5 More Ways to Stay Warm & Lower Heating Bills: Renters' Edition

January 19, 2009
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I got a ton of great feedback to Friday’s post on ways to stay warm this winter but not spend more doing so. I’m glad that so many people found the advice helpful.

At the same time that homeowners found these tips useful, many renters wanted to know what they could do to stay warm and not pay more for utilities when they don’t have control over the furnace or access to a programmable thermostat. So I touched base with some folks I know who do rent–and who have found ways to stay warm without paying more.

With that in mind, here are five more ways to stay warm and lower your heating bills this winter–the renters’ edition:

1. Put plastic over the windows. I’ve seen tons of consumer pieces on the news about plastic window kits and how they’re supposed to cut down on drafts and whatnot in the winter. Many people I spoke with confirmed that these actually work. 3M makes an “indoor window insulator” kit that I found online at Ace Hardware, but I’ll bet you can get them at Target or Home Depot, too. I’ve been tempted in the past to try these on windows in rentals but in one instance my lease specifically prohibited me from attaching anything to the windows like this, and in another situation, I felt it was a fire hazard not being able to open my windows because the kit was attached.

2. Plug up air leaks around doors. Some people I spoke to use “draft dodgers” against the base of doors leading to the outside. These are usually long, fabric “snakes” that you can push up against the base of the door to keep drafts out. (I got a pine needle-filled one of these from LL Bean a few years ago.) They’re great if leaks are coming in via the bottom of the door only. If they’re coming in from all around, then investing in some weatherstripping can help, too. Just clear it with your landlord before sticking this stuff up.

3. Keep rooms toasty by hanging sheets or curtains, or closing doors. The idea here is to drape a piece of cloth in between rooms so that you can keep the heat in the room you use the most and the cold out. Granted, this may leave your apartment looking like a tenement, but it should get the trick done. You can simply use a tension rod expanded in a doorway to hold the sheet or curtain. Obviously, if you’ve got doors between the rooms, you should close them to keep heat in/cold air out. But the idea is not to let cold air and drafts have free reign throughout your home.

4. Use space heaters. I’m a little leery of space heaters, because I’ve heard about too many fires that space heaters started. So please read this Consumer Products Safety Commission booklet on space heaters before you consider using them as a tool to keep warm and cutting down on your utility bills. Truthfully, if you’re trying to save energy, I’m not sure a plugged-in heater is saving much since it’s using juice, too. It may use less juice than the furnace but it is hardly free. And please do not use kerosene or other kind of liquid fuel space heaters. They are just too risky.

5. Get carpet remnants. Hardwood floors are pretty and all, but in the winter they can be pretty chilly. If you can put down any kind of carpet, that will warm your room right up–or at least your feet since they won’t be on the bare floor anymore. Lots of carpeting stores sell remnant pieces for not a lot of money so check that out as an option.

Do you have additional suggestions for ways that renters can stay warm and keep their utility bills in check?

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