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Stay Warm in Your Apartment

October 19, 2009 - 11:43am

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Yes, the Ghost of Winters Future has officially knocked on our front doors again. The leaves here in Washington, D.C., have started to turn toward their colorful crescendo, that spectacular finish before their end on the chilly ground. It makes me cold just thinking about it.

Like me, you're probably not opening your windows much at night anymore. I'm holding out still, surrendering a little more of my beloved fresh air each night and dreading that first night when I have to pop the heater on. Last night, I only open my window about an inch. I guess that means it's time to think about locking out the cold air once and for all this year.

So, as an apartment dweller in the city, what should I do to keep my heating costs down and my toes warm this winter? First off, I put new socks on the shopping list. But then I went to our energy audit page, which has great resources for anybody interested in saving money on energy—from homeowners and renters to small business owners—and clicked on the link for information for apartment renters. I already have new, energy-efficient appliances, but some immediate trouble spots came to mind as I explored the site.

My first note-to-self: I'm going to put weather stripping around my front door, which I know leaks air because I can see the light from the hall coming through the doorframe at night. Home weatherization technicians actually look for leaks in a similar, albeit more sophisticated, way using an infrared imager. That way they can see the cold spots around a door or window or on a poorly insulated ceiling, for example.

The Energy Savers site has a great section on detecting air leaks, which is great for someone like me who can't afford to go all out on weatherization this year. It helped me identify another easy fix I'm going to make, which will be caulking around that little leak at the bottom edge of one of my window frames.

Another big one: I'll close the outer windows of my double-paned windows, which have been locked in the open position all summer. Obviously, keeping insulating air trapped between the windows makes a huge difference. I'll also inspect all of the areas in the apartment where different materials meet, especially on exterior walls.

I'm also going to take the plunge and put in an automated thermostat, so I will always turn the heater off when I'm not home. With a programmable thermostat, I won't have to worry about forgetting that one last thing—turning down the heat—as I run out the door on a busy morning.

Finally, I'm going to get that water conserving showerhead mentioned on the hot water use page that I've been meaning to spring for. Lowering my hot water use might be the single best thing I can do to put a dent in my energy bills this winter.

Together, I'm guessing these few simple measure will cut my energy costs by 20%–30% and make me a whole lot more cozier in the comfort of my rented home. I hope you find ways to keep warm and feel better about your energy bills, too!

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