Winter is here. Although I intended to publish this post tomorrow, today’s ridiculously low temperatures motivated me to publish this a little early. Not only are these good strategies for renters, but you can implement them today if you’re feeling the chill inside your house. If you rent, like us, your energy reduction options are limited to improvements approved by your landlord or things that are easily removable. Here are 7 ways renters can reduce heating costs — without leaving behind more than a nail hole!
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1. Insulate Your Attached Garage
In one of my favorite Mr. Money Mustache articles, he describes how insulation can reduce heating costs. As a renter, I can’t replace windows or spray insulation into the walls. But the garage insulation technique was just too tempting for me to pass up. I asked my landlord for approval and they said that they would even PAY for it! Sadly, when the maintenance person came by our home, he said that insulating our door would do nothing to lower our heating costs. I don’t believe him for a second, but if he wouldn’t do it then I couldn’t do it.
If I had the right kind of garage door, however, I wouldn’t need management approval at all. There are a lot of companies selling DIY insulation kits that will fit your doors if you can slide a panel onto your door. It’s hard to describe, so you can see how they do it with this product (you can turn the sound off and you’ll still understand everything that’s going on, without your co-workers having to listen to the cheesy background music). I can’t vouch for the product, because I’ve never tried it, but that’s exactly what I’d buy if our garage doors could accommodate it. As they are now, we would have to attach the insulation to the doors and that would leave a mark when we left. The kit costs $85, and our December heating bill was $147. In the summer, it’s $25. I think that this $85 kit would pay for itself in two months.
After this recent cold snap, I’ll ask one more time, and maybe I’ll ask someone from the management company to stand in my foyer and feel how cold it is. It’s also cold on the second floor, right above the garage. I wonder if he’ll change his mind when he feels the arctic breeze coming up from the garage.
2. Hang Curtains Wherever There is a Draft
If you have drafty windows, hanging insulating curtains is one way to stop that draft from entering the room. Blackout curtain panels not only block the light, but these are also good at stopping drafts.
We installed those panels in our foyer and at the top of our first flight of stairs. We live in a townhouse with the entrance and garage on the first floor, with stairs leading up to our living room. The foyer and stairs are so cold in the winter that it feels like we are standing outside before we even get outside. To keep that cold from blowing up the stairs, we installed a thermal curtain at the bottom of the stairs and one at the top. To install, we hung a curtain rod at the top of the stairs, so we can push the curtain aside if we want to. The bottom of the stairs was trickier, though, because the ceiling is slanted. We didn’t want to drill screw holes in it, so we just nailed the curtain up with picture nails and it has fared well. It’s not perfect, and it’s not exactly beautiful, but when you see the draft blowing the curtain out of place, you know that you’re lowering your utility bill at least a little bit. Each curtain was $19.99 each. I expect that the $40 investment will pay for itself in two months, but we will have to wait until the end of the month to compare it to last year’s bill. I’ll be sure to let you know when we get our next bill.
Putting curtains at the top of the stairs felt very unstylish until I saw Downton Abbey on Sunday night and noticed heavy damask curtains hanging in the doorways. Now I feel a little more worldy even though they’re not as beautifully done. I know it’s the smart thing to do, and if I cared more about sophisticated home decor, I could give it a better effort (and a few more dollars) and come up with something really splendid. Better Homes and Gardens has some inspiration for hanging doorway curtains.
3. Install Weatherstripping On Outside Doors
Weatherstripping is a very inexpensive and easy way to stop drafts from the outside. There are a variety of weatherstripping products available, but they all do the same thing: They stick to your door to plug up any gaps between the door and the frame. You probably have two outside-facing doors where weatherstripping would be appropriate, plus if you have an attached garage you might want to add weatherstripping to that door too. These run $3 – $9, depending on how fancy you want to get.
I have also found that deadbolting our doors close them even more tightly against the wind and chill. But maybe that’s just our drafty townhouse that has that problem!
4. Place Draft Stoppers Inside
If weatherstripping isn’t enough to stop the outside draft from coming in, consider placing a draft stopper there to plug in any gaps at the bottom of the door. Our doors are weatherstripped, yet Mr. Stapler stuffed clean towels into the gaps below our outside-facing doors during the last cold snap. One of these doors is in our kitchen, where our thermostat is, so it was turning the heat on all over the townhouse when it was just the kitchen that was chilly. So, I ventured into the home of the DIY – Pinterest – and pinned a draft stopper tutorial from SmartGirlStyle and other ways to save green by going green. The next day, Little Stapler tore a hole in the knee of his pants. And tore another hole in another pair of pants the next day. Now I don’t have to go to the fabric store! I am channeling my inner Gee’s Bend and repurposing those pants today. I saved some needles from our Christmas tree, so I’ll add those to the mix and maybe we’ll have a nice fir scent in the house too.
Not ready for your next craft project? Amazon has a seemingly endless number of draft-stopper options for you to choose from. And they probably won’t look like your grandmother made them out of a pair of your old pants.
5. Plastic Wrap Your Windows
I went to college in upstate New York, and every home I went to had plastic-wrapped windows in the winter. Even us irresponsible college students felt it was important to cover up those drafts! All you need is plastic wrap for the window and a hair dryer. Thankfully, our windows are new, double-paned, windows, and we don’t have to whip out the hair dryer every winter. The insulation kits cost about $7 – $11 per window.
6. Open Your Curtains
If you have well-insulated windows, or you plastic-wrapped them, check out how much sun they let in during the day. Keeping your curtains open during the day will harness the sun’s help in heating up your home. We have two skylights in our apartment. We keep them uncovered in the winter, not only because they provide beautiful light, but also because it helps heat up that room and reduces our utility costs. (We cover them up in the summer).
7. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Installing a programmable thermostat is easy. It will take you about 10 minutes, and when you’re done you will feel like a real handy(wo)man. This is the one that we have, and we have un-installed and re-installed it into two different homes. It allows you to program four temperatures throughout the day, and you can set a different program for weekdays and weekends — an ideal thermostat for people who work outside the home. If you’re retired or work at home or have a less predictable schedule, you can get the $20 version of this thermostat, which has the same program every day of the week.
After moving to the northeast from California, this was the first home improvement we made and haven’t regretted it since. I couldn’t tell you how long it took us to “pay” for the $25 thermostat with the savings from our heating bill, but after six years it most certainly has paid for itself. Before Little Stapler came along, we would set it to 55 degrees at night, and snuggle up under our down comforter. Now that Little Stapler is in the picture, and he doesn’t like blankets so much, we set it to 62 degrees at night and 55 degrees when we’re out during the day. In addition to reducing heating costs, it’s wonderful to wake up to a warm home instead of shivering my way to the thermostat every morning. If you can program a DVR, you can probably program this thermostat.
There you have it: 7 ways to reduce heating costs without leaving more than a nail hole. You could implement one a day for a week, and your wallet will thank you for it. Although, you may not be bundling up in your favorite sweatshirt as much. If you’re looking for other ideas on how to save money while doing your part to conserve our natural resources, follow my pinterest board Saving Green by Going Green and send me any pins that you think would make a good addition to the board.
What ways have you been battling the intense cold? Have you successfully been able to reduce utility costs with these methods, or any others?