We all know that good roofing, insulation, windows, and other big-ticket items are huge when it comes to staying warm, but there are also some small-but-pack-a-punch things that I’ve come to learn over the years that I wanted to share, particularly now that we’re living out here on the farm. Back in the city, getting contractors to do energy efficient upgrades was SUPER easy and because of that, prices were competitive but out here? It’s often a hassle and you’re lucky if they’ll make time for you as they are few and far between, and because of that often treat people with less-than-courteous service. The best advice I got when we moved here? “Learn how to DIY if you want most things done.” So while we saw ourselves as pretty handy, we went next level and learned how to do things like replace our own windows (saved over $15K doing it this way) and put up drywall (after the guy doing it in our kitchen remodel last year did such a poor job, we watched some YouTube videos and bam! Never hired anyone again to do it. Thankless work, but wayyyy cheaper y’all.).
So beyond those big projects? Here are some smaller things we’ve done that have made a considerable difference…
1) My very very favorite thing is replacing our window coverings with insulated curtains. Now these don’t have to necessarily be “blackout” curtains but they do need to be labeled insulated. SO worth it – and if you look around, you CAN find deals on these. I switched our pretty-but-fairly-sheer ones in our new master bedroom with these insulated simple white velvet beauties – for $40 with a 2 for 1 coupon at Fred Meyer – and it’s made a huge difference. Not bad !
2) Have a toasty warm downstairs thanks to your wood stove, but sleep upstairs and are therefore shivering because despite your best efforts, that warmth is not snaking its way up to your room? Invest in an energy-efficient space heater! No, not one of those cheap ones from Costco or your grandma’s house, but one that is rated high on the energy efficiency scale. Now Energy Star doesn’t rate these, unfortunately, but after a lot of research I found that the DeLonghi HMP Mica Thermic Panel Heater, at around a hundred bucks is rated at the top of the list for energy efficiency…and it’s both safer and prettier than most out there (plus you can even mount it on the wall if you want!). Now, $100 may seem like a lot but when you think about how high your bills can get jacked up if you turn on the furnace – particularly in a larger &/or older house? It’s a good investment…and you’re not wasting energy heating rooms you’re not in while sleeping! We turn our wood stove down low so there is still heat in the AM (check out this blog post to learn about what wood stove we use and how we built our own hearth!), and with this space heater combined with a good down comforter? We just turn it on, let the room heat up, then turn it off…and we’re good til morning!
3) Stand near the door and feel cold? It’s probably the teeny tiny draft coming in underneath the millimeter or so between the door and the threshold. If you’re not feeling crafty enough to make one of those homemade door snakes? Head to the store and grab a ‘door sweep’ in the weatherization section for $6-7 and attach it. Seriously, takes like 5 minutes max. (PS – definitely AVOID the cheaper stick-on ones, it’ll die quickly!)
4) Got an outdoor pipe that is freezing up? Got a ton of bubble wrap stored up in the garage for that “someday” you’re going to need it for mailing? Voila! Wrap it up and use a couple pieces of duct tape to insulate those exposed pipes. Trashy? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely. Did this on our outdoor water pipes outside of our barn and this MacGyver-style project even made it through 60mph+ windstorm we had last week!