The winter season is a drag on your energy bill, but there ways to make heating your home more efficient even if you’re a renter. We chatted with Denise Durrett from EPA’s Energy Star for tips and tricks on how renters and owners can prep for the winter.
1. Caulk leaks around windows, doors
Caulking leaks around windows and doors and installing weather strips is the No. 1 way to increase energy efficiency in your home or apartment, Durrett says. The best place to start is with a door sweep.
“If you can see under your door to the outside, you need to put some kind of weather strip – some call it a door sweep – on the door to close that up,” suggests Durrett.
For leaks that require caulk or permanent weather stripping, contact your landlord first before making any modifications. Some landlords prefer to have professionals maintain their units rather than allowing tenants to do it themselves. He or she may even offer to pay for the repairs or allow you to deduct the cost of materials from your monthly rent payment if you do the work yourself.
Also, if you notice that some areas of your floor are much cooler than others, this may be a sign of an insulation problem, Durrett says. The ceiling in the basement or the unit below you may not have adequate insulation or the insulation may be damaged. It will be difficult to verify this yourself. So, contact your landlord about your concerns.
2. Turn the thermostat down, not off
Many people think that the best way to use less energy is to turn the thermostat off before leaving the house. But turning the system on and off can actually over-stress it, which leads to excessive energy use and could cause early system failure.
Durrett says turn your thermostat down to about 60 degrees during the day, and avoid cranking the thermostat all the way to the “high” setting when you get home. Turning the thermostat all the way up won’t heat your rooms any faster, and your system will be working on overload trying to reach a high temperature.
Most of the guesswork can be taken out of setting your temperatures by opting for a programmable thermostat, which can be pre-set to lower temperatures during the work day and raise them again about an hour before your family comes home. Talk to your landlord before having a programmable thermostat installed, and ask about deducting the cost from your monthly rent payment.
3. Help your radiator spread heat
Radiators are pretty common in older apartment buildings and multifamily units. But heating the whole room with a radiator can sometimes seem next to impossible.
“You’ll often notice that the wall is hot and the area around the radiator is warm, but it takes a little more effort to heat the whole room,” says Durrett. To heat your whole room more easily, place heat-resistant reflectors between the radiator and the wall to help spread the heat.
“That barrier between the wall and the radiator can actually help heat that room more…because you’ll be heating the room instead of the wall,” she says.
Also, make sure there is at least a foot of free space around your radiator, and avoid stacking things on top. Obstructions can also lead to inefficient heating.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask your landlord
If you don’t have access to the basement area where your heating system is kept, it can be tricky to know how well it’s being maintained. But don’t be afraid to ask your landlord about heating system maintenance and other energy-related concerns.
Ask your landlord if he or she schedules pre-season check-ups of heating and cooling systems and how often air filters are changed. Durrett recommends checking air filters every month and changing them as needed. At minimum, the filters should be changed every three months to avoid system inefficiency and stave off early failure, Durrett says.
For personalized energy-saving information that is specific to your area, check out Energy Star’s Home Advisor. Just type in your ZIP code, answer a few quick questions about your apartment, and you’ll get a list of tips created just for you.