No one likes paying high electric and gas bills. At the same time, living in Chicago means you have to keep yourself warm in winter. An extra blanket or two is a great way of staying warm while turning your thermostat down, but during the day walking around wrapped up in blankets is not an option (at least for most of us).
If you want to lower your energy bill without freezing and shivering, you have to get creative and engage in some DIY activities. After all, using less energy is good for your wallet and good for the environment. We have compiled a list of lesser known tricks that will save you some money and keep you warm throughout Chicago winter.
We will skip those tips that are either too costly to implement or too obvious. You can check out some of more ambitious and some more basic tips here.
1. Water Heater Insulation
Don’t leave your water heater naked! Give your water heater a customized jacket. Your water heater has a tough job through the winter months, with little insulation itself (especially in older models), yet it has to keep your water a piping hot 120 degrees. Help your water heater, and your energy bill, by watching this video to learn everything you need to know about water heater insulation:
2. Outlet Insulation
A slightly less-known, but incredibly simple way to add insulation to your home is through your outlets. Pre-cut foam insulators are available at your local hardware store, and can be simply installed by unscrewing the outlet cover, applying the foam, and ta-da, easy insulation. Outlet and light switch insulation is a great and simple way to save money on your energy bills. Although you can put them on every outlet and switch in the house, you’ll get the most bang if you put them on the outlets on the outside walls where the cold is felt the most.
3. Covering Fireplace
Unfortunately that aesthetic fireplace in the corner is outdated technology. Typically all fireplaces in older households don’t do a great job keeping your house warm. A lot of cold air enters through the chimney, and if you don’t use your fireplace often, always make sure the flu is closed. Consider placing a decorative slate over the entrance. If you do use the fireplace, which is a nice winter time pleasure, invest in a glass window that can conduct the heat better, or an air transfer blow-back system to circulate heat around the room.
4. Insulate your walls
Your walls comprise most of the outer surface area of your home. Many homes have cavity insulation in the walls, and upgrading to a material with a higher insulating value might reduce heating bills. If you’re adding insulation to previously existing walls without large insulation cavities, the U.S. Department of Energy encourages the use of sprayed-foam insulation, since it can conform to any shape and can be used in even the tightest gaps.
5. Let the sun do its work.
Chicago may get unpleasantly cold in winter, but it still gets plenty of sunnyt days. Milk them! It’s important to try to use as much natural - and free - heat (in the form of sunlight) as possible. Window shades and curtains should be kept open during the day. We see way too many people who keep their windows completely covered. Unless you are serial killer with dark secrets, it’s OK to open your shades and let some sunlight in! Closing your curtains as soon as dusk falls will maximize your house’s potential to retain that heat.
6. Fake it if you can’t make it.
Double glazing is heat-efficient but it’s pretty costly. If you can’t afford it, why not fake it? There’s a special film that you can put across single-glazed windows that can imitate the same effect. You can attach the film to the window frame using double-sided tape and then fix it using a hairdryer, she says. There’s a downside. You won’t be able to open your windows without breaking the seal.
7. Cover bare floorboards.
Floors account for as much as 10% of heat loss if they’re not insulated (although hardwood floors look oh-so-good!). Carpets came into being for a reason. Those with wooden flooring have to deal with heat loss. Rugs and blankets can help mitigate this and have the added bonus of keeping your feet warm. But if there are cracks or gaps in the flooring it’s a good idea to squirt some filler into them.