The colder months of the year are certainly an exciting time.
There are plenty of holidays to celebrate with friends and family, along with all the great fall and winter activities like apple picking, skiing, sledding and cozying up with a cup of hot cocoa.
But if you're living in an apartment, the colder months can be quite uncomfortable if you're not prepared. Keeping your apartment warm can also be costly. Raising the temperature by just one degree can increase your energy bill by 3 percent — so you can easily run up an expensive bill during a cold month.
Ensure that your apartment is ready for the cold with these helpful tips so you can stay comfy and cozy all winter long.
If you've noticed that it's difficult to maintain a consistent temperature in your apartment, your windows and doors may be to blame. The average home loses up to 30 percent of its heated and cooled air through cracks in window and door seals.
You can check to see how drafty your apartment's windows and doors are with a simple “smoke test."
First, close all of your windows and doors and turn off any airflow from your heating system. Then, stand by your window or door and light a stick of incense or a small candle. If the smoke rises at an angle, it means there's a draft. If it goes straight up like normal, there's no draft.
There are several fixes for drafty windows and doors, although you may need to consult with your landlord if you want to tackle any projects yourself.
If there's a lot of space underneath your front door, you can also consider purchasing a draft stopper, or try making one yourself. This can make a big difference by stopping that cold air from seeping through.
Small cracks or drafts can easily be fixed with window sealant or caulk around the frames. But, if your windows are old and drafty, then you may want to ask your landlord about replacing them with energy-efficient models.
Remember, fixing cracks in windows and doors helps for the warm months, too. If you haven't already, be sure to consult an air conditioning guide for some good tips on keeping the cooler air in during the summer, as well.
If your apartment is in an older building or has not been updated recently, then the heating system may not be running correctly.
According to Energy Star, the typical duct home system has between 20-30 percent leakage, meaning that a good chunk of air isn't making it to the right location. This can significantly run up your heating and cooling bills every month.
You can see the type of distribution method by identifying if your apartment has duct systems or baseboard heaters. Ducts will push out warm, dry air, typically from a furnace. If your apartment has radiators, it's quite likely that it runs on a boiler system that uses hot water to disperse heat.
Once you have determined the type of heating system your apartment has, do some research to find ways to optimize output so you're getting more value for your heating costs. Consider reading a complete furnace guide for tips and information about saving on energy costs for every heating type.
Be sure to turn on your heating and cooling system well before the cold sets in to make sure that it's running properly after sitting idle during the more temperate months. You want to notify your landlord of any issues as soon as possible so they can be fixed before it gets really cold.
Most thermostat systems need to be replaced every 10 years, but many property management companies fail to keep up with these upgrades.
While a few degrees of difference may not be the end of the world, any major discrepancies could cause your heating system to either shut off or go into overdrive to regulate the temperature.
The best way to check is to buy a simple thermometer and test to see how accurate your thermostat is. If you only have one thermostat for your entire unit, you can expect some rooms to be warmer or cooler than others depending on their proximity to windows and doors, as well as the size of the room itself. However, each room should only be a few degrees off of the thermostat setting.
If your thermostat is electric, then you may just need to replace the batteries to get things working properly. If it's an older model or mechanical, it may need to be cleaned. You can lightly dust this yourself with a toothbrush or cloth, but it may be best to let maintenance handle it so that nothing gets broken.
Be sure to let your landlord know if there are any major issues with your thermostat's settings so they can fix the issue as soon as possible – especially before the cold weather sets in.
You may also want to request an upgrade to a programmable thermometer system so you can regulate your apartment's temperature depending on the time of day. By having a thermostat that automatically adjusts throughout the day, you can save as much as 10 percent on heating and cooling every year!
The best thing that you can do to prepare for the cold weather is, well, prepare.
The sooner that you check for these potential heating issues, the better. This will give you and your property management team time to fix any issues so that you can have a warm apartment all winter long.