The Best Cost Saving, Ecofriendly Winterizing Tips for Fellow House Renters

Y and I have rented a house in Kent for the past 2.5 years, and it has been a rewarding experience. We each have a dedicated office, Miao has plenty of space to run around, and we were even married in our backyard. However, the greatest challenge to renting a house in NEO is keeping heating costs under control during the winter. We can’t do anything radical to the house, because we don’t own the property and we can’t afford to anyways.

We have had to find solutions that work for out renting situation to save money and the environment while keeping warm. These are some tips that we have aggregated over the years to maximize our savings and do our part to lower our environmental impact.

  1. Seal drafty windows and window frames with heat-shrink plastic wrap. This is a low cost solution that immediately produces results if you have drafty windows (this is an older house with subpar dual pane windows–on the corners of the panes and around the edges of the window you can feel cold air pushing inside the house). The key to this is to seal over the window and frame so that no outside air passes the plastic barrier.
  2. Seal door window panes with plastic. Our backdoor has two pane glass that is sealed well, but the front door has single pane glass. You can use the same plastic wrap to seal these smaller in-door windows.
  3. Seal door frames with weather stripping and the bottom edge with an attachable foam barrier or cut pipe insulation to lay at the bottom of the door (the latter only works if you have a really terrible gap).
  4. Place insulating objects and furniture against the inside of exterior walls. Our bookshelves are laden with books and placed against exterior walls. Desks, tables, and suitcases full of summer clothes are lined up against the walls, too. This is also useful for preventing mildew growth in closets where the suitcases usually pile up.
  5. Cover unused electrical outlets with plastic safety plugs if you feel a draft (we do). Some folks recommend installing foam inserts behind the electrical plate also, but I don’t think that is necessary unless the plate doesn’t fit flush against the wall. We have found the plastic safety plugs to adequately stop drafts.
  6. Don’t run your bathroom’s exhaust fan, because it will vent your house’s hot air outside or into the attic. Instead, leave the bathroom door open to let steam and moisture vent into the house to elevate the relative humidity, which in turn makes it feel warmer inside.
  7. Take short showers and turn down the temperature of your water heater. This will save you gas and reduce skin dryness.
  8. Set your ceiling fans to clockwise rotation. This will draw air from the floor up and push warm air down from the ceiling.
  9. Deploy electric space heaters in small spaces where you are working (e.g., an office or bedroom). It is more cost effective to warm the space you occupy rather than the entire house.
  10. Keep the temperature at 65-64 during the day and wear a fleece, pants, and socks or slippers. At night, turn the temperature down to 60, cuddle under the duvet, and turn on a space heater with the bedroom door cracked (to let the cat in-and-out). If you can manage a lower temperature during most of the day and night, you will see significant savings on your heating bill.
  11. Invite your cat or dog to sleep in your bed, they can help keep you warm and you can in turn help keep them warm.
  12. Keep inside doors closed when rooms are not in use. This helps insulate the spaces where you are actually spending time.
  13. If you have rooms divided by door frames that lack an actual door, you can divide rooms by hanging a blanket or plastic sheeting from a curtain rod. We have found this to be particularly useful to separate the rear utility room (where the washer and dryer are) from the kitchen.
  14. Keep your fireplace flue closed when there is no fire. Leaving your flue open will effectively draft the warm air out of your house.
  15. Turn the heat down during the day and go some place warm like the library or coffee shop. There’s no reason to keep your whole house warm if you are not there (of course, keep your pets warm no matter what).
  16. Drink hot tea or coffee and eat warm soups or cereals during the day. Holding a cup of tea while sipping it can make you feel warm all over.
  17. Wash your clothes using cold water instead of warm or hot water. Then, hang dry clothes in the house to increase the humidity and not use gas/electricity to dry them. Using less soap is also advisable if you aren’t too hard on your clothes.

What advice for surviving the winter without spending a fortune do you have? Please tell us in the comments below.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.