What does it mean to “winterize” your home? And does it really help?


Still not sure what it means when someone says “winterize” your home? Today we’ll be debriefing the term—and don’t worry renters, you can implement many of the top winterizing tips without losing your security deposit.

A Sealed Envelope is a Happy Envelope

In a perfect world, we’d all live in buildings with perfectly sealed envelopes. According to Green Building Advisor, the envelope is “the part of the building you can draw a line around,” or the roof, foundation and walls. These elements endure all the curveballs nature can throw at them, repelling rain, melting snow, thunderous hail and sun hot enough to fry an egg. Most materials will swell and shrink with the freezing/thaw cycles of midwestern weather (see our post on winter potholes, for a more detailed explanation of this), potentially causing breakage and cracking.

Suffice it to say, our envelopes go through some wear and tear over time, leading to potential leaks, cracks—and chilly drafts that funnel hard won heat right out into the polar vortex. Older and single-paned windows (the eyes of the soul—and also a rather crucial part of a pleasant home) are particular problem areas, as the thin layer of glass is no match for a freezing outer temperature. Leaky windows and shrunken seals can create entry points for chilly air. Energy.gov reports that 1/3 of heat loss occurs through leaky windows and doors. 

Winterize It!

You can really winterize anything, if you try hard enough. Some might say using a beer koozie is winterizing, and to that we would say, why not? Here are the main types of tasks you can do to winterize:

  • Identify leaks, cracks and drafts and stop them up
  • Add insulation anywhere that needs it
  • Clean out filters, airways and anything that could compromise air flow

These tasks achieve a few main results:

  • Preventing heat loss
  • Improving heat retention
  • Ensuring that equipment that is vulnerable to cold doesn’t malfunction

Winterizing’s Greatest Hits

Some common winterizing projects around your home can include:

  1. Stopping drafts and leaks with towels or specially designed rubber and plastic parts to go under leaky doors can do wonders for keeping the heat from your heater actually in your home. Not to mention that leaky infrastructure leaks dollars and cents.
  2. Insulating by covering windows (particularly single-pane ones) with plastic wrap or bubble wrap, or doubling up on curtain thickness helps retain heat thats generated. Caulking and weatherstripping windows can prevent them from leaking air and heat. Jeff Yeager at AARP found that he saved $15 on his heating bill per $3 tube of caulk. Not too shabby, considering the bulk of our energy costs are for heating and cooling our environs!
  3. Wrapping pipes in pipe foam keeps them insulated so that water doesn’t freeze and then cause bursting. You can give your hot water heater a blanket, too!
  4.  A real money saver is checking that your roof is well insulated with our scientific snow blanket test. 
  5.  Ensuring heater filters are clear of debris, and replaced at least annually to improve air flow of hot air and efficiency. If you’re a renter, your landlord is probably already doing this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask! You’re the one paying the bill after all.

So can winterizing really make a difference? You bet! After all, it’s just a more common name for a set of passive design principles, which means less energy and money spent. So the next time you read that every degree you turn down the thermostat saves you money, think glass half full instead and start patching up those drafts. You could save some money—but more importantly, you could enjoy winter just that much more.