Question

How can a renter save money on winter power bills?

Asked by Sherry
Corvallis, OR

Without the ability to do major changes how can I save money this winter. Should I just use space heaters?

Answer

Richard Williams

Answered by Richard Williams

Encinitas, CA

Arthaus, LLC

October 12, 2012

Without more information regarding your situation it is not quite possible to pinpoint the best advice I can provide for you. I would like to know:

  • how long you plan on living there,
  • how the home is currently heated (gas/electric, baseboard heating, forced air, wall units, etc.),
  • how big the home is,
  • number of stories,
  • the home's age and
  • whether it is insulated, etc.

Three ways you can reduce your power bills

Because you cannot make major modifications to the home to improve its efficiency, there are three ways you can limit your power bills:

  1. The way you live in your home;
  2. The way you control heating; and
  3. Possibly utilizing alternative methods of heating.

Keep in mind, you not only want to save money on heating, you want to be able to have the greatest thermal comfort in your home. I believe the strategies that I have suggested should provide you both.

 The way you live in your home

It may seem very obvious, but if saving money on your heating bills is really important to you then just put on more warm clothes.

Don't take offense to that recommendation... I just thought I should be sure I covered it with you!

The way you control heating 

One of the best things you can do to save money on heating is to put in a programmable thermostat, assuming that the one you have there now is NOT programmable.

  • This will be an expense you need to make, but I would hit up your Landlord to pay for this item. They can be purchased at Home Depot for under $50.
  • You can install it yourself if you are handy that way, or have a professional do it (of course, that adds to the cost.)
  • If you really want to have fun, you can spend a big chunk of money and buy a NEST thermostat that you can bring with you to your next home. A NEST thermostat will actually learn how you like to have your home heated.

If you have any control over how much heat goes into each room in your house, you should see if there is a way to modify the settings.

  • For example, if you have a forced air system and you have controls at the registers where the air comes back out, you can adjust the airflow to increase or decrease the amount of air coming out.
  • For example, if there is a room that receives little or no use then you can close the airflow off a bit to that room and then offset that reduced flow by opening up the adjustment for greater airflow in a room that gets used more.

Possibly utilizing alternative methods of heating

We do this in our own home. Basically, as you suggested, you would want to purchase high-efficiency space heaters, but only for rooms that you really require more heat.

For example, we really turn down the heat in our home at night but keep space heaters on in our bedrooms.

  • Our space heaters are on timers, and we have a programmable thermostat for the whole-home heating system, so we really don't have to think much about our heating when everything is set up.
  • Oil-filled radiators are a great way to go for space heating. They will provide you radiant heating, which is better than air-flow heating provided by space heaters with fans. DeLonghi heaters are fairly inexpensive (here).

If your landlord will allow a wall mounted space heater, so as to avoid "room clutter", consider something like this.

Check last year's power bills

Hopefully you are keeping all of your utility bills, and your utility bills provide you your usage history compared to both the same month last year and the previous months.

That will help in evaluating whether once you implement strategies what the success of those strategies is. 

Any leaks?

One last thing you might want to ask your Landlord to do is to have your gas lines and appliances checked for leaks, if you have gas heating.

It's amazing how much leakage there might be, and that leakage represents your money being thrown down the drain. Plus, having gas seeping into your home doesn't provide for safe indoor air quality!

Good luck, and if you have the opportunity please let us all know what you ended up doing and how it all worked out for you. 

 

For more information:

Read "How can I green my rented apartment?" a Q&A answered by Maggie Wood.

Tagged In: heating cooling

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