5 Cheap Ways to Winterise Your Home

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If you live in an old or just plain cold home, you’re probably wincing at the thought of your electric bills this winter. I feel ya.

Now, I love living in an old house.

I love how the high ceilings give a feeling of space, even though it’s a small house.

I adore the hardwood doors that were standard when my house was constructed in the 1940s. 

That said, older homes aren’t best for the environment or our wallets.

This is especially true in wintertime when draughts and gaps become prevalent.

5 Cheap Ways to Winterise Your Home

The past few winters, we’ve tried some new cheap ways to get our home winter-ready and reduce our electric bill. The results have been excellent.

We’ve spent less on our monthly bills, whilst living in a warmer and dryer home. Here’s how:

1. Window Insulation Kit

This window kit has saved us hundreds of dollars in electricity usage.
This is number 1 for a reason! This Duck Window Kit is truly magic.

We don’t have the budget for new windows (plus I think modern windows look a bit weird in old, wooden houses), but the cold almost radiates off our single-glazed windows, especially at night.

As my son’s bed is near the window, I needed a quick solution.

I could not believe my luck when I found the Duck Window Shrink Film.

The kit consists of clear shrink film and double-sided tape.

The plastic film is fastened to the window frame with double-sided tape.

Essentially, you run double-sided tape along the outside edge of the window.

Then you measure and cut the film to fit the window (with around 50mm or 2 inches extra) and press it onto the double-sided tape.

The final step is going over the film with a hairdryer to remove any bunching or wrinkles. We found that this step made the film very taut.

You can barely even see the film once it’s on, here, I’m indicating with a pen. It’s truly awesome stuff!

I’ll admit I was sceptical that plastic film would actually work, but after reading Duck Window kit reviews online, I figured it was worth the punt.

The result: We all slept better with the heater on the lowest setting, and the next morning there was absolutely no condensation on either of our bedroom windows (we only put the film in the bedrooms).

We had not put the plastic insulation on our living room window, and it had condensation, so we know the lack of condensation in the bedrooms was a direct result of the window film application.

Can you believe that? Drier and warmer bedrooms, for under $40. 

Note: you do need to reinstall the window insulator kit each year as the plastic becomes saggy and ineffective.

Some of our windows have lasted two winters with the same film, but budget on replacing the film annually for the best results.

Interestingly, we’ve since had a quote for retro-fitted double-glazing, and it came to over $9000, so spending $40 and a couple of hours each winter is a huge money saver.

2. Add Insulation

Think of insulation as adding a woolly jumper to your house.

It helps to keep the heat in and also with noise, which is a godsend if you’re living in a small home with kids.

In our home, we have wool insulation in the ceiling and a type of foil under our wooden floorboards.

We have no insulation in the walls, but as we’ve renovated rooms and added new gib board (drywall) we’ve put insulation in.

That said, the walls weren’t necessary, and if my budget was limited, I’d focus solely on putting insulation in the ceiling as it’s “…generally the easiest, cheapest and most effective insulation to install” (Energywise).

That’s because heat rises, so insulation helps to retain heat within a room, rather than let it escape through the ceiling.

3. Ditch the clothes dryer

Don’t shoot me.

I have not owned an electric clothes dryer (or tumble dryer, depending on where you come from) since I left my parent’s home to live as an independent adult.

For many spoilt years, I used a laundry service (the DINK years), but even since setting up a home base with 2 kids, we still don’t have a dryer.

We line-dry everything, all year round.

It requires careful meteorological analysis (I follow the weather forecast) and strategic timing of washing machine use but so far, so good.

Here’s how we do it.

If there’s no rain forecast, we run a load of washing late at night, leaving the lid of the washer (top loader) open overnight so it doesn’t get stinky.

At first light, I hang the washing on our rotary clothesline.

In winter, this involves nearly freezing off my fingers.

We get the maximum sun on the washing from morning until early afternoon, then if things are still damp, we take our clothes horse to the front yard and hang the damp things there for the remainder of the day’s sun.

If it’s rainy, we use an indoor drying rack and an overdoor drying rack just like the one pictured below.

You can survive without an electric dryer over the winter, depending on your local climate.

Just make sure you crack a window open if you are drying clothes inside, as mould can occur.

4. Use door sausages for gaps

If, like me, you have kids who just love floor time, you’ll want to make that space as comfortable as possible.

For some reason, my hardwood timber doors have enormous gaps underneath, meaning we’d have to install the lushest (read: expensive) carpet ever to plug the gap.

Or we could just get a door sausage.

We were able to buy one cheaply from our local energy-saving centre, however here is a link to instructions on how to make one yourself.

5. Switch to LED bulbs

Image savings courtesy of EnergyWise.co.nz

I’ve tried to approach the LED issue as frugally as possible. First, I was only replacing with LED Bulbs when my old 60–75 watt incandescent bulbs blew.

That’s because LED’s are expensive (around $12-$15 per bulb here in New Zealand) and I’m a cheapskate.

But when I got a 3 pack for $21, I quickly switched out bulbs where we use them the most – kitchen, living room and bedroom lamps.

I’m more inclined to change my incandescent bulbs, as I have some CFL bulbs which are still going strong.

If you’re unsure whether to make the switch, check out this tool from EnergyWise.co.nz

Living in an old house can be tough on the finances.

Optimising your living space to be the most energy efficient it can be, by retaining natural heat and reducing your electricity spend, helps reduce your carbon footprint, whilst saving you money.

Everybody wins!

Do you live in an older home? What are your top ways to winterise your home?

About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Stuff, NZHerald, Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.