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Low-cost ways to winterize

We asked local experts for advice.

You’d like to reduce your heating bills, but you can’t afford new windows or a new high-efficiency furnace?

You’re not out of luck.

Several local experts suggested low-cost, low-effort ways to winterize houses. We consulted Sue Eckert, who for the past 30 years has owned Greive Hardware in Kettering, as well as John Downing, owner of Downing’s Do It Best Hardware in Springfield, and Greg Troy, owner of Yeah, We Do That Remodeling & Handyman Services in Mason.

Here are some budget-friendly ways they suggested for preparing your house for winter:

1. Seal the cracks. “People don’t understand that the cold weather doesn’t come in; it’s the heat that escapes,” Downing explained, noting there are a lot of inexpensive products that can help keep the heat in around windows.

Our experts mentioned two kinds: permanent and removable.

Permanent products include caulking and self-adhesive foam tape.

A common (though also noticeable) removable product is a plastic shrink film that you tighten around your windows with a hair dryer, Eckert explained. It’s clear plastic, so you can still see through the window, and you can remove it at the end of winter. She estimated it costs about $4.50 per window.

An environmentally friendly product is rope putty that you can press into the cracks where the windows close. You can peel it off again in the springtime, allowing you to open the windows, but you can save and reuse it every year.

Or if you have heavy curtains and don’t mind lack of light, just shut the curtains for the winter, Troy said.

Downing also suggested installing weather stripping around doors.

2. Protect your pipes. Shutting off the water to the outside of the house is your best bet, Troy said. But there are other possibilities, too.

For outdoor faucets, Eckert recommends two approaches: using foam faucet covers or leaving a light bulb burning on the inside of the wall where the faucet is located on the coldest nights.

And here’s a solution that costs nothing at all: opening cupboard doors to allow heat to reach pipes when temperatures fall below zero.

If you’re “really worried,” Eckert said, you can wrap pipes with heat tape that has an internal thermostat and keeps the pipes warm.

3. Insulate wall switches and outlets. “A lot of people don’t realize that there’s a lot of draft” through these, Troy noted. But the solution is simple: Screw off the switch plate, insert a pre-cut foam insulation piece and screw the plate back on.

Downing noted this is necessary only for the switches located on the house’s outer walls.

4. Inspections. Troy suggested getting a furnace inspection and cleaning, as well as cleaning out and checking your fireplace and chimney if you plan to burn wood fires this winter. And check your gutters, too, he said, noting that if they get clogged, they can fill with water that creates an “ice dam,” which could eventually damage your roof and pull your gutters away from the house.

“You can save a lot of money” with just a few easy steps, Downing said, noting he used to do presentations for groups on this very topic.

And you don’t need to do much work to save money either, Eckert said.

“I don’t really get into the rolls of insulation in the attic” or other labor-intensive, expensive projects, she said.

“We’re a hardware store; we’re small-job oriented.”

For more tips like this, see a weekly blog that Troy writes, online at

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