Fall is setting in, and those chilly nights, although refreshing, are a reminder that it will soon be time to turn on the heat. Unless you live in a newly renovated apartment, there are at least a few ways you’ll be likely to lose some of this expensive commodity. Renting presents a few challenges to weather-proofing since you aren’t responsible for replacing insulation or drafty windows, but there are many other ways to stay warm while keeping your heating costs to a minimum through the winter months.
Inexpensive, Unobtrusive Weather-proofing
As a renter, these methods will be your best friends in the fight to keep in the heat:
- Weather stripping and window kits. From my years of living in drafty places heated with ultra-expensive propane, I can attest that these really work. Sure, they can be tedious, but if you ask a friend to help you, it will go much faster (and you can return the favor).
- Draft-blocking ‘pillows.’ These are significantly cuter than plastic film and tape, and work well for hard-to-seal areas like the bottoms of window frames and exterior doors that aren’t used frequently.
- Fireplace insulation. If you have a modern fireplace with doors, keep them closed during the winter when it’s not in use, and check for drafts. If it’s a natural fireplace, it may need to be seasonally blocked or insulated. Either way, as a renter, your property maintenance should be responsible for it.
Optimizing Your Heat Flow
After any gaps and drafts are sealed, focus on increasing the efficiency of your central heat with these steps:
- Clean and provide clear paths for your vents. Locate all your vents and make sure there isn’t anything blocking the path of their air flow, even if it means temporarily rearranging your furniture. Ceiling vents may not be blocked, but probably still need to be vacuumed out to remove dust and increase efficiency. Lastly, make sure they’re fully open or closed as necessary.
- Heat only the rooms you’re using. By closing ducts and doors to rooms you’re not currently using, you can lower your heat bill even more. For instance, if you spend most of your time in the main living area, close off your bedroom and the bathroom. It won’t be enough to eliminate all heat (don’t worry, you’re pipes won’t freeze), but will still make a difference.
- Rotate ceiling fans clockwise. Fans in general can be used to more evenly distribute warm air, but ceiling fans are especially effective warm air distributors if rotated clockwise at low speeds. Some experts claim this one step can save you as much as 15% on heating costs. This site has specific instructions on how to tell which direction your blades are going and how to change the setting on older models.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Even if you don’t own your place, investing in an inexpensive programmable thermostat will be worth the savings on your heating bill. Be sure to check with your landlord first to make sure it’s okay, and don’t be afraid to ask if they’ll pay for it.
Using Other Heat Sources
The air that comes out of your heat ducts isn’t the only way to heat your apartment. There are other natural and more energy-efficient ways, including these:
- Natural light. Take advantage of the greenhouse effect by opening your shades and curtains on bright days. Increase the warming effect of sunlight by arranging furniture in a way that gives its beams unobstructed radiance, and allows you to enjoy some Vitamin D at the same time.
- Humidifiers. The purpose of a humidifier isn’t to heat your home, but by increasing the moisture content in the air, it does so naturally. You’ll feel warmer and be able to turn the thermostat down a few notches. Besides, the dry heat of winter often leaves our skin and nostrils suffering for moisture, so you’ll enjoy those benefits, as well.
- Electric blankets. Instead of cranking up the heat when you snuggle up with a book or go to bed, use an energy-efficient electric blanket that you can take from room to room as needed. The draw on electricity will be much less costly than central heat.
Lower the thermostat and throw on a sweater.
Finally, if you can tolerate it, turn the thermostat down just a few degrees and compensate with another layer of clothing, a cozy pair of slippers, or a hot mug of cocoa. Combining all these tips, you’ll potentially save hundreds of dollars through the course of the heat-using seasons.