Tenants, here are things you can do to increase the heating efficiency of your apartment. Yes, I know that you are stuck with the heating system, doors and windows that your landlord chose. You can still improve your comfort and lower your energy bills.

Most of the heat loss will be found around windows and doors. That’s where you want to look.


Door with curtain closedDoor with curtain openWith any door, check whether cold is coming through the door or coming in from the frame or around the edges. Solid wooden doors do a fairly good job of keeping the cold out. Metal doors, even insulated metal doors, can transfer cold into the house. Hollow wooden doors should not be used on exterior doors, but if they are, a curtain at night is your only recourse.

If the cold air is coming in around the edges, seal that edge.

Door with door sweepDoor with insulated tapeUse a door sweep on the bottom and find insulated tape that is the right size to fill gaps between the door and its frame.



Windows, the quick fixes:

  1. Open and close, then lock all your windows. Locking the windows reduces the cold air flow significantly. Most tenants don’t know that these windows are not really sealed until they are locked. Now you know.
  2. Insulated curtains help, too. Insulated curtains do not seal the cold air coming in, but they control drafts. When there is less draft, you will feel more comfortable in room. Insulated curtains block the light, too, so use them from when the sun goes down until you get going in the morning.

Windows, a bit more work:

On a cool day, feel the window. Is the coolness coming in from the glass or the frame, or both?

  • If you have double pane windows, the glass is not going to get any better. So, if your glass is cold, consider insulated curtains or blinds or a shrink wrap kit.
  • If the frame is causing the cool to come in, seal it with closed cell foam tape. Seal where the cool is coming in.
  • If the whole frame feels cool, a shrink wrap kit may be your best solution. These need to be installed annually, since you’ll want to open the windows in the spring.
  • Crank style windows sometimes have storm windows inside that are aluminum. Covering the entire metal frame with foam tape will go a long way to keeping you warm. Look for white or black tape, so it is less ugly and can be kept there year round.
  • Aluminum or metal framed windows were popular at one time. The metal frames conduct cold air into the house. Heavy insulated curtains or blinds are the only solution for a tenant. Replacement is the solution for the landlord.

Heating system tweaks:

Baseboard heaterHot water baseboard, preventable problems:

  • Vacuum your baseboards. Dust decreases the efficiency.
  • Baseboards work by drawing air from underneath, heating it, then letting it rise through the vent at the top. Don’t block the air flow with furniture or high carpet.
  • Make sure the louver at the top is open.
  • Hot water baseboards will not cause a fire if curtains or furniture touches it. You can have curtains near this type of heat register. It is the electric baseboard heaters that can light fabric on fire.

Radiator diagramRadiator problems:

  • Keep your radiators clean.
  • Allow air flow by leaving a foot or so between radiators and furniture.
  • Unfortunately, most radiator efficiency problems are basic to their design or the design of their covers. Radiator covers are a landlord expense. As a tenant, you can remove or modify covers that reduce efficiency.

I wrote about problems with hot air heating systems about a month ago.  In that post, I also reminded you to turn off your outside water line.