryer plastic sheeting, even though it's a pain. They do make a big difference and are invisible when thoroughly shrunk in place and trimmed.

On my own "will he get around to it this year? Who knows!" list is to make interior storm windows for our house using the same shrink-fit plastic sheeting.

The linked page is not the one I was looking for, but it still gives the gist of it; make a wood frame that will fit inside the window frame, apply the plastic sheeting to that (and why not put the plastic on both sides so you get an additional insulating layer of air?), and put them in place for the winter. If you have a puncture-free place to store them in warm weather, weatherproofing the windows would go from an annual weekend of taping-blowdrying-and-cursing to an hour or two of putting up the interior storm windows.
posted by usonian at 6:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Everything listed above, plus rugs and rug pads. Dressing warmly goes without saying. The Good Lord invented mismate socks for such occasions as these, and yea, warm and long were his johns. Heat we the neighborhood in its entirety? Thy great-grandparents slumbered with hats upon their heads, wherefore canst not thou? Hasten thyself hither, kitty, kitty, kitty, beneath mine bedclothes.

Oops, sorry; I lapsed into the Gospel According to Daddy Underpants there for a minute.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:28 AM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]

N-thing the draft stopper. Here is an easy DIY version. I'd make some for the windows and doors. They can be filled with old fabric/towels/clothes/pillow filling, gravel or cat litter (not sand) if you don't want to waste food.

To check for drafts hold a lit candle close to the window seams or walls and see if the flame bends.

Radiator insulation foil/pads help keep the warm air inside and reduce heat loss to the wall. Additionally remove covers, long curtains or furniture that sit directly in front of the heating unit so it doesn't block warm air.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:40 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I live in a 100-year-old house in Wisconsin; we'd go broke in the winters if we didn't use plastic sheeting over the windows. It is a pain to put up and take down every year, but it really does help lower the heat bill more than anything else. If you really can't stand it, how would you feel about using bubble wrap?

Put up thick curtains or blankets in the doorways of the rooms you want to keep warm. Use thick rugs with foam pads underneath, too. Dap Seal 'n' Peel Weatherstrip Caulk works well and is removable.

If you notice any drafts coming from the electrical outlets -- just hold a stick of incense in front of the outlet to check -- you can fix them up very easily. Here's a step-by-step guide that shows you how to insulate your electrical outlets with scrap insulation roll and styrofoam from take-out containers. Excess styrofoam is a great insulator to use in small holes and cracks if you don't mind the fact that it's rather unsightly.

If you have a sliding door, insulate the stationary panel.
posted by divined by radio at 7:02 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have ceiling fans in the house, switch the direction so it forces warm air downward during the winter and run them on low. It really does make a difference, especially if you have any rooms with high ceilings (cathedral living room).

They also make removable caulk, such as Seal 'N Peel (however it is stinky and put it up in October). BUT, I would ask your energy audit guy the best way to seal up those windows and doors permanently. If you have places where you can see frost on your windows in the winter, that is humidity from the heat and the cold air from the outside leaking in. If you fail to catch it this winter, sometimes you can seal them up temporarily using lots of blue painter's tape, but by then it's more into, hang a blanket territory.

The Vellux kind of velour blankets (available cheaply at Walmart), are light weight but make good (if slightly ugly) insulators for things like large patio doors. Make a pocket for a curtain rod by using a row of safety pins to fold a few inches of one end over.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:04 AM on August 23, 2013

I actually didn't mind the plastic on the windows. It looks pretty good when done with a hairdryer, and when we worked together, it was maybe 2-3 hours. Also, there's nothing saying you have to do it all at once.

When we lived in upstate NY, I did all of the above, plus tons of rugs on our hardwood floors.

In our last apartment, we had a steel security door with terrible gaps. We applied weatherstripping and it made no difference, because the gaps were so big. I finally lost my temper last winter and used heavy duty packaging tape to tape the door shut (we didn't use it in winter anyways). It made such a big difference, it was like night and day. I wouldn't recommend this for a wooden door, or a door you cared about, and it looked really tacky, but if you're desperate.....

Also, thanks for asking this question. We're starting to think about the same for our new-to-us 1960s trilevel.
posted by RogueTech at 7:06 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I put balsam draft guards from l l bean at the windows of my place in the hacked up town house in Boston. This was 22 years ago; I don't know if they still make them.
posted by brujita at 7:28 AM on August 23, 2013

I didn't think our single-pane windows were THAT drafty, but I put the shrinkwrap plastic on them & the room temperature IMMEDIATELY jumped 10 degrees!

When I had an energy audit, the guy doing it told me that using the plastic was just as effective as installing new windows, but much cheaper. He strongly recommended against replacing the windows.

I roll up old blankets & put them at the base of all exterior doors to block drafts.

We nailed up an old quilt to cover the windows in a room we didn't use much.
posted by belladonna at 7:29 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make sure any exposed water pipes in the basement are insulated or wrapped as best as you can safely get them, so you don't have to rely quite as much on the temperature of the house keeping them warm enough to not freeze. Nobody likes spending their prime early-morning showering hours running the blow dryer or BernzOmatic torch over a frozen pipe to clear the ice blockage, and nobody likes being the Extension Cord Flunky, who not only has his own work to do, but has also to bear the almighty wroth of the Hot Air Presumptive if there's an inrerruption of the current. The Lord High BernzOmatician doesn't need an extension cord, so he or she must resort to generally berating the other party on personal shortcomings, just to pass the time away.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:37 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Educate youself about which fixes are going to give you bang for the buck and effort. These articles are from very solid sources, and they suggest that the obvious things like windows and drafts, even if they're pretty bad, can be not nearly as important as other factors. (The "envelope")

Fixing a Cold, Drafty House - Fine Homebuilding
BSD-014: Air Flow Control in Buildings - Building Science
posted by spbmp at 8:29 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: there's a product called Mortite that is like a moldable clay that you can seal the gaps of your windows. It sticks enough to make a seal and you can take it off in the spring and reuse it as long as you make sure the surface you attach it to is clean and it doesn't leave a residue. Much better than that toxic Seal n Peel crap.

Also buy fleece pants, sweaters and socks. double up if you have to.

Buy a laser thermometer. When I bought my house in 2006 I spent about 2x the amount I should have to heat the house because I didn't know there was an open uninsulated vent in the top corner of the kitchen. Just take the gun and point it in every crack and corner of the house. You'll be able to tell which walls/windows are insulated and which are not.

Time how long it takes your house to heat up 10 degrees when it's 30 degrees out. This way you will be able to program your thermostat to drop down to the lowest temp when you are out then heat back up at the last minute before you get home. Remember, houses will take longer to heat depending on outside temp so make your adjustments accordingly. I find the lower you can take it down for longer actually saves fuel. You need to keep the heat above 55 to keep pipes from freezing, so never go below that.

If you heat with oil keep an eye on the wholesale oil market and fill up you tank on the dips. Usually this time on year is the lowest but sometimes it drops in the middle of the winter. I've averaged $2.77/gal over the last 7 years by doing my best to buy on the dips.
posted by any major dude at 9:17 AM on August 23, 2013

I've used a plastic film (not sheet) that you put a hairdryer onto to seal out the draughts. You put double sided sticky tape around the frame (not on painted areas), cut the film to size, stick it to the tape and then apply warm heat to shrink it to size. It doesn't do much to keep heat in, in the fashion that a double glazed window would, but it DOES cut down hugely on actual draughts. Which, on preview, several other folk have already mentioned...

It's not the most convenient thing if you have houseplants, though. I have a 3mm thick sheet of clear acrylic over a SW facing window, fixed to the frame by magnets. It's removable but also fixed closely. During hot weather, there can be a 6-7 degree difference in the air temp inside the room and the air temp inside the window "box".

I've also used a putty-like adhesive (Blutack in the UK) to fix smaller gaps around windows. It's not permanent so you can remove it without worrying about it damaging your paintwork.

I made myself a draught excluder for the door for very cheap from duct tape and foam water pipe insulation. It's shaped like this - o_o with the foam tubes on either side of the door. The flat bit slides underneath. It's not the prettiest of things, but you don't need to remember to push it back into place after you open or close the door.

Get your loft insulated, if you have one.

Go outside more when it's cold. It'll feel warmer when you come in. Are you looking for other ways to keep warm or is it specifically sealing the house?
posted by Solomon at 9:20 AM on August 23, 2013

Response by poster: Are you looking for other ways to keep warm or is it specifically sealing the house?

Specifically sealing the house -- we just drink more and put on extra socks when we need to create the illusion of heat. ;)

Can you get up in the ceiling/roof space and lay down insulation?

I think so, yes. I'm embarrassed to admit I've never been in the attic (it's weird to access). We've lived in this house a year. I think it's just an attic-brand attic--we don't keep anything up there except, probably, heat loss.

Does anyone know what type or rating of insulation to look at?

Re the plastic sheet things -- it's just a drag to not be able to open the windows for x months, and we have kind of a lot of windows so they're not a lot of fun to deal with. It would be preferable to seal the edges with rounded foam or something so they close more securely, but that might be it's own sort of pain and not as effective as the plastic sheets.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:37 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I live on the northern border of the continental US in a 1500 square foot house that pre-dates the Civil War. We used to spend $700 or $800 per month on natural gas heat in the winter. We also have the highest electric and municipal water rates in the state, and those bills were crazytown, too. When we decided to make our house energy efficient, we had to do it in a holistic way- an electric space heater made no sense for us, to use but one example.

We did nearly everything ourselves. The two most cost effective things we did were to install a pellet stove and insulate our attic and walls. Each of those projects cost $1000, soup to nuts, and, coupled with the window film, took our gas bill to $100 per month, plus about $30 per month in pellets. The small amount of electricity that the pellet stove's fan uses costs us about $5 per month.

A traditional wood stove can be cheaper to purchase and fuel. However, we have no woodlot, and no space for a woodpile. Pellet stoves are marginally more expensive and much, MUCH less work. (I've lived with both, so I know.) It is a purchase I have never regretted.

We got about $800 in tax goodness for these two projects, so after that factor, the improvements paid for themselves in about two months of winter utility savings.

The waters get muddier when we talk about replacing our windows and doors. Our windows are huge, we had 25 to replace. We shopped hard, called in a favor, spent a hair under $5000. We got about $2000 back in tax goodness because we went with argon and Uncle Sam approved low-e products. We spent about $3000, net, to reduce our gas consumption by $20 per month. That's a 15 year return. However, our old windows were in terrible shape, our new ones are fabulous, and I do think it was money well spent. I think it also has added value to our house in the event that we ever sell.

We have a hot water boiler and big old radiators. Pre-insulation, radiators that were on an exterior wall got a reflective insulating sheet slid between the back of the radiator and the wall. This is basically a sheet of cardboard covered in aluminum foil.

We have considered replacing our boiler, but it would cost around $2500 and I am not at all sure how much it would lower our bills. Right now, we make sure we have serviced every year so it performs with maximum efficiency. We are still looking at the tax situation to determine if boiler replacement is worthwhile.

We built solar space heaters and put them along our southern exterior wall and piped them into our basement (this involved replacing a basement window with glass blocks and lots of venting). The space heaters, if we keep the snow cleaned off, keep the boiler from kicking on at all (assuming that we also have the pellet stove going). The boiler is in the basement and we need to keep the pipes down there unfrozen, but the heat from the main floor pellet stove never gets to the basement. The solar space heaters solve this problem. They cost about $200 and save us between $20 and $30 per month in reduced gas, water, and electricity consumption, so they paid for themselves in less than a year.

Something else to think about is laundry. I know that's not a heat issue, but hot water consumes a lot of gas, and laundry consumes a lot of hot water. We replaced our hot water heater and got a front load washer. The hot water heater cost $500, and the washer was a floor model that we spent $300 on, and then we got back about $300 in tax goodness for both the water heater and washer, so the washer was effectively free. These two items knocked another $10 per month off our gas bill, and the washer cut our water bill down by about a third. Our electric rates are the highest in our state, and so we replaced our brand new electric dryer with a gas model. I hang dry at least 75% of our clothes, but with three kids and five month winters, we need a dryer. Despite my very cautious electric dryer usage, swapping dryers immediately cut $70 per month off of our electric bill and caused our gas bill to go up by about $5 per month. It is important to note that a front loader gets clothes so wrung out that it furthers the energy savings in an gas dryer- a gas dryer heats up much more quickly and gets hotter than an electric, so the clothes are dried much faster, which is to say, more cheaply.

(Off topic but related: we swapped our regular fridge for a chest model and save $50 per month on electricity. It was worth it to spring for the super-E dishwasher- uses $5 worth of electricity per month but saves us $1 per day in water versus hand washing dishes, so it paid for itself in a year. Ultra low flow toilet also saved us $1 per day, so it paid for itself in about six months. Low flow showerhead was only $25, I'm not sure how much it helps but it can't hurt. Same thing with new, unleaky faucets. We scrounged rain barrels (the trick to avoid mosquitoes is to put some aquatic plants and a few goldfish in each barrel) and spent about $70 on RainBird drip irrigators and rain chains, and we never have to run our hose anymore- our yard is just a tiny city lot, but it's basically all garden. We went from $225 per month on water, $225 per month on electricity, and an average of $500 per month year round on natural gas to spending $80 per month on each utility, all year round. It took a few years and quite a lot of doing, but are bills are 25% of what they were so it was worth it.)
posted by Athene at 11:00 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

A Terrible Llama: "It would be preferable to seal the edges with rounded foam or something so they close more securely, but that might be it's own sort of pain and not as effective as the plastic sheets."

In our last house, some of the window gaps were so large that we stuffed them full of polyester batting from the fabric store. It didn't look all that great, but it cut most the drafts completely. Use a butter knife to stuff it into the cracks as needed. The stretch film didn't work for us because certain small children who shall remain nameless liked to poke it with their fingers.
posted by jquinby at 11:09 AM on August 23, 2013

Best answer: A Terrible Llama: Re the plastic sheet things -- it's just a drag to not be able to open the windows for x months, and we have kind of a lot of windows so they're not a lot of fun to deal with. It would be preferable to seal the edges with rounded foam or something so they close more securely, but that might be it's own sort of pain and not as effective as the plastic sheets.

You could leave it off the 2 or 3 that you are most likely to open, but you lose a TON of heat through the glass, especially if it is not well-insulated double glazed. If you have a lot of windows, you really should give the plastic film a try.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2013

Something else to think about is laundry. I know that's not a heat issue, but hot water consumes a lot of gas, and laundry consumes a lot of hot water.

Yeah, we washed a lot on cold, and some on warm. Nothing on hot. When we lived in a big enough house that the humidity wouldn't be harmful, in the coldest months we closed off the dryer vent, pulled the hose inside, put a nylon stocking over the end, and cleaned the stocking after each use like the regular lint filter. It was also great to stand over in a long, flannel nightgown.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:31 AM on August 23, 2013

Well, I'm right in the middle of this, since I'm going from oil to geothermal+solar cells, and I need to seal my house. I'm getting the attic and floor insulated (the walls already have 3 inches of insulation), and I'm getting all windows and doors repaired, and then adding interior panes, which I can open or take off entirely during summer (some summers get so hot I need to be able to ventilate the house efficiently, since I have no aircon). I'm also adding an extra wood stove, because I have plenty wood. And last, but not least, I'm changing to underfloor heating, which is much more efficient. This will cost a lot, and I'm digging up/ruining my entire garden as part of it. But I calculated the cost of the loan over 20 years compared to my current heating and electricity bill, and I'll be on top after ten years already, and from then on have a surplus, if I stay at my current use (which I probably won't, but just getting out of those rising oil-prices will make me a lot happier). The climate in the house will be much more pleasant. And the trees I cut down in the garden will make excellent firewood.
The guy installing the geothermal system claims his first system is from the early 80's and still running impeccably, so there is a long return if one does it right from the beginning.
My ex is an energy auditor, and he approves of this message.

Mostly, one should not replace single pane windows, but restore them and add an extra internal pane. This is because the quality of windows is on an incredible decline. Even 70's windows, which we used to see as the low point of fenestration, are better than current windows. 1980's is on the edge of being as bad as those made today, but still, if they are single pane, you should look into keeping them.
posted by mumimor at 11:57 AM on August 23, 2013

I am a contractor. The key is caulk - but the time to caulk my have passed. It is best to go crazy with caulk when you renovate the room. Caulk everything. If possible, caulk the wooden floor before carpet or tile go down. Caulk everything like crazy before you paint.

Insulation comes with an R rating - the higher, the better. Higher R values can get expensive.

You should check if you local utility company or state has energy efficient programs. Most places do. Most power companies, especially in cities to help reduce load (and to win green points with the public) have some programs. Some utility companies will conduct a free energy audit on your house, and you get a well prepared 3 page report on every aspect of energy efficiency in your home.

Here is a government sponsored database of state incentives for renewable and efficient energy.
posted by Flood at 6:13 PM on August 23, 2013

Yes, for the insulation, the higher the R rating you can afford, the better. Of course, if you find that a lower R rating is less than half the price of the R rating that is double that, you can just lay down two layers of the lower rated stuff on top of each other. That's what we did. I don't know what you have available there, but we used "Earthwool" when we added extra insulation recently, and it was so much nicer to work with than the pink batts stuff. Not itchy, and you don't have to wear a mask, and it's just as good at insulating as anything else with a comparable R rating.
posted by lollusc at 10:14 PM on August 23, 2013

If you have those dinky windows up near the top of the basement walls, they always leak heat since they are single pane. In winter I lay up a sheet of paper-faced fiberglass insulation batt, which helps a lot.

We shrink-wrap the windows in one room still, though in this house I don't have to do any others.

Check the bottom of the doors for ridiculous gaps. Whoever hung all the doors here was clearly in the bag, as there are like 3/4" gaps!! I added new sweeps, and it got warmer.

Make sure your door latches are tight so that the door doesn't sag open even a little.

We had a fireplace we weren't using, so I stuffed a big batt of insulation up the flue to block the river of expensive warm air that rushed up it 24/7.

This is a sucky, hair-splitting job, I know, but totally worth it when you start to beat Ol' Man Winter!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:43 PM on August 24, 2013

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