Six Ways to Increase Energy Efficiency This Winter

With winter just around the corner, our thoughts turn to chilly temperatures, snow, and keeping the family warm and cozy all season long. To ensure high utility bills don’t interfere with your winter wonderland, be proactive and make a few small changes to decrease your home’s energy usage. Your wallet — and the environment — will thank you.

First Things First: Perform a Home Energy Audit

Your first step toward energy efficiency should be conducting a full home energy audit, which will help you understand your current energy usage and identify potential areas for improvement.

Many state energy offices and local utilities offer this service for free or at a discounted rate. You can always hire a certified Home Energy Rater through the ENERGY STAR® national locator or complete a basic do-it-yourself energy audit.

Don’t Let Heat Slip Through the Cracks: Weatherize Your Home

Identify sources of cold air drafts by slowly moving a smoke stick or incense around your windows and door. Once you have identified areas of energy leakage, your next step is to properly seal them through caulking and weatherstripping. This simple improvement can shave around 10 to 15 percent off your energy bills.

Caulking is generally used for sealing spaces around stationary areas such as walls and floors, whereas weatherstripping is used to seal movable areas such as operable windows and doors. The Home Depot’s got you covered on what you need to know to do both.

Upgrade to Energy Efficient Windows and Attachments

Did you know that up to 30% of a home’s heating energy can be lost through its windows? ENERGY STAR certified products make a big difference in keeping your home warm and energy efficient. For example, windows or patio doors with low-E (low emissivity) insulating glass have an invisible metallic film that works to keep the heat inside during the winter. Low-E glass is available in many JELD-WEN® windows, such as our Premium™ Vinyl windows. Select windows may also be ordered with double or triple panes and an argon glass fill for maximum efficiency.

Saying goodbye to inefficient single-pane windows and hello to double-pane, triple-pane or other ENERGY STAR certified windows is a crucial step toward energy efficiency. In fact, depending on where you live, making this switch can result in savings of $101 to $583 a year and reduce your carbon footprint by 1,006 to 6,205 pounds of CO2 (the equivalent of 51 to 317 gallons of gasoline), according to ENERGY STAR.

Smart use of window treatments can also help keep the heat in and cold out in your home. In the winter months, the sun shines brightest on the south-facing side of the home. Make sure you keep the blinds in this area open during the day to benefit from the sun’s natural heat and closed at night to avoid heat loss. Look to the US Department of Energy for recommendations on which window treatments will help improve energy efficiency in your home.

Consider an Insulating Front Door

Your exterior door plays a role in maintaining the optimal temperature in your home. A door with a solid insulating core will provide a strong barrier between the cold and your home. According to the US Department of Energy, insulated fiberglass and steel doors are good choices for achieving maximum energy efficiency with your front door.

Fiberglass and steel doors with insulating cores provide an extra layer of protection from extreme temperatures outside the home. A fiberglass door has the benefit of looking and feeling like a real wood door while offering significantly more thermal protection. Steel doors often utilize magnetized weatherstripping, which further increases their energy efficiency.

Get Smart with Your Heating

Properly maintaining your heating system will help keep your home nice and toasty for a low price. For example, clean air filters help prevent dust and dirt buildup, which can lead to blockages and system failure. Plus, a blocked air system means you are paying for heat without benefiting from its warmth. According to ENERGY STAR, your air filters should be inspected once a month and changed at least every three months for maximum efficiency.

Turning your thermostat down while you are sleeping or away from the house can also significantly decrease energy usage. There’s no reason to keep the heat fully on while you are away at work and the kids are at school. This is where “smart” programmable thermostats come in. A programmable thermostat can save your household throughout the year, allow you to control your heat remotely, and automatically turn your heat off according to your usage patterns. Be sure to check out CNET’s smart thermostat roundup before making the switch.
Photo: Chris Monroe/CNET

Make Sure Your Home is Properly Insulated

Proper insulation is critical for controlling the temperature and energy usage in your home. Around 25 percent of heat is lost through the roof and attic, making this area of the home a great place to target for better insulation. Whether you are enlisting professional help or going at it yourself, this guide will provide you with some useful insulation insights.

Your floors are another important area for insulation and account for about 10 percent of heat loss in the home. The right flooring can make all the difference in keeping your home warm during the winter. Carpet is a classic for insulating floors, but some surprising materials, like stone, also possess warming properties when paired with an insulating underlayment or radiant heat system. An easy option for increasing the warmth of your floors would be simply adding a stylish area rug to your space. Check out this article from The Spruce for some guidance on keeping your floors warm.

 

Design a Harvest Table

Thanksgiving is the one holiday that is all about the table. Whether you’re hosting the entire extended family for football and a feast or all of your pals for Friendsgiving fun, everyone will gather together around a table (or two) to share a meal. Get inspired by the harvest season and create a beautiful, rustic table that your friends and family will enjoy lingering over for hours.

 

Set the foundation with a mix of materials and textures. A burlap runner is a simple, agrarian-inspired way to dress the table, and the pewter charger and silverware add a little luster, instantly elevating the tableau. Large metal hurricane lanterns anchor the runner, while their black finish brings balance to the color palette.

 

Let the table decor speak for itself: Keep place settings simple and unadorned with classic white or ivory plates, which are perfect for pairing with a metallic charger. The Apilco Tradition porcelain dinnerware collection is a timeless choice.

 

Find special ways to present even the basic elements, like a dinner napkin. An artificial stem of rose hips is delicately adorned with a pair of acorn charms and a handwritten tag that says, simply, “thankful.”

 

Whether you’re hosting five folks or 50, a name card is a fun touch for every table. We love this idea from a fall wedding — all you need is a humble pine cone and a handwritten tag for each guest. Use real pine cones, or combine with a pine cone-shaped candle and a little box of matches for a small gift for everyone to take home.

 

Candles are essential to a well-decorated dinner table, and you can never go wrong with plain votives. Specifically, clear glass votives with unscented white candles. Much like a pair of diamond earrings, these basic candles go with everything. The unscented wax won’t interfere with the heavenly aroma (and taste) of your food, and the glass votive itself is small but sturdy, making it a safer choice than tea lights.

 

They call them centerpieces for a reason, you know! Flowers are the finishing touch to every tablescape, and at the rustic Thanksgiving table, fall’s fiery hues inject a riot of color and take their rightful place as focal point. We’re getting major floral inspiration from this quartet of autumn arrangements from Bouqs. With marigolds, mini calla lilies, roses, ranunculus, pincushion flowers and lush foliage among them, these arrangements would look perfect in small clusters down the center of a long table.

The Organized Home: Designed with Storage in Mind

Tidy spaces not only look good but also bring you peace of mind. Conquer clutter and achieve organization in style with this roundup of storage system ideas that will bring maximum efficiency and a polished aesthetic into your home.
Laundry & Utility Rooms
This Seattle laundry room, designed to pamper pets with a bathing station and feeding area, boasts a charming wallpaper patterned with canine silhouettes. Base cabinets along the wall provide storage and plenty of workspace. The adjacent stacked washer and dryer set saves space and helps maximize efficiency.
Make the most of a long hallway laundry room by taking advantage of vertical space. These top cabinets add extra storage capacity by going all the way to the ceiling, while the base cabinets offer easy access to essentials as well as a utility sink and spacious countertop and folding area.
A luxe laundry room? Yes, please. Rich wood cabinets and earthy surfaces elevate the everyday, and a pair of large pendants illuminate the space and highlight the elegant utility sink. The centerpiece of this space, the console-style sink features an oversized basin and refined details like wall-mount faucets and tapered legs.
Red alert! This space has it all: a home office, a serious laundry center and tons of storage. The glossy red cabinets and stainless steel surfaces combine form and function for a modern space dedicated to efficiency and organization.

Garages & Outdoor Storage

These Motor Trend Garage Cabinets by Closet Factory will transform your garage into a showroom of organization! Full-size gray melamine cabinets offer storage for even the bulkiest items, while the open shelving puts everyday essentials within easy reach. With a focus on the gardener, this garage features steel shelves for heavy duty items like soil bags and pots, plus a slatwall to organize tools vertically.

 

Inspired by the timeless red sports car, this garage evokes a vintage service station, with a classic Craftsman storage system, rich wood-paneled walls, and hanging fluorescent lighting.
Not all garages have cars! This beautiful barn by Smith & Robertson, Inc. was designed by South Carolina architect Wayne Crocker, and it houses the machines and implements needed to maintain an estate. In addition to various workrooms, the barn features indoor and outdoor spaces created for rest and relaxation after a long workday.

Kitchens & Pantries

A bank of Shaker cabinets elevates a smart utility room in this Leicestershire, England, space. Painted in deVOL Kitchens’ own Pantry Blue, with a Carrara marble countertop and under-mount copper sink, the workspace has ample storage including spacious base cabinets that conceal a laundry bin and separate recycle and trash bins, and open shelving for stacking firewood.
To maximize storage in a small area, take full advantage of the vertical space! This bar nook has ample open shelving for easy access to glassware, coffee mugs, and upright bottle storage, plus plenty of counter space.
From the glass-front display cabinets with interior lighting to the Carrara marble countertops and wrought iron hardware, the butler’s pantry in this Bergen County, New Jersey, home is the epitome of elegance. The interiors of the cabinets are chocolate brown cherry wood. The exteriors feature custom French blue stained and glazed cherry.
This two-door wall pantry is all about smart storage. Open shelves put everything within easy reach, while baskets and bins help keep prep tools and pantry essentials organized. Additional wire shelving on the pantry doors is ideal for storing frequently used ingredients. The pair of recessed lights are a helpful addition.
This modern New Orleans home takes a streamlined approach to storage and organization. The long, narrow pantry has one full wall of open shelves that accommodate everything from paper towels to small appliances. The opposite side features a wall of cabinets and drawers punctuated by a spacious countertop for prep work.

A Home Fit for a Party

 

The season of giving and get-togethers is around the corner. Add warmth to your celebrations by creating a comfortable and inviting aesthetic from the moment your guests step inside your home.

Welcome Guests with an Inviting Entryway

Your front entryway is the first impression you give to your guests; make it count with maximum curb appeal. The color you choose for your front door serves as a reflection of your personal style. Check out our post on front door upgrades to explore some of the latest trends. Simple additions such as potted plants or welcome mats go a long way toward creating a welcoming entrance for your guests. Strong lighting, a large awning, and seating by the door helps create a nicer environment for anyone who might need to wait for you—especially if it rains or happens to be very sunny and bright out.

 

Barn Doors for Flexibility and Open Space

Transform your space with sliding barn doors that dramatically open up the layout of your home. Barn doors offer the flexibility to create fluidity between rooms, creating larger open spaces for hosting big parties while still providing the option of a more intimate atmosphere for smaller gatherings.

Sometimes it’s nice to close off the kitchen from the rest of the house. Depending on the layout of your home, barn doors in the kitchen are a great solution to improve the flow. They allow hosts the option of keeping things calm for guests in the living room while managing busy activity in the kitchen as meals or drinks are prepared.  

 

Elevate Your Dining Room with an Elegant Centerpiece

Whether you’re hosting a massive holiday get-together or a simple dinner with friends, an elegant centerpiece will impress your guests before you even begin serving. Extravagance is not necessary to achieve a beautiful centerpiece. Simple greenery such as branches from a eucalyptus or olive tree, paired with candles, makes for a lovely table focal point. Here are more easy centerpiece ideas from Martha Stewart.

 

 

Small details make a big difference when it comes to your table settings. Bundles of rosemary or lavender delicately tied to cloth napkins look lovely and provide the added benefit of a subtle aroma to your dining room. Incorporating candles into your centerpiece also dramatically improves the room’s ambiance, but be mindful of candles with strong scents that could overpower the delicious smells of the meal you have prepared.

Upgrade an Outdoor Space

Depending on the season and climate, an outdoor area can be the perfect place for entertaining. Take it a step further and upgrade your grill for some serious outdoor cooking. An outdoor fireplace will further enhance your space as well as open the possibility of utilizing the space during colder months.

 

Blur Boundaries with Patio Doors

Much like barn doors inside the home, folding or sliding patio doors can significantly open up your space and blur the boundaries between inside and out. In addition to allowing guests to transition easily between environments, having an indoor/outdoor space in your home makes the house feel beautifully expansive.

Achieving Hygge in the Home

 

Hygge, pronounced hue-gah, is a Danish term that stems from the Norwegian word for “well-being.” There’s no direct English translation, but broadly speaking, the word hygge embodies the feelings of warmth and contentment that come from enjoying life’s simple pleasures. From sipping a warm cup of tea to a snuggling up with a good book, hygge is about slowing down and finding joy in the little things. It is not something that can be bought in stores; rather, it is a way of life.

While hygge is most often associated with cold weather and winter, the coziness of it can be felt year-round no matter the location or the weather. Thoughtful details in design and décor are an essential part of achieving hygge within the home, so we have rounded up some easy ideas for creating it in your home.

To learn more about the concept, check out Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.

Get Cozy with Candles

There are few things more hygge than relaxing by the light of a flickering candle. Candles create a warm and intimate setting that is impossible to replicate with artificial lighting.

Scented candles are especially great: aromatherapy has been empirically proven to enhance positive emotions and relaxation. Check out Apartment Therapy’s list of the best scented candles for achieving instant hygge on any budget.

 

Relax in a Spa-Like Bathroom

Your bathroom has so much more potential than a place for a quick shower. It should be the epicenter of self-care in the home. A few renovations and additions could transform your washroom into a hygge-worthy oasis perfect for at-home spa days and relaxation.

You might consider installing new tiles on the floor or in the shower, investing in a jetted tub or giving the room a serene new paint color. But in the bathroom, you don’t have to go big to go hygge: Small details such as soft towels, a new shower head, humidity-happy plants, scented candles and wall art can dramatically improve the atmosphere. For more inspiration on creating a luxurious spa-like bathroom, check out these 65 calming bathroom retreats from Southern Living.

 

Keep it Calm with Balanced Neutrals

While we are all for the occasional burst of color, overstimulation of the eyes can be tiring and get old quickly. The Danes typically avoid loud colors and stick with monochromatic color schemes with subtle tonal incorporation. You can’t go wrong with a neutral color palette when trying to achieve a serene environment at home. Soothing tones like creams, browns, pale blues and light grays promote relaxation. Pastel colors such as lavender or sage green are also great for achieving mellow hygge vibes.

 

This being said, if you are a big fan of vibrant colors in the home, don’t worry. You can still incorporate strong color while maintaining a relaxing feel, but balance is key. Posh Coloring Studio has some great hygge-inspired color schemes that will fit a variety of styles.

 

Bring Warmth Through Textures

Fill your home with things you like to touch. No matter what your climate, soft and plush blankets and pillows inspire feelings of comfort and warmth. Faux fur throws, pillows and rugs add a luxurious coziness to any space, especially during the colder winter months. Pairing a furry throw with the sleek, smooth surface of a leather couch or crisp cotton sheets will enliven your senses, providing feelings of essential comfort that we sometimes take for granted.

 

Energize with Fresh Flowers & Houseplants

Houseplants and fresh flower bouquets can instantly brighten and energize the home. Besides enhancing the atmosphere of your home, indoor plants offer a wide array of benefits. In general, plants release oxygen and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale, working to enhance and purify the air we breathe. Many indoor plants take it a step further and actually remove harmful toxins from the air. Check out HGTV’s list of 10 plants that look great and purify your home’s air at the same time.

 

You don’t need a green thumb to feel hygge from greenery in the home. Fresh-cut flower bouquets are a great option for those not looking to take on the responsibility of caring for a houseplant. They’re equally beautiful and offer some unexpected benefits as well: One interesting study has shown that investing in fresh flowers throughout the home actually encouraged homeowners to keep a tidier home.

Feelings of hygge can be found not only from the appearance of lovely bouquets but also from the process of preparing and arranging the bouquets. The ancient Japanese art of flower arranging, Ikebana, offers some insights into why this activity can feel so replenishing.

 

Declutter the Danish Way

A clean and tidy home can do wonders for the soul. Visibly decluttering your home is a great way of achieving hygge, but we know that can be easier said than done. That’s where storage systems come in: The right interior door can help you beautifully conceal the trinkets and treasures you’re just not ready to part with, providing you with the best of both worlds. Stylish cabinetry and shelving are another great way of maintaining an orderly aesthetic.

If you haven’t already, check out our post on using interior doors to conceal the areas of organization in your home.

Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays

The dropping temperatures and seasonal to-do lists of the holidays have a tendency to sneak up on us all. Stay one step ahead with these simple holiday renovation tips that will leave your home (and wallet) ready for the upcoming season.

Warm Up Your Living Room with a Fireplace Facelift

Winter often includes family making memories around a warm, crackling fireplace. Give your fireplace the holiday makeover it deserves with some easy upgrades, starting with your mantel: These installation instructions from This Old House will help you replace an outdated mantel with one that beautifully frames that glowing view.

 

Giving your mantel and hearth a fresh coat of paint is another fast and easy way to provide it with a budget-friendly update. Placing a mirror above your mantel mimics a window and provides a sense of open space and additional light.

 

It’s true that nothing beats the crackling of an authentic, wood-burning fireplace. However, replacing your wood fireplace with a gas, ethanol, or electric fireplace insert can save energy and reduce emissions from burning wood. Most of these installations are straightforward enough for a DIYer to achieve without outside help. To learn more about the different types, benefits, and installation requirements of wood fireplace alternatives, check out this detailed article from the guys at The Blazing Home.

 

Revamp Your Guest Room for Relaxation

Making sure loved ones are comfortable when visiting your home is essential, but it’s tough to take on a guest room makeover project during an already hectic season. That’s why early fall is a great time to start updating your guest room.

Rethinking the room’s color scheme is an excellent place to start. A fresh paint job and new bedding can do wonders for the ambiance of a room. For a relaxing feel, the experts at Houzz recommend decorating with cool and neutral tones — grays, icy blue, sage green, and muted lavender. For a moody, cozy vibe, Homedit recommends opting for rich browns, dark blues, and deep hunter greens. Accent decor in complementary colors and fun prints will add visual interest to your newly painted guest room.

The little things can go a long way in a guest room. Lightly scented candles or fresh flowers instantly improve the atmosphere of the room, while thoughtful amenities such as a bedside lamp, alarm clock, or television can help your guests feel more at home. Dark, heavy window dressings allow your guests ultimate control of the room’s lighting, giving them the option to sleep in comfortably. Small details such as these will make your guests’ stay that much nicer.

 

Give Your Kitchen a Fresh New Look

With family in town, your kitchen will be put to good use. A few simple tweaks will have your guests as impressed with your kitchen as they are with your cooking. If your budget allows, consider updating major appliances like your stove or refrigerator now so you can enjoy them throughout the holidays. Having the right tools in place can make a big difference in how smoothly your cooking plans go. If new appliances are not needed or within budget, think about what smaller and more affordable upgrades would truly enhance your kitchen.

 

The look of your cabinets has the potential to make or break your kitchen’s style, but replacing cabinet doors can be costly and usually requires outside help. Instead, work with what you have: Refinishing your cabinets is a fantastic way to give your kitchen a sweet new look while keeping costs low and outside help minimal.

 

Give your cabinets a thorough deep cleaning with soap and water. Once you have a tidy foundation, a fresh coat of paint and new hardware will bring life back to your kitchen. HGTV has some great tips for guiding you along a DIY cabinet refinishing project.

 

Winterize Your Pipes

Taking the necessary measures to protect your pipes now before temperatures drop can save you from major headaches and costs in the long run. Experts recommend that any preliminary steps be taken before Halloween. The cold weather that follows can cause the water in your pipes to freeze and expand, creating pressure within your pipes that can increase the risk of fracturing and bursting.

 

Piping in the home’s exterior, basement and attic are the most susceptible to freezing due to their exposure to cold air. Essentially any exposed area in the home is vulnerable to freezing, so it’s important to start by sealing any visible cracks around the exterior of the home. If your bathroom pipes extend to your home’s exterior, leave your bathroom cabinets and door open on the coldest days to encourage heat circulation. And don’t forget to leave both cold and hot taps dripping at a trickle throughout the coldest nights!

 

Insulating the pipes in your home can help avoid freezing, but unless you have plumbing experience, this task may be best left to the experts. If you’re planning to leave home for an extended period during the winter, taking these steps from The Balance will help prevent damage while you are away.

Check out our latest holiday Pinterest board for even more holiday renovation and decor inspiration.