Since we’ve heard that winter 2021 is predicted to be an especially cold one in the United States, we thought we’d share a few DIY ways to improve the insulation of your home.
As the colder months come on, those who want to keep their house warmer on a low budget have a variety of options available to them. And some of these improvements you make to your home, if you’re able to make them hold up, might even offset its depreciation when the time comes to sell.
This article will focus on 4 areas where DIY projects can help you better insulate your house:
DIY Ways to Improve Home Insulation: Windows
The windows in your house are an obvious place where you can make some improvements to keep the place from getting colder.
Sealing Windows to Retain Heat in Cold Temperatures
One thing you’ll want to check is how well sealed all your windows are. Make sure to check all the windows in your home, and then you have a few options. The various conventional options include weatherstripping, storm windows, plastic, thick curtains, and caulk.
You’ll run into a few specific products meant to help windows keep heat indoors as well.
This rundown of how to prevent drafty windows from letting out heat lays out the differences between these several options, and you’ll get another take in this easy guide to window insulation from Home Depot.
Similarly, Indow Windows’ guide here gives a little more depth on these conventional methods as well as how to do it with their own product.
Choosing Thermal Curtains that Better Retain Heat
In addition to actually adding sealings to windows, doors, and other seams in the house, you can also get a little bit of warmth retention from choosing the right curtains or other window treatments.
Some main factors to consider here include:
- Material (especially layers and the thickness of the fabric’s weave)
- Placement (e.g. how tall, how far out from the window)
This guide from Toronto-based Centurian Window Fashions introduces you to a handful of different types of curtains, shutters, and other things that could cover your window, and explains the variations between them.
This neat visual guide shows you how to get the most out of winter thermal curtains, includes some diagrams, and even gets technical by referencing the international measure of insulation capacity, the R-value.
This friendly blog post actually addresses curtain heat retention for both winter and summer, and gives tips on what you should be looking for in the curtains—layers, why flannel is actually good, and what colors you want.
And then this review of the best thermal curtain products includes not just helpful assessments, but also a great guide for how to choose thermal curtains, including size, paneling, heading type, and material.
You’ll find another great set of reviews with tons of helpful pictures here.
DIY Ways to Improve Home Insulation: Doors
This is probably among the more obvious things you might adjust to keep your house warm in the winter. It’s worth making sure that your doors are sealed as tightly as they can be.
Of course, it’s easy to do it in a very simple way—just stuffing a towel down there.
However, here, we’ve tried to point you to some tips that really show you how to seal doors in your home in the most lasting and effective ways.
In general, you’re going to find a few different sorts of options:
- Plastic film on glass panes in the door
- Door sweeps (attached to the door itself)
- Updating your threshold
Actually, this handy guide is a good intro to these different methods, breaking down all the conventional options with illustrations and even a video. It also speaks to interior doors and garage doors.
For those who want to make really thorough improvements to the insulation of your doors, this excellent step-by-step guide by the Queen Bee of Honey Dos walks you through a bunch of different things you can do. She even shows you how you, yourself, can cut into your wall and add insulation between the door frame and the main wall itself.
On a similar level, this neat Appliance Analysts guide gives concise instructions in plain language for five different methods of insulating an exterior door in your home. They break each one down by the materials you’ll need and the steps to complete the task.
If you just want a little checklist, you’ll find a succinct summary of the steps to insulate a door in this simple resource from the Delaware-based PJ Fitzpatrick company.
Finally, in a lot of cases, there’s a door that’s got one or more glass panes in it. This excellent guide specifically addresses how to insulate the glass in a door. It’s got a bunch of great illustrative photos (and an amusing tone).
DIY Ways to Improve Home Insulation: Vents and Air Ducts
A less often considered way to keep your home warmer in winter is to make sure that your HVAC air flow pathways are clean and sealed tightly.
You’ve got to know what to look for, and there are certain things you can do while others require a professional.
Here, we’ve tried to set you up with DIY ways that you can seal and clean your home’s vents and ducts yourself.
In this great post on an Oregon real estate blog, you’ll find a direct set of tips oriented around the concept of your home energy score. After an introduction on where to find ducts, and covers:
- How to inspect your home’s air ducts
- What materials to use to repair them
- Simple steps to insulate your air ducts
An excellent and complete introduction actually can be found in the US Department of Energy’s guide Minimizing Energy Losses in Ducts here. You’ll find:
- Intro to how home air duct systems are supposed to work
- Diagrams of different duct designs
- A simple 4-step method to check your ducts
- A whole bunch of tips on simpler duct repair including what materials to use, how different levels of the house might need different treatment, and how to keep your house safe
This great guide from Zillow walks you through how to actually insulate your home’s air ducts, including:
- Why it matters and how much heat you might be losing
- Four types of duct insulation you should consider
- Understanding how R-value fits in (the international measure of insulation capacity)
- Testing and sealing ducts before insulating
- Exactly how to seal your air ducts, step by step (like, wow!)
Also see this short Q&A on the blog of Cincinnati-based HVAC company Apollo Home that addresses how to manage your vents throughout the seasons.
DIY Ways to Improve Home Insulation: Walls
Finally, of course, apart from all these other areas like windows, doors, and air ducts, you can make your house permanently warmer by adding insulation to interior walls.
This can be a big project, but lots of sources concur that the amount of work involved depends a lot on how much wall-area you want to insulate.
Actually on this, too, the US Department of Energy has a great introduction here for homeowners thinking about adding insulation to their home. They largely focus on how you can test and evaluate the insulation that’s already in your walls. They also explain what a formal energy assessment or home energy audit is, and how to tell if you need one.
Here’s an excellent how-to guide with diagrams, what order to do things in, and a list of tools you’ll need. They cover key aspects like:
- Sealing up air bypasses/ducts first
- How to vent attics and crawlspaces
- What types of material you do and don’t need to consider
- How much insulation you should
Here’s another good guide focused on materials, breaking down:
- Fiberglass (“batts”)
- Loose fill
- Spray-on fiber
This latter one also points you to a ton of suppliers in different states.
Additional Tips for Keeping Your House Warm in Winter
In addition to the home insulation improvement ideas listed in the four categories above, you’ll find some other, more general guides that are worthwhile.
- This thoughtful guide from Real Homes covers all the key points:
- Types of insulation
- Cost you should expect
- Doors and windows, attics, walls (interior vs exterior), floors, ducts, and more
- New England electric company Provider Power’s list of 5 DIY Ways to Insulate Your Home on the Cheap gives you some clever starting points that could make a difference right away.
- This article from Atlanta-based Assured Comfort walks you through some additional cool tips—for example, insulating your water heater.
- Of course the DIY Network breaks down the basics for you in this list of tips.
- Finally, specifically for those who have an old house, Neighborly has these great tips on adding insulation without hurting your home.
Hopefully, with these resources, you’ll be able to shore up your home’s insulation in time for the cold months of winter 2021.