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Winter Guide '07: DIY Weatherproofing for Cheapskates

November 21, 2007, 12:00 am
By
It's easy to save energy-and money-at home.

Nothing makes winter worse than shivering in your own home. There are many ways to warm up the house and save money on heating costs, but the quick fixes aren't always pretty. By following feng shui color schemes and tapping into your inner artist, you'll have no excuse for warmth without aesthetic or a house that's fancy but freezing. ***image1***

Windows on the (frozen) world
When winter weather plays Peeping Tom and pops its head through those rickety old Santa Fe windows, it can be a rude shock. One of the best ways to insulate your windows is to install storm windows-but that's a project in the home-equity loan price bracket. It's much cheaper to caulk any gaps around the windows (something that costs in the neighborhood of $20, depending on how many windows you have and how leaky they are). And it's free to take the screens off of your south-facing windows; removing screens lets in more light to warm the house during our sunny winter days.

Another way to stop leaks is to install temporary window film. Of course, unless you have nice curtains hiding the plastic, it can be unsightly. No problem! Cover the windows with plastic shrink-wrap and, when they're shrunk down and snug, use plastic paint to create a stained glass effect (research your paint options at the hardware store). The dining room can include panels from Chartres; the living room windows can be modeled after Notre Dame. You pick the cathedral!

If you're no artist, then consider insulating "window treatments." Curtains and drapes, paired with sheer panels, will let in light and add extra insulation to keep cold air out. If traditional window treatments bore you as much as A Tale of Two Cities did back in the day, get more creative. Window quilts are just what they sound like: blankets that snuggle a window in warmth. While they can be custom ordered online (from companies such as www.1windowquilts.com), stock options are totally tasteful and totally boring. A less efficient, but cheaper and more attractive option, is to grab a cozy old blanket (or buy a new one in patterns and colors you like) and throw it over the curtain rod. The blanket insulates and can be pulled back to let the sun in on a nice day. On especially cold or windy days, a few thumbtacks or Velcro strips can be employed to ensure nothing gets through that barrier.

Quilts-which also can be hung on walls as insulators-trap humidity, which keeps rooms warm. So don't forget to fire up the humidifier or place a pot of water inside the fireplace; it'll keep skin soft and sinus infections at bay.

Having something so thick over a window might seem depressing, but a shade of red, yellow or orange makes up for the lack of sunlight. Stay away from blue, however; the rules of feng shui warn that just because a sunny sky is blue doesn't mean either a pale or dark shade is going to brighten up a room.
 
Get floored
Wood, brick and tile floors aren't the warmest things on which to walk and, lets face it, sometimes you want to go barefoot. Installing radiant heat or wall-to-wall carpet would fix that problem quickly-and expensively. Funky carpets add design to a room while giving those tootsies something soft and warm to step on-but you don't need to cover the whole house. A few warm rugs, one by the side of the bed and one in the bathroom, will keep you from turning up the thermostat as you put on your slippers. Look for area rugs in wool and other natural fibers.

Heating up the bedroom
Naturally warm blankets are the way to go. Bedeck your bed in flannel sheets, a wool blanket and a down comforter (check out Onorato Home & Ambiance, 107 E. Palace Ave., 984-2008 for some luxurious options) and you'll find you can set your thermostat significantly lower at night. Optimal sleep temperature is approximately  65 degrees, but with a fully loaded winter bed, you might snake it down to 60 degrees. (Programmable thermostats start are approximately $30, but can pay for themselves in a winter month or two.)

Sheets and blankets aren't the only ways to keep the bed toasty warm. You can update old-fashioned technology with a newfangled bed warmer. The bedwarmer has evolved from the long-pan-on-a-stick model to the ugly hot water bottle to finally something much more aesthetically pleasing and effective: clean, smooth river rocks. (The smooth, black rocks used for hot stone massages work great and they cost approximately $25 online. Check eBay.) Warm the rocks in a pot of hot water on top of the woodstove or the less glamorous kitchen stove. Stone is a natural conductor so it stays warm for a long time. When the stones are hot, drain the water. Cover your hands with cotton or wool socks before removing the stones, then place the stones inside the sheets until bedtime. It'll feel like the dog warmed up your spot but didn't leave behind any fur.

Coming and going
It hurts much more to fall down when it's cold outside, doesn't it? Protecting the area around the front door keeps you safe and dry while you lock and unlock the dead bolt. Hang a colorful awning over the entrance to make the house feel welcoming and be sure to shovel that snow as soon as it falls. The exercise will warm you up and you won't have to rely on environmentally unfriendly deicers. If you're stuck with solid ice on the porch steps, try a little sand or clay kitty litter to provide traction.

Also, check the front door for drafts. To do this, place your hand at the bottom of the closed door and note any airflow. On sunny days, you may notice sun creeping in from under the door. If it's leaky, install weather stripping and/or unleash your inner craftster and knit, crochet or sew a door snake in a funky color and pattern. Sew in a good lining and fill it up with sand or kitty litter, then sock it to that drafty door!

Looking warm is feeling warm
Even if you're an avid snowshoer, chances are that winter will have you inside a lot more than outside. That means the house has to look and feel cozy. You don't have to repaint the entire place in earth tones. A quick makeover will go a long way. First, put summer out of sight and out of mind by replacing the light jackets, skinny scarves and umbrellas with mittens and muffs.

Try setting the mood with light and scent, two cheap and easy ways to warm up a room without turning up the heat. Those awesome, bright white compact fluorescent bulbs save energy, but if they're too bright they might actually make a room seem darker. Switch those bright lights out with new, warmer white CFLs; anything under 2700 Kelvin (that's the temperature of the color) will match the look of a soft white bulb. If you want to go even further, you might sacrifice the environment for one favorite accent lamp and install a pink incandescent bulb. So cozy! Meanwhile, fire up a few scented candles to spruce up the room with soft flickering and yummy smells. Cinnamon and orange are two scents that trigger warm thoughts, which, in turn, fills the body with a warm glow.

Party all the time
Everyone knows that bodies emit heat. One great way to keep the house warm this winter is to invite 30 of your best friends over to dance, drink and share body heat. Make the event a potluck and keep desserts warm in a low oven. With a belly full of hot food and a killer soundtrack cranking, nobody will notice that you've turned the heat off completely.

PNM offers rebates for installing energy-efficient weatherizing products, including programmable thermostats. Go to www.pnm.com/rebates/gas_efficiency.htm for details.

 

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