Heat on the cheap

Five ways to winterize your home for less than $100

Daniel Schnurrenberger seals air leaks, a technique to be covered at SIGBA’s winterizing workshop, which he’ll help lead.

Daniel Schnurrenberger seals air leaks, a technique to be covered at SIGBA’s winterizing workshop, which he’ll help lead.

Photo By eli meyer

So you want to make your home more energy efficient this winter. What are you thinking? A little solar thermal, maybe some radiant floor heating? If you’re like many this season, your response to that might very well be, “Yeah, right. In my more economically advantaged dreams.”

What’s not so out-of-reach are some measures the Sierra Green Building Association (SIGBA) will be presenting Dec. 6 at its winterizing workshop for homeowners and renters. The best part is most of their suggestions can be done for well under $100 each.

“People are struggling, and we feel it’s important to give people tools for green building that can apply to the common person and not just people looking to build new homes,” says SIGBA president Eli Meyer. He’s also program manager for a project with SIGBA and the Truckee-Donner Public Utility District that helps low-income households become more energy efficient. He offers the following winterizing tips:

1) Get rid of air infiltration. A can of spray foam and a caulking gun are simple tools for less than $10 that can help reduce air leaks around electrical outlets, through plumbing leaks under cabinets and in your crawlspace. Paying someone else to crawl under the house through dirt and cobwebs may be enticing, but doing it yourself will save money.

2) Replace the seals around doors. Place your hand by the bottom of your door and feel how cold it is. This is a common area for air to enter the house. Meyer discourages replacing all your door seals at once, as it can be a daunting process. The workshop will help explain how to choose door seals so that wandering down the door seal aisle at the hardware store is less of a mystery. However, if you have the know-how, sealing a door should cost between $10 and $30.

3) For drafty windows, spend about $10 to $20 for a clear plastic film that you apply over the windows with a hair dryer. “The bummer about those is they’re not really reusable,” says Meyer. “A more green alternative would be getting nice, heavy drapes for window covering.”

4) Replace recessed can lighting. This style of lighting is basically creating a hole in your ceiling. These can be replaced with a hallway light fixture, which can be found in a range of prices under $100.

5) Seal ducts. Leaky ducts represent 30 percent of the heat loss in a typical home. Meyer suggests using mastic tape, not duct tape, to do this. “The professionals do not carry rolls of duct tape,” he says. “Duct tape is great for other things—anything but ducts.”

Some workshop participants will get to test these measures out firsthand, as they will be applied at the private residence hosting the event.

Meyer mentions that you’re not likely to risk getting your home too tightly sealed with just a caulking gun, but if you do seal it well, make sure you have proper ventilation. Saving energy and being warm is nice, but mold and carbon monoxide poisoning are not.