A couple of years ago, my friend Ally and I volunteered (via our jobs) for the Keep ME Warm campaign. The idea was that the program provided window insulation kits, outlet insulation kits, caulking, foam tubes to put around pipes, and wool blankets to needy families to help cut down on winter heating costs. Volunteers like myself showed up at the families homes and did the winterizing for them with these materials.

Because Ally and I are wimpy and aren’t so good at telling things like where cracks in foundation are and which pipes are the hot water pipes (no sense using the foam insulators to insulate the cold pipes, right?), we were in charge of outlets and windows which are done from inside the house. I felt sorry for the first couple of houses we did together (not because the windows looked bad but because we were fighting a bit about being the alpha insulator) but by the end of our day, we had it down to a science. We went home with some new found knowledge and a free wool blanket.

Since heat has always been included in my rent, I’ve never worried about heating costs. That’s not to say I don’t put on a sweater and slippers when things get cooler rather than turning up the heat but I’ve never used my skills in winterizing my own house.

I suggested to my boyfriend yesterday over our diner breakfast that we buy window insulation supplies and outlet insulators, since he is paying the heating bill and hasn’t yet indicated to me that he is loaded enough to have money to throw away. I argued that the inital investment would decrease our overall heating costs substaintially. He agreed…after I agreed to buy the supplies.

After plastifying our draftiest window, he got my point. He installed all the outlet and switch insulators himself. "Wow, there was quite a draft coming from that one!" he’d say. I pointed out the wind slightly moving our window plastic, unable to come into the house. I had convinced him to cover his pipes last year with foam tubing so that was already done. It felt like a pretty productive afternoon after we were done our work yesterday. Apparently, you can save upwards of 50% of evergy costs from doing some very simple things like these.

If you’re worried that the window plastic will diminish the look of your house, please don’t. It’s very clear and you can’t even tell it’s there until you get fairly close to it. And the outlet insulators disappear under the covers. For about $50 (including the pipe covers bought last year), our house is winterized. And the best part is that even renters can do the changes we did because you can always take things down once winter is over with no damage. Now if only I can convince Sean that we should get a programmable thermostat…

So you can go to any hardware store and they have a whole aisle dedicated to this stuff. The toughest part is sticking the double stick tape to your windows (step one in the insulation process), as it is some pretty flimsy stuff. I suggest working with shorter pieces of tape and being patient. Doing one window will teach you a lot. Everything else is much less labor intensive, I promise. And the directions on the box are actually pretty good, which is great considering I couldn’t find a good enough web site online to show technique.

Stay warm and find $50 to do this if you are paying a heating bill. It’ll more than pay you back.

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