How to winterize your rental and cut down on your energy bill

Tricks to insulate your home—even if you don't own it
By Tamara Gane  Published on 12/28/2018 at 11:00 AM EDT
Don't adjust the thermostat—these tips will help you keep the heat in. Shutterstock

If you’ve ever been hit with a sky-high energy bill, you understand the importance of winterizing your home. Just a few changes can have a huge impact on the size of your utility payment. 

I don’t know about you, but any time I have the chance to save money and help the environment, I’m in.

If you live in a rental house or apartment, winterizing admittedly comes with extra challenges. The changes you make need to be non-permanent and inexpensive. But there are things you can do. Read on for tips on how to easily and inexpensively winterize your rental house or apartment.  

Start With Your Windows

According to the US Department of Energy, the loss and gain of heat through windows is responsible for 25-30 percent of the energy use in the average household. Unfortunately, if you’re renting, buying new, energy efficient windows isn’t an option. Luckily, there are other ways to keep them insulated.  

The easiest way to winterize your windows is simply to cover them with thermal insulated curtains to block cold air in winter and hot air in summer. Curtains are perfect for rental units because unlike blinds, they don’t need to be customized to fit your window. Plus, this means you can easily take them with you if you move. As an added bonus, curtains are a fun way to enhance your decor.

Tip: Keep your curtains open during the hottest part of the day and let the sun warm up your room instead.  

Weather Strips
Weatherstrips seal the edges of drafty windows to stop air leaks. Most brands are self-adhesive and easy to install. The U.S. Department of Energy offers complete installation instructions on their website.

Draft Stoppers
By placing “draft stoppers” at the base of older windows, you can do just what the name suggests: keep out the chill. You can make your own with a little bit of fabric and insulating material, or you can purchase a balsam-scented version from Vermont Country Store.

Plastic shrink film
Double-sided tape, a hair dryer, and clear plastic shrink film will prevent the heat from escaping through your window panes. For complete instructions, visit Energystar.gov.

Pay Attention To Your Doors

While not as bad as windows, doors are still an outlet for escaping heat. Here are ways to stop the heat.

Door snakes
Door snakes sound scary, but we promise they’re harmless. In fact, they’re a great way to winterize a rental home. Place them at the bottom of both interior and exterior door gaps to stop cold air from slithering in. As an added bonus, they also dampen sound and keep critters and bugs from entering your home without an invitation.  

Don’t have a door snake handy? That’s okay! You can just as easily plug up door gaps with a rolled up towel.  

Keep doors closed
If you have a seldom-used space, such as a guest room, you probably keep it at a lower temperature then the spaces you use on a daily basis. It’s a great idea. Just be sure to keep those doors closed so the cooler air doesn’t seep into the rest of the house. This is also true of walk-in closets and bathrooms.

Weatherstrips are just as good at insulating doors as they are windows. See above for details.

Use Area Rugs

You may also be losing heat through your floors. This is particularly true if your floors are installed over a concrete slab or above a below-grade area such as an uninsulated basement or garage. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends installing insulation in such cases, but this advice isn’t very practical for renters.

Fortunately, there’s a less costly alternative. Thick, fluffy area rugs add an extra layer of insulation and keep your feet feeling cozy in the process. Like curtains, area rugs are a fun, fashionable accent and easy to roll up and carry to your new home if you move in the future.

Don’t Block Your Heat Vents

If your heat is on and your room isn’t getting any warmer, your furniture placement might be to blame. If your couch or another piece of furniture is sitting on top of the vent, they could be absorbing all that toasty goodness before it has a chance to heat up the rest of the room.

Luckily, most heat vents are located on or near the wall, which means you can usually address the issue without rearranging your entire room. Simply pull the furniture piece back a few of inches to let that warm air blow free.

Switch Your Ceiling Fan Into Reverse

You’ve probably heard heat rises. If you have a ceiling fan, this bit of scientific trivia works to your advantage. Switch your ceiling fan to run clockwise. This will force it to take that heat and push it back into your room, keeping you happy and warm.

Insulate Your Electrical Outlets

Outlets placed on exterior walls allow cold air to pass through to your home if they aren’t properly insulated.

Luckily, there’s an easy, inexpensive fix to this problem. Draft stoppers fit behind your existing electrical outlet and prevent cold air from entering your home. Best of all, they’re easy to install. In most cases, all you need is a screwdriver to remove the front plate from the outlet.

Here’s to staying warm this winter!

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