This year it’s your turn to be the gracious holiday host, and there’s a lot to do–decorating, meal prepping, and house prepping–to ensure your guests will be comfortable and leave with only good memories. Although you’re confident in your decorating skills and have no problem whipping up a great meal, it’s your 1970s home that’s giving you a little indigestion. Now, you’re wondering how to keep your house warm without winding up with a sky high bill in the new year.

It’s not easy keeping an old house warm. The thought of your energy-sucking HVAC system running 24/7 and the possibility of having to use space heaters to warm your drafty bedrooms is crippling your holiday spirit. Instead of worrying about uncomfortable guests and a $500 energy bill, here are some helpful hints on how to keep your house warm, your energy bill down, and your guests happy.

How to Keep Your House Warm During the Winter

#1. Keep your temperatures consistent.
To improve your energy efficiency and keep your bills down, set your your furnace at 68°F or lower and your thermostat to 56°F when you leave your house. If you have it in your budget, consider getting a programmable thermostat that lets you pre-set temperatures to prevent costly temperature swings. You can have a Nest installed inexpensively so that you can control the temperatures even when you’re away from the house. Lastly, be sure to have your central heating and cooling duct system tested for leaks.

To give you an idea of how to keep your house warm without zapping your energy spend, here’s a look at the ideal temperature schedule for your home, made possible with a programmable thermostat.

  • 6:45am: Program for 68 degrees, so your guests can wake up to a warm house and take baths without turning blue.
  • 10am: Set your thermostat to 56 degrees when you leave your house. Plan some activities and sight-seeing out of the house to give your furnace a rest. You can save up to 15% on your heating bill by turning your thermostat 10-15 degrees down for an 8-hour period.
  • 5pm: Program your thermostat at 68 degrees for when you get back. Once you’re home, you want your guests to feel cozy. If you have a lot of people, you may have to account for body heat and have to set your thermostat lower, which is a good thing.
  • 10:30pm: Most people sleep better in cooler temperatures, so once your guests have gone to bed, your thermostat can be set again to 56°F. Remember, they will have pajamas and blankets to help keep them warm.

If you use your fireplace, be sure to turn down your thermostat to save energy. Also, use a glass front for your fireplace which will keep heat from escaping through the chimney once the fire burns out.

#2. Check your windows and exterior doors for drafts.
Sometimes your windows are a worse enemy than your thermostat. Leaky windows can cause cool air to seep in while allowing warm air to seep out. You can have the best thermostat and furnace in the world, but if you have leaky windows and doors, you’re basically throwing your money out the window. And if you own a home that was built before 2002, there’s a chance that you may be dealing with single pane windows that aren’t the most energy efficient.

Start by checking your windows and doors for drafts, including your garage door. If warm air is escaping, you may want to consider talking to a top window replacement company in Houston for consultation. Some of the best window replacement companies now offer financing specials with no down payments and no initial monthly payments, so you won’t have to worry about spending your holiday cash. Replacement windows of today are typically double pane or triple pane, which means better insulation against outdoor temperatures.

#3. Let the Warmth Inside and Keep the Cool Out
Houston’s winters are very spotty. Some days are true winter days with 40 degree temperatures and other days are like a warm autumn day in the high 60s. One way to keep your house warm without spending on updates is to take advantage of free warmth by opening up your curtains or blinds on warmer days. Let the sunlight in! Believe it or not, natural light has many other benefits like increasing endorphins and improving mood. Your guests will appreciate the natural beauty of sunlight in your home.

On cooler, gloomier days, make sure to keep your curtains or blinds shut, especially at night when the sun sets. If you have it in your budget, heavier curtains will help absorb some of the cool draft coming into your home.

#4. Seal leaks throughout your home
You can find many leaks in your home by conducting a blower door test, which works by depressurizing your home, then have a professional seal your leaks or replace your windows and doors. But if you want an inexpensive way to keep your house warm, you can perform your own inspection to locate leaks coming from holes or gaps throughout your home and seal them with some caulk.

First, check your windows and doors to see if they rattle. Any movement may indicate a possible air leak. On the outside of your home, check exterior corners, outdoor water faucets, areas where siding and chimneys meet, and areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet. Inside, you’ll want to look for any cracks and gaps that could cause air leaks in your door and window frames, electrical outlets, fireplaces, attic hatches, cable lines, vents, dryer vent areas, switch plates, baseboards, and window-mounted air conditioners.

#5. Check Your Vents Around Your Home
Unlike modern homes with vents in the ceilings, older homes have vents in the floor or on the walls. Take a look around your house and see if there is anything blocking your vents like furniture, boxes, or other items. If vents are blocked, this can disrupt the flow of heat in your home.

Also be sure to check the air filters in your HVAC system to ensure dust and pollutants don’t clog up the unit. A dirty air filter can reduces airflow and limit your system’s efficiency. Changing your air filters regularly will help your HVAC unit to work at its fullest capacity.

And if you’re wondering how to keep your house warm without that much effort, you can kill two birds with one stone by simply baking and cooking up a storm any time you’re home—using your oven can increase your indoor temperatures about 10 degrees. A warm house with lots of food cannot disappoint over the holidays.