Homebuying Millie’s Home Improvements By Kim Vargo Illustration: Klaus Kremmerz
PUBLISHED 07/05/2023 | 4 MINUTES

After purchasing my first home—okay, it was a very small condo (675 square feet) on the second floor of a yellow brick building—my partner and I spent six years DIY-ing every single room, sometimes more than once. 

This was just the start. We had caught the home renovation bug and wanted more. Since then, we’ve embarked on a fixer upper journey that has included another Chicago house, a lake house in southwest Michigan and a “two flat”—a Chicago term for a building with two apartments.

And we documented everything on our blog, Yellow Brick Home, lovingly named as a nod to our first renovation baby.

Now I’m here to help you DIY your home—specifically how to winter-proof your home for the colder months ahead. Here are three easy steps you can take to reduce your energy bills.

1. Install Foam Outlet Seals and Plug Caps

Electrical outlets on exterior walls can be a sneaky way for cold air to enter your home. Adding foam seals and plug caps is an inexpensive way to eliminate drafts (and a great way to keep cold air in when it’s hot, too). Foam outlet seals are extremely easy to install, and you can get a pack of six for less than $3. Air sealing your home—coupled with adding insulation to attics and basements—could save you 15% on heating and cooling costs.  

2. Change Your Furnace Filter

No one really thinks about this one, but hidden away in your basement, garage or attic is your HVAC system. That bad boy is vital to your home’s overall health, keeping out dust, dirt, pollen and other air pollutants. When it gets dirty, it has to work harder to heat or cool your home—and that means more energy (and more money) wasted. So, give it some love. Changing your filters every two to three months will keep your furnace operating smoothly—and, better yet, will keep your family comfortable year-round. Thicker filters tend to perform better and don’t need to be replaced as frequently, and you can often find them for less than $20.

3. Repair Cracks and Gaps

During our holiday break several years ago, Scott and I found ourselves in an uncomfortable position: The weather was beastly, and our furnace installation wasn’t going well. To stay warm, we started repairing all of the cold air gaps in our windows and doors. Windowsills and millwork can slowly develop cracks and gaps over time, and pre-winter is a perfect time to fill them (not when you’re already knee-deep in snow). A bead of caulk, some insulation foam and a fresh coat of paint on these surfaces will reduce drafts and keep your home looking—and feeling—its best.

Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.

Kim Vargo is a Chicago-based interior designer, DIY home improvement expert and founder of Yellow Brick Home.


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