Archive for Sunday, November 21, 2010

Renters can make cheap, temporary fixes to keep out cold

November 21, 2010


For renters in drafty, energy-sucking homes, there are more options than turning down the thermostat in the quest for lower heating bills.

Because landlords don’t have to pay for utilities and renters aren’t around long enough to reap the profits of the improvements, neither have much incentive to make long-lasting changes.

But local energy experts said renters can take some easy and inexpensive steps to curb bills that soar in the winter. Among them:

• Instead of caulking, which should probably have a landlord’s sign-off, Linda Cottin at Cottin’s Hardware suggests using Mortite Caulking Cord. Costing about $6 a roll, the cord can be put around windows and doors to fill any gaps. When renters move out, they just have to peel off the cord and it doesn’t cause any damage.

• Another suggestion from Cottin is using window insulation kits to put precut plastic sheeting on the inside and outside of windows. The kits, which start around $3.50, come with double-sided sticky tape for attaching the plastic to the window.

“It keeps the heat in and the cold out,” Cottin said. “They are almost as effective as glass storm windows.”

JR Demby, owner of the Demby Group, which performs home energy audits, said that putting up 6 mil plastic sheeting provides a lot of wind resistance as well. Just be sure the edges are sealed, he said.

• If those steps aren’t enough, Douglas County and Lawrence Sustainability Coordinator Eileen Horn said purchasing heavy curtains and a door stop will also keep out the cold air. And both items have the lasting benefit of being used in more than one house.

• Demby recommends that renters take an inventory of how much air is coming out of their heating registers. If one register has less air than another, it could be a sign the heating ducts are disconnected. And instead of heat coming to your kitchen, the ducts are dumping warm air somewhere else in the house. Renters should tell their landlords.

• Horn reminds renters that it can be a lot cheaper to heat yourself than a house. So, for homes that seem impossibly drafty, she recommends using space heaters, wearing an extra layer of clothing or drinking something warm.

“It’s not ideal,” Horn said. “But you can’t get around the fact that you don’t own it.”

• Renters wanting to make a bigger investment in time (not money), can look into ECKAN’s weatherization programs. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ECKAN has $6.7 million to spend until 2012 to make homes more energy efficient in 13 counties in eastern Kansas.

ECKAN does a home energy audit, and then a computer software system prioritizes what improvements will result in the most savings.

They can range from cleaning and tuning up the furnace to putting insulation in the attic. Contractors do the upgrades and the cost is covered by the program, which makes about $5,000 in upgrades per home and averages almost $800 a year in energy savings.

As long as the landlord OKs the application, renters can apply for the program. Applicants must make no more than 75 percent of the annual median income, which is $27,247 for a single person or $52,397 for a family of four. Income eligibility is based on the tenant.

“It’s going to have to be someone with longevity there,” Aaron Heckman, chief operating officer of ECKAN, said of which renters are best suited for the program. “They have to remain in the unit for the entire process.”

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• Robert Baker, education director at Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., advises renters to ensure they have their landlord’s written permission before making any major improvements. And if landlords agree to take off the cost of improvements from the rent or to make improvements to the property before moving, that should be in writing.

But Baker’s best piece of advice for keeping the energy bills low is to look at what the costs are before renting a new place. Tenants can call utilities and ask what the average monthly bills are for that unit or one like it.

“More and more the cost of utilities is very important. Because if a place isn’t very energy efficient, it could be in the dead of winter or middle of summer and (the utilities) are as much as the rent,” Baker said.


LadyJ 7 years, 7 months ago

You should check with the landlord before applying the indoor plastic with double sided tape. Sometimes when you take the tape off, you also take off the finish and you will be charged for repair. Get it in writing. And again, be aware when you use Magic Eraser on scuff marks, even if it is just a few, it slightly changes the finish and you could be charged to repaint the walls. It happened to one of my kids, so always check first.

gccs14r 7 years, 7 months ago

I was once in an apartment that was so drafty, there was a definite temperature gradient across the living room as one approached the sliding glass door. I got some 2x2s and 24" batt insulation and filled in the hole where the door was (wedged the 2x2s between the carpet and door header, so no fasteners needed there). The savings paid for the insulation the first month. I covered the inside of the glass with white press paper, so no one had to see the insulation, and left one edge of one batt free so the door could still be used.

jogger 7 years, 7 months ago

I have lived in several rentals in Lawrence with broken windows, fixes promised before move in, cardboard up all winter....

Rugs can help a lot when there is no insulation under the floor and a drafty cellar, using the double sided tape at the edge of the window frame (wrap around) is better than on the front - spot test to see if there will be damage, and request storm windows and permission in the meantime. The shrink in place plastic is expensive and difficult to work with. My biggest piece of advice, especially if you cover all the windows with plastic, is to use a CO2 detector with a gas furnace, because those drafts might have been keeping the furnace exhaust out all of that time.....

What's the solution if you find asbestos?

LadyJ 7 years, 7 months ago

Don't disturb it. Messing with it puts it in the air.

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