Warm air can leak out of a home from places small (electrical outlets) and large (picture windows). But there are steps you can take to close those gaps, beyond taping plastic to the windows (although that old standby certainly helps). Here are a few ways to help keep the cold air out and the warm air in this winter. These tips are mostly on the cheap, but those who can afford the expense might want to also consider some major improvements. McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers
Seal or weatherstrip doors and windows ($5 to $40). Bad window and door seams can pull warm air out of your home like a vacuum. Several manufacturers offer caulk or foam weatherstrips for doors and windows.
Insulate pipes ($2 to $5). Heat can leak out of hot-water pipes just as it can leak out of drafty homes. Reduce water-heating bills by wrapping hot-water pipes in foam pipe wrap.
Insulate outlet covers ($1 or less per outlet). Outlets and switch boxes on exterior walls aren't huge sources of heat loss from a home, but they are easily overlooked and easily remedied. Most hardware stores offer inexpensive foam insulating plates that slip discreetly under the existing plate to reduce the loss.
Replace the AC filter ($8 and up). A clean AC filter might not make your home warmer, but a dirty one will make it work harder, jacking up your utility bill.
Install a programmable thermostat ($25 to $100). No need to leave the heat at 70 degrees when you're gone all day or sleeping all night. A programmable thermostat allows you to control the temperature and save money (the EPA estimates $180 a year) without feeling the chill.
Install a ceiling fan ($100 to $300). A ceiling fan can help warm, as well as cool, a room, which can be especially valuable if the home has high ceilings, where heat gathers. Most ceiling fans have switches that reverse the direction of the blades, so the fan can gently pull cool air up and push warm air down. Look for Energy Star-rated fans, which will use less juice.
Add attic insulation ($50 to $100). Experts recommend at least 12 inches of insulation, so if you can see your ceiling joists, you don't have enough. Blown insulation is best over existing insulation but requires a blower. (Some retailers will provide a blower free if enough insulation is purchased.)
Sources: SaveGreenUSA; Conservation Services Group; Lowe's; Family Handyman; Energy Star program