Here are 7 ways to winterize your home on a budget. We'll give each one a pricing rank: $ = low price, $$ = moderate price, $$$ = slightly higher cost.
1. Add weatherstripping to your doors and windows. Keeping treated air from escaping and drafts from blowing in can make a 5% to 10% difference in your energy use. This is a DIY project with a good payoff. $
2. Seal exposed ductwork in attics and basements. Check for gaps in seems and joints, holes, or other places where treated air can escape. Use metal duct tape rather than cheap vinyl duct tape that won't hold as well or be efficient. Experts say that as much as 20% of treated air can escape through leaky ducts, so this is a great way to save money! $
3. Put an insulation blanket on your water heater. If you have a tank-style water heater, you are losing money through stand-by heat loss. The tank warms up 30 or 40 gallons of water and then it starts to cool off, wasting money. An insulating blanket will slow down the heat loss substantially. $$
4. Program your thermostat so that the system runs less when you aren't there. Let the temperature fall 10 degrees or so when the house is empty, and you can program it to warm back up before you get home. If you have a programmable thermostat already, this is a freebie. If you need a programmable thermostat, they are fairly inexpensive. $-$$
5. Run full loads of laundry instead of several small loads. Combining loads is easier these days because most of the dyes used are color-safe. They won't bleed. You'll reduce your water use and your overall electrical use.
6. Add insulation to the attic. In winter, heated air escapes through the ceiling into the attic and out of the house. In summer, the attic gets hot and that air pushes down into the house, causing the air conditioner to work harder. A layer of insulation in the attic will help year-round. $$$
7. Have your furnace or heat pump cleaned and tuned for winter. A dirty furnace or heat pump coil can waste 20% or more of the energy it uses. That's a lot of money over the course of a heating season. Having your entire HVAC system maintained before winter is a cost that might pay you back very quickly. $$-$$$
These are very good ways to reduce energy use on a limited budget. They are easy to accomplish and you will notice immediate results -- lower energy bills every month going forward!
For more energy efficiency tips and resource guides, please visit the Home Improvement section of the DIY Reviews website.