It's almost that time: winter is drawing close and the mild temperatures of autumn are all but history. It doesn't help that unemployment is at a high and many homeowners are facing astronomical heating bills due to last summer's home heating oil cost surge. From infant to adult, the wintertime can be rough as temperatures drop and families stuggle to keep up with bills. But fear not. You needn't turn up the thermostat to keep your family warm this winter. Instead, get creative with craft and home improvement projects designed to make your home warmer, more efficient and better managed.
Got cold feet? Warm up the bed before hopping in with an easy to make bedwarmer, suggests Susanna Donato, a green/money blogger from Denver, Colo., who lives in a 1950s bungalow. "Try a hot water bottle or do-it-yourself bedwarmer if just your feet are chilly. It can work wonders. To make a bedwarmer, fill a cloth bag with cherry pits, beans, or rice, and heat it up for a couple of minutes in the microwave (careful not to burn yourself!) before slipping it between the sheets," Donato, of Cheap Like Me, says.
You can also use this in a crib or toddler bed, so that it's warm when you put baby to bed -- just besure to remove the warmer first.
There are many places in your home where heat can escape, which will cause your furnace to work harder to insulate your home. GreenHomes America suggests starting with your attic to ensure that your home is properly sealed. "Air leaks from rooms below into the attic can be one of the biggest drains on energy and your bank account. Sealing attic air leaks can have a huge impact," the company said in a press release. Other places to check? Recessed lighting fixtures, the plumbing stack pipe and your attic hatch.
Ready to get crafty? Another way to keep you and your family warm at night is to make a warm sheet to go on your bed. Judy Novella of Fairfield Processing, a manufacturer of batting material, says it's a great was to reuse top sheets whose matching bottom sheets have worn out. "Make a simple, light weight insulated bed sheet from recycled top sheets by sandwiching quilt batting between the two sheets. Use it under a blanket for added warmth," Novella said.
For toddler beds, you can use one twin top sheet to make this helpful layer of warmth by folding it in half and installing the batting between the two sides.
During the daytime, your home can have a natural heat boost by opening up your curtains and shades to let the sun help heat your home, says Susanne Myers, the frugal living writer and voice behind behind Hillbilly Housewife. "At the same time avoid losing heat by keeping windows and doors shut. You may want to purchase some insulating strips to put around doors and windows to keep warm air from leaking out. Don't forget about vents in the bathroom and kitchen either. Use them as little as possible to avoid pumping warm air out," says Myers.
This is especially helpful in playrooms and bedrooms where the kids probably spend a good deal of time playing.
Programmable thermostats are nothing new, but with the latest models are very user friendly and have high-tech settings so that you can manage the temperature of your home throughout the day without touching a button. Ethan Ewing, president of Bills.com in San Mateo, Calif., says that the thermostats are easy to install yourself and could save as much as $150 per year. How?
"Turn the thermostat down a few degrees in the winter. A rule of thumb is that every degree you move your thermostat up in the summer or down in the winter saves 3 percent on the energy bill. On an annual heating and cooling bill of $1,000 (about average), moving the thermostat three degrees could save $100 per year and avoid nearly 1,300 pounds of carbon emissions," Ewing said.
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