23 Brilliant Winter Tricks for Warming Your Home

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Your house should be a refuge from frigid weather, not an extension of it. Luckily, raising the temperature in your home a little can be as easy as getting a new rug and some drapes.

1. USE A SCREEN

A red, wooden folding screen with intricate cut outs.
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When people used to gather around their fireplaces at night for warmth and entertainment, they used large, decorative screens to keep as much warmth in the room as possible. The old trick will still work today—and will add some interesting decor to the room as well.

2. GET A SMART THERMOSTAT

A circular thermostat that's silver on the outside with an electronic screen that shows the number 76 on an orange background.
George Frey, Getty Images

While we're talking thermostats, if you have an old model, consider replacing it with a smart thermostat that learns and adjusts itself accordingly. It knows when you've been sleeping (or when you're out of the house), so it automatically turns the temp down. Smart thermostats also know when you're awake, and give you those extra degrees to make sure you stay toasty with zero effort on your part. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lowering the temps when you're not home can save you as much as 10 percent a year on your heating bill.

3. LET THE SUN IN

A woman in a white sweater with her back turned to us is opening heavy curtains, letting the sunlight stream in.
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Pay attention to the way the sun hits certain rooms in your house. Take advantage of its natural warmth by keeping curtains and blinds open during the day to let some rays in.

4. TRIM YOUR TREES

Green ivy almost completely grown over a white-paned window.
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The sun is a great resource for warming your house, sure—but it won't do much good if your windows are blocked by branches and shrubs. Before the cold weather hits, make sure to trim up plants and trees that may be preventing light from getting in.

5. PUT A BALLOON IN YOUR CHIMNEY

Logs burning in a fireplace with large flames licking off of them.
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Not just any old balloon—a chimney balloon designed to block drafts when your flue or damper is broken or missing. You can't light a fire with it in, of course, but if you're not using your fireplace anyway, it's a good way to keep the cold air out.

6. SHRINK WRAP YOUR WINDOWS

Fingers pulling on a sheet of clear plastic wrap.
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According to EnergyStar, adding a layer of clear plastic over your windows really does help better insulate your home during the colder months. The plastic is inexpensive and easy to install, so it's a good DIY project for even the most amateur home improvement enthusiast.

7. MAKE SURE YOUR CEILING FAN IS SPINNING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Looking up at an older wooden ceiling fan with frosted glass sconces.
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Your ceiling fan isn't just for cooling. During the colder months, switch the blades to a forward or clockwise rotation to pull the air up, then push the warm air down the sides of the room.

8. UNBLOCK YOUR HEAT REGISTERS

A white HVAC register set into a tan wall with neutral-colored carpet in the foreground.
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If your couch or your bed is sitting on top of your heat register, the underside of your furniture is probably feeling the heat—but you aren't. Make sure you're not blocking any of that precious heat, rearranging your room layout if necessary (sorry, feng shui). While you're at it, clean those suckers out, too—a blocked register can cause problems with your HVAC system.

9. OPT FOR ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES

A white furnace that is unattached to anything, on a white background.
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If your heating and cooling system is older, replace it with a more energy efficient option. It will cost you upfront, but your overall savings (more than $100 per year) and overall comfort will be worth it.

10. CHANGE YOUR FURNACE FILTER

A hand putting a new furnace filter into a furnace.
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Your filter should be changed every three months at a minimum, but once a month is a better idea during peak times of the year. If your filter is dirty, your system works harder to keep you warm—or may not keep you warm at all.

11. QUIT USING YOUR ATTIC FOR STORAGE

An attic being framed and insulated, with tools splayed out across the floor.
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If your attic floors are just wood (and thus a great place to stack boxes and holiday decorations), you're losing a lot of heat. Pulling up the wood and covering the floor in another layer of material, like blanket insulation, can take as much as 50 percent off your heating bill.

12. OPEN THE BATHROOM DOOR WHEN YOU SHOWER

A clear shower door open to show the tiled wall inside. A white bathtub is off to the left.
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Though it's tempting to keep all of the warmth in the bathroom for when you get out, letting the steam out will help raise the humidity and the temperature in the rest of your dwelling.

13. ONE WORD: RUGS

A white sheepskin rug on a rustic wooden floor.
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The same theory about bare wood floors in the attic applies to the rest of your place. We don't suggest you lay insulation down in the living room, but adding a few rugs will help absorb the cold coming through the floor. Put a pad under the rug for added oomph.

14. ADJUST DOOR THRESHOLDS

A welcome mat with a gold door threshold behind it.
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If you can see light under the bottom of your front door, cold air is definitely getting through. Many times, you can raise the height of your threshold by turning the screws. Otherwise, invest in a new threshold—or at the very least, get a draft stopper.

15. SEAL DUCTWORK

A shiny silver piece of ductwork.
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Making sure your ducts are properly sealed and insulated can make your heating system 20 percent more efficient. Properly sealed ducts will also help keep your house cooler in the warmer months, so you'll still be appreciating your efforts come July.

16. DO A HOME ENERGY AUDIT

A person holding a pencil over a piece of paper with a book open in the background.
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You can have the most efficient furnace in the world, but it won't be able to keep up if your home is full of air leaks. The Department of Energy has a list of places and items you should check for leaks, including some easy fixes. You can also hire a professional to conduct the audit.

17. GO GREEN

Closeup of an indoor houseplant.
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Get ready to work that green thumb! Adding a few key plants to the house will create more humidity, making your house feel warmer. English Ivy, rubber plants, and spider plants are all good choices for this purpose. Bonus: Keeping plants in your home will also help improve the air quality.

18. ADD DRAPES

Heavy turquoise drapes adorn the windows in a modern-looking living room with a low white couch and sunburst mirror.
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Like a good rug, a thick pair of drapes will help block some of the cold air coming in from windows. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy says curtains can reduce your heat loss by up to 25 percent. Choose wisely; sheer or lacy options might look pretty, but they won't be very effective. Just make sure your new drapes don't block any HVAC vents!

19. CLOSE DOORS TO RARELY-USED ROOMS

Heavy wooden doors locked in the middle with a padlock.
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Why waste energy on rooms you don't use? Keep the heat concentrated in the areas you do use by closing the door to that guest room that never gets used or the bathroom down in the basement you haven't set foot in for weeks.

20. THWART AIR LEAKS AROUND OUTLETS

A white outlet with a cord plugged into it on a lime green wall.
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The electrical boxes behind outlets are known for being drafty because they're rarely sealed well. Popular Mechanics recommends removing the cover, then filling the gaps around the boxes with acrylic latex caulk (larger gaps may require foam sealant). Top all of that with a foam gasket, then replace the cover plate.

21. LIGHT SOME CANDLES

A candle in a white candle holder sitting on top of a rustic wood table. A knit blanket and an open book lie nearby.
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It sounds a little facetious, but candles put off a decent amount of heat in a smaller space. Get even more heat by making this mini space heater out of terracotta pots.

22. PLUG ANY HOLES THAT GO OUTSIDE

A hand is holding electrical work that has been pulled through a cement wall.
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Think dryer vents, electrical work, oven vents—any hole that leads to the exterior of your house should be sealed well with caulking. If they're not, you're probably losing heat.

23. SNUGGLE YOUR PETS

Three dog noses stick out from a gap in a colorful knit blanket.
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OK, this one won't keep your house any hotter, but it will warm your lap and your heart. Win-win.

21 Facts About The Nightmare Before Christmas

Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

Christmas is a time for donning festive garb, singing holiday songs, festooning your home in decorations, and giving thoughtful gifts. Of course, all those tasks turn out a bit more twisted when assigned to the denizens of Halloween Town. The Nightmare Before Christmas, which arrived in theaters 25 years ago, mixes light and dark with jolly and macabre with great success. Even if this Halloween/Christmas movie mash-up movie is part of your regular holiday tradition, we'd roll Oogie Boogie's dice that you don't know all of these secrets from behind the scenes.

1. TIM BURTON DID NOT DIRECT The Nightmare Before Christmas.

It is a common misconception spurred by the film's alternate title: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Burton was busy with Batman Returns and handed this hefty responsibility to his old Disney Animation colleague Henry Selick, who made his feature directorial debut here. Burton's name goes above the title for serving as producer, creating the story, and coming up with the look and the characters for The Nightmare Before Christmas. It probably doesn't hurt that his name was much bigger than Selick's at the time, thanks to the success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Batman.

2. JACK SKELLINGTON RESURFACED IN HENRY SELICK'S LATER FILMS.

1996 saw the release of Selick's follow-up, a stop-motion/live-action adaptation of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. It also saw the resurrection of The Nightmare Before Christmas's bare bones protagonist, who appears in one spooky scene as a skeletal pirate captain. He's much harder to spot in Selick's 2009 translation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, but if you look closely as the Other Mother makes breakfast, you'll see Jack's smiling skull hidden in the yolk of a cracked egg.

3. THE PLOT WAS INSPIRED BY THE RECURRING COLLISION OF HOLIDAY STORE DECORATIONS.

In the film's DVD commentary, Burton explains that his childhood in ever-sunny Burbank, California was not marked by seasonal changes, so holiday decorations were an especially important factor in the year's progression. When it came to fall and winter, there was a melding of Halloween and Christmas in stores eager to make the most of both shopping seasons. This, he claimed, planted the seed for his tale of the king of Halloween intruding on Christmas.

4. A Tim BURTON POEM PREDATED THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

While Burton was working as an animator at Disney on productions like The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron, he began toying with cartoon projects of his own. This eventually led to animated shorts like "Vincent," as well as the penning of a poem called "The Nightmare Before Christmas." A sort of parody of Clement Clarke Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "The Night Before Christmas"), this poem focused on Jack Skellington's inescapable ennui and featured his ghost dog Zero as well as Santa.

5. RANKIN/BASS WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THE STOP-MOTION APPROACH.


Walt Disney Pictures

In the same DVD commentary, Burton admits the animated Christmas specials from Rankin/Bass Productions were hugely influential.

6. Tim BURTON ORIGINALLY IMAGINED The Nightmare Before Christmas AS A TELEVISION SPECIAL.

Like Rankin/Bass's Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer or Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, Burton envisioned his take on Christmas could play well on television annually. This turned out to be true, but in a way he had not expected. He initially pitched the animated effort to TV studios. When that failed, he tried book publishers. No one bit until he pitched it as a full-length feature film. On the commentary track, Burton estimates that roughly 20 years passed between the project's earliest inception and its theatrical debut on October 29, 1993.

7. RONALD SEARLE AND EDWARD GOREY WERE ALSO INFLUENTIAL.

In a behind-the-scenes video about The Nightmare Before Christmas's backbreaking creation, a narrator notes that the production design team took a page from the pen and ink drawings of these two memorable artists, aiming to create in the physical set designs the kinds of cross-hatching and textures found within their works. Selick explains that they'd smear sets in plaster or clay, then scratch lines into this material "to give it that sort of etched texture or feel to make it look like a living illustration."

8. SHOOTING BEGAN BEFORE THE SCRIPT WAS COMPLETED.

Stop-motion demands a great deal of time, so when Danny Elfman had mastered most of the film's songs, Selick plus a team of 13 specially trained animators and an army of prop makers, set builders, and camera operators got to work without a final screenplay. Animators began by crafting Jack's big moment of discovery with "What's This?" Shooting 24 frames per second meant the animators had to create unique motions for 110,000 frames total. One minute of the movie took about a week to shoot, and The Nightmare Before Christmas took 3 years to complete.

9. SELICK IS RESPONSIBLE FOR JACK'S SIGNATURE SUIT.

In Burton's original sketches, Jack was dressed all in black. It is revealed in the film's commentary track that it was director Selick who gave Jack a marvelous makeover that added white stripes to his slim-fit suit. More than a smart sartorial choice, the addition of the pinstripes was needed to help Jack pop. In early camera tests, it became a major concern when Jack's flat black suit blended in to the dark backdrops of Halloween Town.

10. DISNEY FOUGHT FOR JACK TO HAVE EYES.

Because of the dark and deeply weird nature of Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, Walt Disney Studios decided it was too off-brand to be released under their banner. So the film was made through their branch Touchstone Pictures. But this didn't keep Disney from dropping some serious studio notes, including the insistence that Jack Skellington's empty sockets be filled with a pair of friendly eyes. A common guideline in animation and puppet-creation is that eyes are crucial to having an audience connect to a character, but Selick and Burton wouldn't budge, and ultimately proved their anti-hero didn't need oculars to connect.

11. THE MOST DIFFICULT SHOT WAS OPENING A DOOR.


Walt Disney Pictures

Because of the filmmakers' dedication to be as true to shooting like live-action as possible, one Nightmare Before Christmas shot proved especially challenging. When Jack discovers the part of the forest with pathways to other holiday worlds, he looks longingly at the Christmas tree door. A close-up of its shiny golden knob reflects this mournful skeleton as well as the trees behind him as he advances to open it. Getting the reflection just right took a great deal of time, care, and attention.

12. VINCENT PRICE WAS NEARLY NIGHTMARE'S SANTA.

Burton had previously worked with the renowned horror icon on Edward Scissorhands and "Vincent." From there, Price had agreed to give voice to the plump and flustered Santa who is kidnapped by treacherous trick 'r treaters Lock, Shock, and Barrel. However, this plan was derailed when Price's wife Coral Browne passed in 1991. Selick explained in the commentary track that the actor was so grief-stricken that the director felt he sounded too sad for Santa. Edward Ivory was then brought in to replace him.

13. PATRICK STEWART WAS CUT FROM THE FILM.

Early on, The Nightmare Before Christmas planned to rely heavily on its poetic inspiration. As such, Star Trek: The Next Generation star Patrick Stewart was called in to read poetry that was intended for the film's opening and closing narration. The lengthy monologues were eventually pared down to a few lines, and those were reassigned to the film's Santa, Edward Ivory. However, Stewart's version can be found in full on the film's soundtrack.

14. TIM BURTON WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE A CAMEO.

Unearthed in cut footage is an alternate version of the vampires playing hockey. In the theatrical and all subsequent releases, the ice-skating vampires swat a jack-o-lantern. However, the original version of this scene had them batting about a recognizable decapitated head. With its ghostly pallor, black spiky hair, angular shape, and deep bags under its eyes, the creepy creation is clearly Burton. But this seems to have been deemed too grisly for a kids' movie.

15. THERE ARE SOME HIDDEN MICKEYS.


Walt Disney Pictures

Since the film became a success, Disney has become less shy about their association with Nightmare Before Christmas. But the commentary track reveals that, despite their reluctance, Disney allowed Selick and Burton to include a hidden Mickey in the form of a menacing toy. In the scene where Jack's Christmas gifts attack, there's a flying stuffed animal with a sharp-toothed grin that's meant to be the Burton version of Mickey Mouse. Also, the girl it attacks is wearing a Mickey print nightgown, while her brother's pajamas are covered in Donald Duck faces.

16. THERE'S A HIDDEN ED WOOD REFERENCE.

While The Nightmare Before Christmas was in production, Burton not only completed Batman Returns but also dug into pre-production on Ed Wood, a biopic about the notoriously untalented filmmaker. A nod to Wood's works is found tucked into the fearsome folk of Halloween Town—the burly, bald Behemoth is a sweet-natured brute who bears a striking resemblance—down to the scars on his face—to Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson as seen in Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space.

17. THERE'S A HIDDEN DANNY ELFMAN CAMEO.

The former Oingo Boingo front man began collaborating with Burton back in the early 1980s when he composed the score for Burton's feature directorial debut, Pee-wee's Big Adventure. The pair re-teamed for Beetlejuice, Batman and Edward Scissorhands before Elfman was called to write the music and lyrics for The Nightmare Before Christmas. He also lent his singing voice to Jack Skellington, and for all this he gets the dubious distinction of a cameo as the redheaded corpse tucked away in the upright bass of the ghastly Halloween Town band.

18. Tim BURTON CALLED ON OTHER PAST COLLABORATORS TO BE HEARD.

Aside from Jack's singing voice, Elfman also lent his pipes to mischievous Barrel as well as the menacing clown with the tear-away face. Filling out the trio of trick 'r treaters was Pee-Wee's Big Adventure star Paul Reubens as Lock, and Beetlejuice's Catherine O'Hara as Shock. O'Hara also voiced the stitched up and besotted Sally, while her former co-star Glenn Shadix played the two-faced mayor of Halloween Town.

19. DELETED SCENES INCLUDED BEHEMOTH'S SOLO AND AN ALTERNATE OOGIE BOOGIE REVEAL.

On the DVD, storyboard presentations reveal deleted scenes that never made it to production. One of these has Behemoth belting beautifully about "pretty" presents during "Making Christmas." Another shows an abandoned concept of Oogie Boogie boogeying with the bugs that fill his stitched up form, and a third clip displays a very different finale. Instead of Boogie being torn up and reduced to bugs, he's unmasked to be evil scientist Dr. Finkelstein in disguise! In this version, his whole scheme was revenge-fueled because Sally loved Jack, even though Finkelstein made her to be his mate.

20. THE SET WAS BUILT WITH SECRET PASSAGES FOR ANIMATORS.

Reminiscent of the cut-out pathways used by Muppeteers, the animators behind and beneath The Nightmare Before Christmas had special trapdoors cut into the 19 sound stages worth of 230 model sets so they could more easily reach in and manipulate their peculiar puppets. From these vantage points, they can move the armatures hidden within the creatures or swap their faces out for one of hundreds made to allow for a wide range of emotion. Jack Skellington alone had more than 400 heads.

21. Tim BURTON REJECTED A CGI SEQUEL.

Though Disney has found success pumping out straight-to-DVD sequels of their animated hits, Burton has no interest in making The Nightmare Before Christmas 2. He told MTV, “I was always very protective of [Nightmare Before Christmas], not to do sequels or things of that kind. You know, ‘Jack visits Thanksgiving world’ or other kinds of things, just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it. Because it’s not a mass-market kind of thing, it was important to kind of keep that purity of it. I try to respect people and keep the purity of the project as much as possible.”

7 Fast Facts About RollerCoaster Tycoon

Amazon
Amazon

For Windows gamers, 1999 was dominated by RollerCoaster Tycoon, a now-classic strategy and building game that tasked users with erecting an amusement park and gauging the popularity of rides while maintaining a profit margin and keeping patrons from barfing all over the landscape. For the game’s 20th anniversary, check out some facts about its origins, its association with pizza, and how it became a pinball machine.

1. The first RollerCoaster Tycoon sold 4 million copies.

RollerCoaster Tycoon was the brainchild of Scottish programmer Chris Sawyer, who had enjoyed success with his line of Transport Tycoon games in the 1990s that allowed players to build and operate their own railroad, truck, and ship lines. Sawyer decided to marry that concept with his love of roller coasters. An independent effort—Sawyer enlisted only two collaborators, artist Simon Foster and musician Allister Brimble—the first Tycoon game that was released in 1999 sold a staggering 4 million copies.

2. RollerCoaster Tycoon came free with frozen pizza.

In the early 2000s, packaged food companies offered products that came with promotional offers for CD-ROMs. In 2003, Pillsbury offered a free copy of RollerCoaster Tycoon to anyone who sent in proof of purchase barcodes from specially-marked boxes of Totino’s Pizza Rolls or Pillsbury Toaster Strudel.

3. There’s a RollerCoaster Tycoon pinball machine.

A pinball machine released to coincide with 2002’s RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 took the spiraling coasters of the game and put them under glass. Players could try and direct the pinball—a substitute for the park guest—around and through coasters like The Flying Ghost and The Rocket.

4. RollerCoaster Tycoon helped inspire Minecraft.

If you or a loved one has spent countless hours absorbed in the popular world-building game Minecraft, you have RollerCoaster Tycoon to thank. Minecraft creator Markus Persson was a fan of Tycoon for the way it allowed players to construct elaborate designs. He also enjoyed Dungeon Keeper, which had a fantasy element. Together, the two games encouraged him to develop Minecraft. The game debuted in 2009 and went on to become one of the biggest interactive success stories of all time.

5. RollerCoaster Tycoon inspired real roller coaster designers.

The laborious construction undertaken by players of RollerCoaster Tycoon weaned a number of players on the excitement of the amusement industry. Park designers hoping to break into the industry have used screen shots from the game as examples of their design prowess at trade shows.

6. You can get a spooky update of RollerCoaster Tycoon in time for Halloween.

Atari distributes an Android and iOS version of RollerCoaster Tycoon for mobile phone users. For 2019, the company is offering a Six Flags Fright Fest update to the game that adds a Halloween component. Players can add Skull Mountain, an actual Six Flags coaster, as well as a Demon Rock statue.

7. A RollerCoaster Tycoon fan spent 10 years building a park.

In 2017, a Reddit user declared he was finished building out his own custom park on RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. The 34 coasters and 255 attractions were all minutely detailed, offering a sprawling virtual park with themed areas covering everything from Egyptian attractions to a forest. In comparison, it took only four years to build the actual Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

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