7 Reasons Why Your Home Always Feels Cold in Winter

Discover common causes for your home feeling cold or drafty in colder months. Learn practical fixes, DIY projects, and when to call a professional for help. Make your home cozy and warm.
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You may not notice how cold or uncomfortable winter can be if your home feels nice and cozy.

However, you definitely won't feel relaxed at home if your house just doesn’t stay warm, feels cold, or you feel cold drafts in different areas and rooms of your home.

A chilly feeling inside your home is not only uncomfortable, you may also be faced with an increased utility bill as your heating system works overtime to try to warm your home.

There is most likely an issue with your HVAC or your home itself that is causing your home to feel cold.

Let's look at the top reasons and most likely causes that homeowners face when their home feels cold.

Your Home's Exterior Isn’t Properly Sealed

If you can physically feel cold air entering your home from the outside, it is a clear sign that your home has exterior leaks that need to be addressed.

If the problem isn’t that obvious, take a walk around the perimeter of your home and look for any cracks, gaps, or holes in your siding or at doors and windows.

When a new home is built, the envelope, or the barrier that protects the exterior of your home from the outside environment, is properly sealed at all openings.

This includes caulking gaps at windows, installing weatherstripping at doorways, and sealing any cracks or pinholes on the walls that could allow outdoor air inside.

How Can You Remedy Insufficient Sealing?

As your home ages, these exterior barriers will wear away. Fortunately, this is a relatively easy fix to complete and a DIY approach is perfectly acceptable.

Run a fresh bead of acrylic or polyurethane caulk along window and door seams.

Be sure to clean the area first so the application properly adheres.

If the weather stripping around your door appears worn, it is easily removed and replaced.

The new weatherstripping will fit snugly into your door jamb and should be cut to fit.

Your Windows or Doors May Need to Be Replaced

Modern windows and doors have excellent insulating properties.

If your home has older windows or doors, your heated air may be escaping through the single pane glass.

Energy-efficient windows feature double or even triple-pane glass that helps to lock warm air in.

You can also buy windows with low-E insulated glass that will reflect heat trying to escape back into your home.

Similarly, exterior doors are available with more insulation and better energy performance ratings than ever before.

Opt for a steel or fiberglass entry door with a high R-value and foam-filled core.

If you do not want to replace your existing door, consider installing a storm door in front for an added layer of protection.

Should You Hire a Professional to Replace Your Windows?

Hiring the right expert to replace your windows or doors will be a more costly project but keep in mind these potential financial perks.

In some areas, government grants are available to replace your existing windows with energy-efficient options.

This incentive exists in an effort to reduce your overall energy needs and carbon footprint.

Additionally, replacing your windows has a large return-on-investment.

Buyers are willing to tack on around 85% of the cost of your window replacement project to the sale price of your home should you sell in the future.

Your Home May Not Have Enough Insulation

Insulation plays a very important role in the energy efficiency of your home. Made from either foam, fiberglass, or cellulose, insulation is installed within your walls to help keep the cold air out and the warm air in.

Poor insulation is a common issue in older homes as there usually is not enough installed and the quality and efficiency of insulation have improved in more recent years.

A part of the reason is that either older homes lack insulation entirely or only thin insulation was available at the time of construction.

In some cases, however, newer homes can also experience insulation problems. Contractors working on a tight budget will sometimes skimp out on the amount of insulation they install.

How R-Value Affects the Insulation in Your Home

The effectiveness of insulation to resist heat flow is measured in R-values.

The higher the R-value, the better! R-values vary depending on the type and quantity of insulation installed.

The optimum R-value for your home will ultimately depend on your climate.

Should You Hire a Contractor to Improve Your Insulation?

If you sense your home is lacking in the insulation department, you can consult a specialized insulation contractor.

Point them to the rooms or areas of your home that always feel the coldest.

They will investigate the interior of your walls by removing a bit of the drywall to determine if there is adequate insulation coverage.

Additionally, insulation can easily be installed in open areas such as attics and crawl spaces for another layer of defense against the cool air.

These areas can be more easily done as a DIY project rather than hiring a professional if you have the extra time, know-how, and want to keep to a small budget.

Your HVAC Unit May Be Broken or Faulty

If your heating system has been operating well over the years, but suddenly cannot keep up with demand, a specific piece or part could have broken.

There are dozens of pieces in your furnace that mechanically work together to heat your home. As your furnace ages, these parts experience regular wear and tear that causes them to eventually break.

Common issues furnaces experience throughout their lifespan include worn blower bearings, a cracked heat exchanger, a tattered blower belt, or a faulty limit switch.

All of these parts are integral to the operation of your heating system.

If you continue to run your furnace while an issue is present, you risk damaging other parts of the system and increasing the overall cost of the repair.

Or worse, have it stop functioning in the middle of a cold spell.

Should You Hire an HVAC Specialist?

For mechanical furnace issues, it is best to immediately call a heating service company to visit your home and diagnose the issue.

They will discuss the options you have for replacing the broken or faulty part, how much the repair will cost, and when you can expect the service.

Most furnace parts are in-stock items that can be quickly replaced. If you have an older or unique unit, you might have to wait a few days for the specialty piece to arrive.

You can typically avoid sudden disruptions in the operation of your furnace by scheduling an annual technician service check-up. The technician will suggest and make repairs during the inspection.

Your Ductwork Could Be Leaky or Damaged

Your heating system is more than just your furnace. Once your furnace produces warm air, it is all up to your ductwork to disperse the air throughout your home.

If you notice a spike in your energy bills, cooler rooms or areas of your home, or more dust accumulation than usual, there could be a leak in your ductwork.

These leaks or gaps in your ductwork allow the heated air to seep out. This either prevents the air from reaching all parts of your home or your furnace has to work extra hard to make up for the lost heat.

Leaks in your ductwork can happen for a number of reasons. Vibrations in your home could cause screws that hold pieces of your ductwork together to come loose.

As your ductwork ages, seals or even the ductwork itself can loosen and break. If pesky rodents, like mice and squirrels, enter your home, there is a chance they could damage your ductwork.

Repairing Ductwork Is a Job Best Left to the Professionals

Consult an HVAC technician if you think leaky ductwork could be causing issues in your home.

By removing vents and inspecting the ductwork, they can help determine a solution.

Repairing a seal or patching a hole in ductwork is a relatively simple and inexpensive repair for professionals.

You Need to Replace Your Air Filters or Keep Up With Maintenance

To ensure the longevity and effectiveness of your heating system, following regular maintenance procedures is extremely important.

Homeowners often forget to replace air filters in their heating units. If these filters are not regularly replaced, your system can get clogged with dust, debris, and allergens.

Not only are these substances bad for your health, but they can also cause strain on your heating system. Your furnace will struggle to circulate air and to keep your house warm.

In addition to replacing the filter, your furnace needs to be regularly cleaned and inspected inside and out for optimum performance.

Is It Easy to Replace Filters for Your Heating System?

Air filters are easy to change and require replacing every 90 days or so.

Once you find the right-sized filter for your unit, keep a few extras in stock so you are ready for the next replacement.

Purchasing air filters on a subscription basis can also help remind you when it's time to change them.

Experts also suggest an annual furnace service check by a trained professional.

The technician will clean and dust the inside of your unit, lubricate bearings, and perform other basic maintenance tasks.

Furthermore, the technician will suggest any repairs or part replacements your furnace may need to continue running efficiently and to avoid any unwanted interruptions in service.

Your Heating System Is Undersized For Your Home

If the actual temperature in your home never seems to reach the thermostat setting, it could be that your heating system is taking on a bit more than it can handle.

When designing a home, a mechanical engineer or HVAC technician will complete a load calculation based on a number of factors including the size of the home, the location-based climate, and the maximum occupancy.

The calculated load will determine the size of the furnace, measured in BTUs, that is required to properly heat your home.

If a professional is not consulted during a home renovation or addition or if the load calculation is performed incorrectly, there is a chance the heating system will not be adequately sized.

How Do You Know If Your HVAC System Is Too Small?

To determine if this is an issue in your home, schedule a walkthrough with an HVAC professional.

They will complete a new load calculation for your home and see if your current heating unit measures up.

Modern furnaces are equipped with two stages that allow them to operate at two different BTU settings.

This means your solution could be as simple as the flip of a button!

If your furnace is truly undersized for your home, you will need to purchase a new system in order to get that indoor temperature up and your HVAC functioning properly.

Keeping your house warm throughout the colder months is about more than comfort. A properly running heating system will keep your energy bills consistent and could even reduce your environmental impact.

Be sure to keep up with regular maintenance on your heating unit and call a trusty HVAC expert as soon as there is an issue!

Brionna Farney
About the author
Brionna Farney has boots-on-the-ground experience managing construction projects and designing home renovations. Supported by her degree in Civil Engineering, Brionna uses her industry expertise to write about all things home-related for construction, home improvement, real estate, and interior design businesses.