Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tips on Winterizing a Rented Home

If you're from Durban, the idea of being cold sounds barbaric. Isn't it a human right to be warm? So every winter, probably together with a few million other displaced Durbanites in the northern hemisphere (not to mention the billions of people born in the cold!), we have to face the decision of whether to freeze or burn with guilt over global warming. This year Noah is added into the equation. "His little bum will be cold every time we change his diaper!" On top of this, there's the fact that rental units, like ours, don't have much insulation or interest in energy efficiency. So we have to create cheap solutions to our need for affordable, efficient warmth.

While there's no getting around keeping the thermostat a little low and wearing sweaters, there are some ways we're trying to stay warm, not go broke with heating costs, and use less energy.

Tip 1: Insulate Your Windows
You can buy a Window Insulator Kit from Home Depot or Amazon for a few dollars. Windows, particularly in older houses, never close completely and so you save a lot of energy by sealing up all your windows.

This can feel a little claustrophobic, what with not opening your windows for six months, so you probably want to get a lot of plants. Grow them, borrow them, hijack (rescue) them from random street corners. Plants are your friends. I kill quite a few plants every year, but I may still offer unsolicited advice on keeping plants alive in winter. Stay tuned.

Tip 2: Get [heavy] curtains for doors and windows.
By stopping cold air at your entryway, you'll be able to keep the rest of the house warm. in addition to pretty heavy curtains on the windows, we've put up curtains between the entryway and the living room, between the kitchen and dining room (the kitchen is freezing) and outside the back door. We repurpose the same thick velvet fabric in a bunch of different ways every year. You can be creative-- people will understand.

Tip 3: Insulate around your outlets. Take the outlets out and check

This one I just learned: a lot of heat is lost at your electrical wall outlets. If you take the covers off the outlets, you can put some foam insulation. It wouldn't take much for $3.00 of insulation to pay for itself.

Tip 4: Wrap Up Your Water Pipes For Cheap.
You can buy Tape pipe insulation, or, as I'm planning, wrapping pipes in newspaper and taping around them. This will help prevent them from freezing. I'm not quite sure (yet) how this affects heating costs. Do you know? I was thinking of doing some DIY insulation for our water heater and the water heater that sends hot water through our pipes, also.

Tip 5: Make Fabric Snakes for your doors.
We have cheap woven entry mats (around $1.50 at ikea) that we no longer need as mats, so I’ve sewn them into snakes for our entryway, between the entryway and the living room, and for the back door. The idea is that they help with drafts coming through on the bottom of the door.

Tip 6: Check for Energy Resources for Renters in your area.
For example, Renew Boston offers free assessments (and help) to Bostonians, and renters can benefit!

Tip 7: Make Your Bed Warm (but not so warm you never want to leave)
Try getting something warm for bed. You can microwave grains like rice or barley, so if they’re in a fabric bag, this can be a great DIY source of warmth.

So the point is that you can reduce your heating bill and energy footprint without dying of hypothermia. I hope! I'll track our heating bill here, so that you can hold me accountable. Thanks for reading!

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