Author Topic: Save money on heating in an inefficient rental?  (Read 4886 times)


  • Stubble
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Save money on heating in an inefficient rental?
« on: June 29, 2012, 01:52:51 PM »
Hey all, I know some of you are the handy sort so I have a question for you: to what extent can we improve the efficiency of an older rental with a not-so-efficient heating system? And how would we go about doing that?

Back story: I've been apartment hunting pretty hard for a couple of months now and am getting nervous because there's a rental shortage in our area and we aren't having very good luck. I finally found a place today that looks like it could work. The location couldn't be more perfect- it's in a neighborhood that isn't ritzy but is really quiet and safe. It's right next to a bike path that would take me just about anywhere I need to go. Within walking distance of the store and many of my friends' houses. Easy walk to the main bus line in town, so I could also easily take the bus if biking isn't an option. It's more than big enough for the two of us, but still well under 30% of our combined income, and is big enough that if we wanted to rent out a second bedroom either short-term or long-term to save on rent, we could. The landlord seems like a decent guy, pretty laid back but doesn't let the place totally fall apart (I could tell so many horror stories about the conditions of some apartments around here). Overall I'm pretty happy with the place.

So here's the only issue I have with the place: The furnace is bloody ancient, and the landlord even admitted that the gas bills can run high. The windows are newer, but the building itself is old. It's a brick building, with other units on either side (so 2 exterior walls, 2 shared ones). We can't do a lot about the furnace, but if we ended up moving into this place I'm wondering what we could do to keep the gas bill lower? Feels weird to think about that when it's 97 degrees outside but I know it'll be an issue in the winter. As it is, we'd be using window ACs to cool the place and we'd probably be conservative with those, so I'm more worried about heat than cooling. A large gas bill wouldn't make-or-break us, but it certainly would be unpleasant when I'd rather be putting money into savings right now.

I know the obvious: wear layers and turn it down, plastic on the windows, thermal curtains, stop up drafts with foam or some other insulation. But is there anything I'm not thinking of that would help efficiently heat the place? Any handymen/women who can chime in with other suggestions?


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Re: Save money on heating in an inefficient rental?
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2012, 01:54:55 PM »
Heat just the room you're in and not the whole house with a space heater.


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Re: Save money on heating in an inefficient rental?
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2012, 03:20:55 PM »
Ask the landlord to pay the gas bill.
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  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Save money on heating in an inefficient rental?
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2012, 04:39:33 PM »
Use an infrared thermometer to look for leaks. If you're running A/C now, you could even do this in the summer (just look for hot spots instead of cold spots).


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Re: Save money on heating in an inefficient rental?
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2012, 10:03:14 PM »
Similar to my situation. (If you think it doesn't get cold in Melbourne, Australia, you are wrong.)

I'm stuck with full-price electricity for water heating, so I switch on hot water once a week, and the tank holds enough for one lot of washing-up and one bath (in which I also wash my hair and my 'smalls', in that order!). Otherwise I boil just enough in the electric kettle.

As I work at the computer a lot I use one of these under the desk as my main source of heat can you get something similar?

Early morning and in the evening, or if I become really cold during the day, I switch on one of these{adtype}&id={adwords_producttargetid} for a short while, usually only on the 75W setting.

And, except when cooking, I wear these and a woolly hat.


  • Bristles
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Re: Save money on heating in an inefficient rental?
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2012, 08:08:57 AM »
Sealing up any leaks from windows and doors should be a cheap fix. Let the landlord know about them, and he or she can fix them him/herself or reimburse you to do it. Arebelspy's suggestion is good, too, if the landlord is unwilling to budge on taking any energy efficiency measures. And if you do still end up paying, space heaters can be a very good way to go, especially in an older place and regardless of whether other energy efficiency measures were taken.


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Re: Save money on heating in an inefficient rental?
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2012, 09:43:29 AM »
Some places the utility company will pay for or at least subsidize basic energy efficiency retrofits, even for renters (with the landlords consent, but why wouldn't he?).

You mentioned "turn it down" but don't underestimate the significance.  Just like MMM's recent post on acclimatizing to heat, when you stop using a furnace in the winter it starts to feel normal surprisingly fast.  I stopped using any heat at all 2 years ago (I put the space heater in storage, just in case I ever change my mind, but that way the temptation is not right there easy to access), and I admit I occasionally miss it, but its rare.
I just wear a hat and layers indoors in winter.
If it gets below freezing where you live, use the heat, but at no more than 40(F).

Brick is not an especially good insulator.  You could lose less heat through the walls with foil backed foam board (from any big home improvement store, I think they are often used in basements for the same purpose) along the walls, and/or hanging up blankets or curtains along the walls as wall covering.

Heat blocking window film can supplement the plastic on the windows and curtains (privacy bonus)


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