I've just moved to a colder area of the state, and am wondering what I can do to keep my apartment's heating costs down while staying warm this winter. Got any tips?
Heating an apartment that is chilly is sometimes tricky since tenants don't own the heating system that is supposed to be doing the job. While creating a warm and cozy space while keeping heating costs down is a common dilemma for both renters as well as homeowners as we head into the chilly months, there is less that apartment dwellers can do since they don't own the building.
However, there are a number of things that renters can do to improve the heating in an apartment. Even if you're not responsible for your unit's utility bill, the following efficiencies can yield great comfort in the season to come.
If your apartment's heating system and rental agreement permit, have a programmable thermostat installed. This'll allow you to set up a comfortable heating routine as you pocket up to $150 a year in energy savings. Just set the thermostat to kick back by a maximum of 10 degrees overnight, warm your apartment again about an hour before you wake, and then scoot temperatures down while you're away during the day.
Make sure that all heating registers are unobstructed by furnishings and window coverings so that warm air can flow freely into the room. If your unit has radiators, slide heat-resistant reflectors between them and the walls to send even more warmth into a room.
Make the most of passive solar energy an improvement the heating in your apartment by opening curtains and blinds during the day on east-, south- and west-facing windows to let the sunshine in. As the sun goes down, close them again to keep heat in and cold out.
Seal possible air escapes around windows and doors with a removable caulking product like DAP Seal 'N' Peel. It'll provide a weatherproof barrier against drafts and moisture when applied indoors or out, and can be removed easily without damaging painted surfaces.
Adding weather-stripping to doors, windows and the attic hatchway can help when heating an apartment. Shop your local home improvement center or hardware store for a variety of easy-to-use weatherstripping products tailored to different surfaces and constructions.
Keep storm windows tightly closed, and if you don't have storms, consider applying plastic window film to standard panes. This simple yet high-tech addition will reflect heat back into a room during cold months, and help keep summertime warmth outdoors.
Turn off heating units in rooms that aren't being used, and shut the rooms' doors to keep warm air moving exclusively in occupied areas.
Install covers on window and through-the-wall air conditioners to block winter drafts.
Interior air that's too dry can make it hard to get warm, so bring in a humidifier for added comfort. Maintaining your home's relative humidity between 20 and 40 percent will not only make things feel cozier, it'll also allow you to set your thermostat at a lower level overall.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, close the damper when it's not in use.
Got an apartment that's too warm? Don't just resort to opening a window. Instead, work with your property manager to solve the problem, as it may signal an issue with your unit's heating system.
For renters, heating an apartment is the single biggest energy expenditure during winter. But with these easy improvements you'll keep both the warmth and your precious dollars from exiting the apartment.
I'd really like to add radiant heating to the floors in my home. Is this possible with an existing structure, or is radiant heating technology only doable in a new build? Will I have to tear up my existing floor to install radiant heat?
Installation of a super-customized, whole-house radiant heating system is best done in new homes, but you can definitely add radiant heating to an existing home with one of the many smart, affordable after-market products now available.
Uponor Quik Trak hydronic system is one example, employing special half-inch-high wood panels that are installed over concrete slab or a plywood subfloor, with grooves down the center of each panel which hold the strong, crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) tubing that circulates heated water underneath the surface. Your favorite flooring is then installed over the Quik Trak panels, and the system is ready to warm the room efficiently and comfortably from the ground up.
I think you'll be really happy with the results of the radiant heating installation you're considering. There's nothing better than stepping onto a warm floor on a cold morning or chilly night, and that extra layer of comfort that radiant heat gives can actually help to reduce or even eliminate the need to power up other heating sources in your home.
How should I be storing and maintaining my firewood supply? I heard that storing wood too close to the house can invite termites.
When storing firewood, air circulation and safety are the two main things to keep in mind as you stack up and store your fuel supply.
Mixed with moisture and easy access to the structures on your property, a firewood stack can become a termite buffet. What's more, wet wood doesn't burn very efficiently, putting out more steam than heat.
Start by finding a dry, safe home for the firewood, whether in an open air woodshed or free-standing stack.
Keep stored firewood out of contact with the ground using a stack base of treated wood or other moisture resistant material, and avoid stationing the firewood stack against an exterior wall of your home, as a pocket of moisture can develop and damage siding as well as welcome termites and other pests.
Cut firewood to the longest possible length for stacking stability (a single row is best), and pack it snugly but with enough space to allow airflow and discourage the development of mold and mildew. Four feet is about the maximum height your stored firewood stack should reach without side supports, and an even, no-slope arrangement should allow easy access to the firewood, while maintaining stability. Finally, shield the top few layers of ready-to-use firewood with a waterproof cover, adjusting it as you remove the fuel for indoor warmth.
I am planning on purchasing an additional refrigerator to put in my garage (I do a great deal of entertaining). I have been told that I cannot do so as the garage is not insulated and my refrigerator will not work properly. Is this correct? Many of my friends have done this and don't have a problem.
While many of us have enjoyed the convenience of the spare refrigerator in the garage over the years, there is some truth to warnings that such a device will not run properly. Refrigerators are designed to operate within a typical indoor temperature range of about 60 to 100 degrees. Garage temps can run between -0 and 100+ degrees, and because the freezer is set to come on only when the refrigerator is working, it may actually warm your frozen food and cause it to thaw and spoil.
Some manufacturers make refrigerator/freezers specifically designed for an unheated garage. If you don't have one of those, my recommendation is to keep a close eye on your refrigerator's temperature--especially in the winter--to make sure it's doing the job. One other tip: many garage outlets are protected by GFCI's (ground fault circuit interrupters) and are not designed to support a refrigerator. As a result of the compressor going on and off, large voltage draws across the circuit can fake the GFCI into thinking a short exists and it will turn off the circuit and your refrigerator! If you are going to add a refrigerator to your garage, have an electrician install a dedicated, non-GFCI-protected single outlet and use it only for the purpose of plugging in the refrigerator.
We're interested in converting our wood-burning fireplace to natural gas. Natural gas service is readily available in our home, as we use gas for our stove. How do we convert our wood-burning fireplace and who do we call?
Even though I'm a do-it-yourself proponent, converting a wood-burning fireplace to natural gas is definitely one project you DON'T want to do yourself! Improperly installed, gas piping can have explosive consequences.
Secondly, if you want to install a gas burner into a formerly wood-burning fireplace, I hope that you are independently wealthy. These burners are huge energy-wasters, and some burn as much gas as the furnace or boiler that heats you entire house. They also pose a large risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, as they do not do a good job of fully combusting the gas. And they produce tons of moisture: gas, after it burns, is 80 percent water vapor and very corrosive to the inside of a chimney.
So, instead of converting your wood-burning fireplace to natural gas, my advice is to stick with the wood-burning fireplace or install a wood stove insert into the brick fireplace, which will increase its efficiency.
With all the cold weather in NY, our cold water pipes have been freezing. Now the hot water line just broke, which really surprised me since I thought that one would not freeze since it was for hot water. Is there anything I can do to fix the problem?
Actually, there is a good reason the hot water line broke first. When water is heated, air is pulled out of the water which makes it less spongy when it freezes. As a result, hot water pipes freeze, expand and break at a faster rate than cold water pipes.
Since hot water is not on all the time, the water in the pipe never stays warm for very long after it is run, making it just as susceptible to freezing as a cold water pipe.
To prevent frozen pipes, there are a couple of things you should do. First, insulate the pipe. You can do this with foam tubes, fiberglass tubes and/or fiberglass pipe wrap. If you notice that the same pipe freezes all the time, then you might want to consider having that pipe re-run through a warmer section of the house. Also check for areas outside where cold air might be getting in to the area where the pipe is freezing, as some additional weather stripping or insulation may be needed in those areas as well.
If your pipes are frozen, electric heat tape can be used to help thaw frozen pipes. I must caution you though; heat tape can be dangerous if improperly used. Be certain the product you have has a built-in thermostat, is UL listed and properly installed. A common mistake is to wrap the tape on top of itself as it goes through the pipe. This can cause over heating and potentially a fire. Read and heed all manufacturer instructions when putting the tape on.
If the pipe is still frozen, you may need to hire a plumber with a pipe thawing machine, or rent one yourself from a local rental company to thaw frozen pipes.
I have really drafty windows. The drafts are particularly bad when I sit in one chair that is near an east window. I am not ready to go for new windows and am wondering what my alternatives might be. Can you tell me how to fix my drafty windows?
Drafty windows are an annoyance you don't have to put up with. Drafty windows drive up your winter heatings bills. Here are some suggestions on how to end window drafts.
Drafty windows should be caulked between the window and the siding on the outside, and between the trim and the window on the inside. These are the most common areas that drafts slip through. Check for loose or missing weatherstripping, as that may be the source of drafts.
If the drafts are coming in between the window sash and the frame, you might consider caulking the window shut with a special temporary caulk that is designed to be removed in the spring.
DAP makes a product called SEAL-N-PEEL that fixes the drafty window and allows the caulk to be removed in spring. It goes on like regular caulk, but can easily be pealed off after it dries. As a precautionary safety measure, don't use caulk on any window that you rely on as an emergency fire exit.
Finally, you can add a cellular shade to block out window drafts. Cellular shades have a honeycombed design that provide an added layer of insulation between you and the cold, drafty window. Check out the new line of cellular shades from Levolor. These shades offer light and privacy control, energy efficiency, and safe and easy operation. They also come in many fashionable designs. Levolor will even send you free swatches so you can decide on colors from the actual product.
If drafty windows have you ready for window replacement, you can download our free guide to choosing and installing replacement windows.
We have a Cape Cod-style home with attic vents on each end of the attic, along with a ridge vent. The attic is insulated. These vents are very helpful in the hot summer. However, in the winter the upstairs is very cold. I want to cover the attic vents in the winter when the air doesn't need to flow through like in the summer. Your thoughts?
While a drafty house is a bad thing, drafty attics are actually a good thing when it comes to proper ventilation! Here's why: Attic insulation works best when it is dry. In the winter, attic insulation can get damp from humidity that works its way up from the heated spaces below. If you allow just two percent moisture to get into fiberglass insulation, the R-Value (resistance to heat loss) goes down by a whopping 33 percent! Having plenty of attic ventilation means that the moisture can dry out and the insulation remains effective.
For the most effective attic ventilation, I recommend continuous soffit and ridge vents. Air will enter the attic at the ridge, run up under the roof sheathing when it carts heat away in summer and moisture away in winter, and exit at the ridge. This 24/7 ventilation solution is far more effective than any other type of mechanical or passive attic ventilation solution.
A Cape Cod home with a partially finished second floor is particularly difficult to insulate. However, I can offer one trick of the trade. Make sure that the joists (first floor ceiling joists/attic floor joists) between the floors are sealed at the ends so that cold air which gets into the attic crawlspaces does not pass through between the first and second floors. To access these areas, open the doors to the attic crawlspace at the eaves and look down. These are the open areas of the joists which must be blocked. Use foam insulation cut to fit in between each open joists to stop air flow across the first floor ceiling, and you'll achieve proper attic ventilation.
Do you have any tips for replacing interior caulk? In our nine-year-old house, the spaces where the cabinets meet the drywall were caulked, and after about three or four years the caulk began to crack, leaving a gap in these areas. The gaps get larger in winter--as much as one eighth of an inch in some places--and are hardly noticeable in the summer as they tend to close. Is there a caulk that is flexible enough to correct this problem? Is there a better time of the year to replace interior caulk? I might add that the paint on both the cabinets and walls is in good condition, so we don't want to be faced with a big paint job.
The gaps you describe are not unusual and it is not difficult to replace interior caulk. Many people do not realize that homes are always moving, expanding and contracting. Seasonal gaps like those you describe are typical of winter, when the lumber in homes tends to shrink from the dry air.
The best way to replace interior caulk is to remove all the old caulk and then re-caulk the gap using an acrylic latex caulk. Typically, this kind of caulk will last several years. If you want the replacement interior caulk to last longer, you'd need to use silicone, but the disadvantage of that is that it can't be painted and, since it isn't water soluble, it is a lot harder to work with.