We don't always have a lot of extra time for renovations and projects around the house, but here are five simple things you can do before cold weather sets in—that won't eat into your spare time or your budget! Any of these tasks will help prevent drafts from coming inside your house. Most can be done in an hour or two with minimal cost and if you do all five, you’re sure to save on your next heating bill when colder weather sets in.
1. Check the Basement
If money grew on trees we'd all be custom spray-foaming every nook and cranny of the basement, but if you're like me and don't have a money tree growing in your yard, set aside about an hour to do some basement sleuthing. If it's already finished, then this may not apply, but still, look around where pipes and wires are coming in and out of your home. Use a flashlight to look up through the joists where the walls meet the ceiling if it's open, or follow furnace pipes, air and laundry vents, and any electrical that makes an exit. If there is any space around a hole that isn't covered you can seal this up with exterior caulking from the outside, or with handheld spray foam on the inside—or both! A can of spray foam usually costs under $20 compared with the hundreds you would spend getting a company to come in and spray. Insulating around the rim joists can save you a lot of heat loss but is more time-consuming and a bit tricky to get right. If you notice a lot of cold air coming in from the outside at this spot, properly securing with batt insulation or spray foaming any cracks should do the trick.
2. Check Windows
Replacing old windows is the best option, but if you don't have the budget for it, there are a few DIY tips that may help prevent drafts from coming in. Many older windows will no doubt have a leak somewhere—most likely where the pane and sill meet, or around the edges. One solution is to use temporary caulking where the window opens and pry it off come warmer weather when you want to open it again. Similarly, you can buy plastic film that can be applied with a hairdryer to the whole window which substantially cuts down on heat loss. (But beware that you may also lose light or the clear view depending on the type you buy.)
An even easier trick is to purchase a "draft snake" which is a stuffed fabric tube that fits at the bottom of the sill. For the crafty types, you can make one yourself out of an old sock and dried rice. These can also be put at the bottom of doors, especially ones leading to a non-insulated basement or attic space!
3. Install Weatherstripping
Weatherstripping is paramount for proper exterior door insulation and is a great way to prevent drafts from coming inside. Most doors are installed with custom weatherstripping, but external elements can take their toll (especially if you have outdoor pets who like to scratch when they want in!). If you see daylight creeping in anywhere around the door, it's best to take off the old weatherstripping either all the way around or just on one full side depending on what area needs replacing (Sometimes you can peel it, but you may need something to help scrape it off properly.)
An easy DIY fix is to use "peel and stick" weatherstripping which is very simple to apply: simply measure the length or width and cut a piece to size, making sure it’s a snug fit from corner to corner. Tip: Make note of what size gap you need to fill before making a trip to the hardware store.
4. Hang Curtains and Drapes
If you don't want to seal your windows with caulking or plastic and the draft snake is only partially helping, you can put up some heavy curtains to keep the draft out. There are some that are specifically made to prevent cold weather from seeping through; look for "thermal" or "insulating" curtains for the best prevention of cold air coming inside. They can work the same way in the warmer months by reducing the heat that comes in as well. I like to have two sets for my home: lighter, airy curtains for spring and summer and thick, thermal curtains for times of hibernation.
5. Install a Door Sweep
The exterior doors in our homes are major culprits for nasty winter air to sneak through. Check the bottoms of any doors that lead outside in your house, feeling for drafts and looking for daylight seeping in. If the door does not completely seal with the floor threshold, a simple way to stop cold air is to install a door sweep.
There are two main styles to choose from: a u-shaped sweep that goes underneath steel or aluminum doors, or a flat piece of metal or hard plastic that you attach to the inside of the door.