a man sitting on a couch inside wearing a big winter coat and looking unhappy

Does it always feel like your house is freezing during the winter? You should be able to warm up with a fireplace or heating system, but they don’t always work if one or more problems are present. 

The good news is that it’s easy to locate, diagnose, and treat the reasons your home feels so cold all of the time.

In this post, you’ll learn the main reasons your house feels cold and what you can do to fix it. Enjoy!

Why is My House So Cold?

Your house is frigid due most likely to poor insulation, a lack of vapor barriers in the attic, or single-pane windows that provide no thermal insulation. Additional causes include clogged air filters, faulty thermostats, damaged HVAC systems, and broken ductwork.

Now, let’s look at each of these culprits in greater detail. 

Poor Insulation

Poor insulation is the most common cause of frigid homes. Your house should have optimal insulation in the floors, walls, attic, and ceilings (regardless of how cold or hot it gets). Insulation saves money, but it also helps you regulate the temperature and prevent mold growth.

The best way to know if you have poor insulation in your home is to look for exposed insulation in the attic or crawl space. If it’s matted, dirty, soaked, moldy, or otherwise damaged, it needs to be replaced.

How to Fix

Remove the old insulation in the attic and crawl space using a handsaw or putty knife. You can use acetone to remove leftover bits and pieces of insulation. Dry the area, then apply your desired insulation. Consider using insulation batts or foam boards with spray foam insulation to fill the gaps.

A worker wearing a face mask installing insulation in a roof space without attic insulation baffles to block out cold air.

Lack of Vapor Barriers

Vapor barriers can protect your home’s insulation from mold and mildew. As seen above, these contaminants can ruin your insulation long before it should reach the end of its lifespan. 

If you live in an area with lots of rain, morning dew, or humidity, your attic should have a vapor barrier—look for plastic sheets around the insulation.

How to Fix

Here’s how you can apply a vapor barrier in the attic:

  1. Place double-sided butyl tape above and below the insulation.
  2. Add the vapor barrier sheet over the butyl tape, ensuring it’s snug against the insulation.
  3. Finally, seal the insulation barrier sheet with insulation tape on the top and bottom (and anywhere the sheet ends).

The vapor barrier should be on the warm side of the insulation, i.e., place it after you install the insulation.

Single-Pane Windows

Single-pane windows are notorious for allowing hot and cold temperatures into your home. Windows are some of the worst insulation materials in any building. However, there are a couple of upgrades you can consider to prevent your home from getting too cold during the frigid months.

How to Fix

Here are your two best options:

  1. Replace your single-pane windows with triple-glazed windows. They contain argon gas that drastically improves your home’s insulation. Not only do they reduce thermal transfer through the glass, but they also reduce your energy bills.
  2. Opt for double-pane windows if you don’t have the budget for high-quality triple-glazed windows. While they’re not as effective as triple-glazed windows, double-pane windows are infinitely more insulating than single-pane windows. They also limit condensation that can lead to mold growth.
Cross section of a triple-glazed window cut away to show its functionality

Structural Deterioration

Structural deterioration includes damage from mites, birds, and other pests. It also includes wood rot that breaks the support beams and spaces around the entry points of your home. 

Anywhere there’s a hole, heat will escape. These areas must be dealt with quickly to ensure you’re not wasting heat, energy, and money.

How to Fix

Unfortunately, structural deterioration is one of the most expensive problems on the list. First, you’ll have to find whichever parts of your home are damaged and fix them, which could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Remember, it’s best to find out what caused the issue before starting the repair process. Consider hiring a pest control service, installing a vapor barrier to limit wood rot, and upgrading your foundation if it’s constantly sinking.

Clogged Air Filters

Clogged air filters prevent hot air from moving throughout your home. Depending on the make and model, your air filter needs to be changed every three to six months. 

Some air filters are reusable. However, you shouldn’t reuse a filter with holes, permanent discoloration, or irremovable blockages.

How to Fix

Bob Vila recommends replacing your air filter after 90 days. 

Here’s how you can replace or clean it:

  1. First, turn off the power to the HVAC system at the circuit breaker.
  2. Next, remove the primary grate over the filter (or open the air conditioner closet and remove the front panel to access the filter).
  3. Slide the retaining latches off of the filter, then pull the filter out of the slot.
  4. Then, get a like-for-like filter and push it into the space with the arrows pointing outward.
  5. Finally, reverse steps one and two to activate your air conditioner and heater with your new air filter.
A homeowner replaces the Filtrete Air Filter MPR 1500 in her home's energy-efficient furnace

Faulty Heater Thermostat

Your thermostat might sense it’s 20 degrees warmer than it is, which means you’ll never have enough heat to stay warm. Fortunately, a faulty thermostat is straightforward to diagnose and replace. There are also a couple of workarounds if you don’t want to get a new thermostat immediately.

How to Fix

Try this method to replace your thermostat:

  1. First, turn off the circuit breaker going to the thermostat.
  2. Next, unscrew the thermostat, disconnect each wire, and label them to know which port they go to.
  3. Remove the rear panel on your new thermostat, then connect the wires we mentioned earlier to their corresponding ports on the new thermostat.
  4. Mount the thermostat to the wall with the retaining screws.
  5. Finally, turn on the circuit breaker and test your new thermostat.

Damaged Ductwork

Ductwork with holes, loose ends, and broken connections will leak hot air, preventing it from warming your home. Furthermore, it’ll allow cold air into the ducts, making your house cooler than when you turned on the heater. Most ductwork needs annual maintenance to prevent long-term damage.

How to Fix

You can seal minor duct leaks with foil-backed tape—contrary to the name, you shouldn’t use duct tape on ducts.

A technician applying metal-backed tape to an cylindrical duct to prevent air duct leakage

TapePlus Aluminum Foil HVAC Tape comes in a 210-foot roll of two-inch tape. It’s perfect for small tears in your home’s ductwork. It’s designed for multi-year usage, so you don’t have to worry about replacing it too often.

That being said, massive ductwork tears and leaks should have full replacements. It’s best to hire an HVAC technician for duct replacements because you usually get a service warranty.

Not Enough Humidity

UGI HVAC explains a lack of ambient humidity can make a warm room feel colder than it is. Not only does humidity affect the temperature, but it can also prevent you from getting chapped lips and dry skin. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a hygrometer and a humidifier (or a few portable humidifiers) if you live in a dry climate.

How to Fix

Follow this method:

  1. Install a hygrometer to monitor the ambient humidity in your home.
  2. Then, use portable or whole-house humidifiers to maintain the humidity between 35-45%.
  3. Finally, adjust the level if you notice haziness or condensation on the windows.
A zero waste humidifier next to a plant on a countertop in a bedroom

The Aprilair Whole-House Humidifier works in homes up to 3,600 square feet, making it one of the best on the market. This energy-efficient system has a refillable 12-gallon tank that automatically turns off once it’s empty. It also has a digital control panel that you can install next to your thermostat.

Air Leaks in the Attic or Roof

Heat naturally rises, which means it heads to the roof after it leaves the HVAC system. If there are leaks or gaps in your attic or roof, the heat will leave your house before it warms you up. Furthermore, you’ll lose a lot of money constantly heating the air that keeps leaving your home.

How to Fix

Air leaks are best diagnosed by a professional. They’re often relatively small and easy to miss. You can find them by feeling for a breeze coming through the gaps. That being said, you’re better off getting a service technician to look for leaks and repair them.

Malfunctioning HVAC System

HVAC systems have all sorts of problems after a decade or so. They can have faulty thermostats (as mentioned), damaged pilot lights, broken thermal sensors, blown fuses, and more. If your heater isn’t working correctly, turn it off and follow the suggestions below.

How to Fix

Try these steps to fix a faulty HVAC system:

  1. First, test each wire throughout your HVAC system with a multimeter.
  2. You should replace any part that doesn’t show the flow of electricity (i.e., thermal fuses, single-use fuses, and breakers).
  3. Finally, hire an HVAC technician to maintain and repair your HVAC system for the best results.

Final Thoughts

While there are many reasons your home might feel too cold, you can fix all of them.

We suggest starting with the cheapest and quickest solutions to locate the problem. For example, try increasing the humidity to the recommended 45% range, cleaning or replacing the air filter, and replacing the thermostat in your heater.

Best of luck! 


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