If you have a tough time keeping winter's miserable, chilly air outside, then I'd wager you also have huge energy bills. Besides keeping you warm, winterizing your home reduces your energy costs by up to 50 percent in some cases. And you don't have to spend a fortune to rake in those savings. KCL recently published an article on this same topic, so here are a few more ideas to add to the mix. Try these budget-friendly tips this winter and compare your energy costs this year to your costs last year to see what a difference they make.

Practice Closing Off

If your heating system has vents, close off vents in rooms or hallways that you hardly use to redirect warm air to rooms you do use. You'll find that you'll be able to turn down the thermostat by a few degrees and save up to 5 percent on your heating bills. Closing doors to rarely used rooms can also keep your energy costs down. If a particular doorway allows a lot of cold air in even when closed, place a draft blocker in front of it. Also, if you're lucky enough to have a fireplace, don't forget to close the damper when it's not lit, otherwise it will suck warm air out of your room.

Warm Your Pipes

When the pipes in your home become frigid during winter, you'll likely turn up the temperature on your hot water heater. Keeping your water heater higher than 140 degrees Fahrenheit means bigger bucks for even brief activities such as washing your hands or face. Furthermore, when pipes become too cold they can burst, which costs hundreds of dollars to fix. Head to your nearest hardware or home reno store and pick up a few packs of pipe insulation foam with an R-value of 3 to 7. The R-value simply indicates how well the foam insulates. Cut your costs even more by getting a tax credit from the federal government for the insulation.

Seal off Outlets

You may not notice those tiny cracks around electrical, phone and cable outlets, but cold air has no problem finding its way through them. The biggest offenders are outlets on exterior walls, which can result in about 2 to 5 percent energy loss. If you're not handy with a caulking gun, just place plug-and-outlet covers — yup, the ones you use to keep your kid's fingers safe — in unused sockets. You can find a really affordable model from Safety 1st for as low as $2.99 on Nextag.

Switch to Solar

Can't afford a solar water heater? Don't sweat it. You can still use the sun's rays to slash energy costs. Recharging devices such as your portable phone, mobile phone, laptop, or MP3 player really add up over time. Portable solar chargers provide a budget-friendly way to power your favorite gadgets. You can also use some portable solar chargers to run electronics or appliances you use only occasionally, such as a toaster or microwave. Amazon is a great place to find a wide range of solar chargers at competitive prices, such as the Solar Restore External Battery Pack that you can use for numerous devices.

This has been a guest post by Andrea from Ontario, Canada
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